Minnesota Vikings safety Antone Exum Jr. has made some head-turning plays, including a fumble recovery in the preseason opener versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and an interception of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston over the weekend.
As he fights for a look next to Harrison Smith, Exum hopes people are taking notice of the plays he has made.
"I hope that it starts talk [about me]," Exum said, per ESPN's Ben Goessling. "I think that that's a big part of the game, being able to be around the ball. That's something that I pride myself in, being able to make that big play that can spark the game. Being able to be around the ball and being able to come up with it. I feel like that's a quality I have."
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Exum was a sixth-round selection in last year's draft. He played in 14 games as a rookie, but he was far from being considered for a starting role. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Exum has come a long way since the 2014 season.
"Now it seems important to him," Zimmer said, via ESPN. "It seems like he's understanding what the coaches want, want we want to do, what [defensive backs coach] Jerry [Gray]'s trying to get done with him. He is a good athlete, he is improving every day, he's working real hard. He has proven to me that it's a lot more important to him."
So far, Robert Blanton is the leading candidate for the job after starting 13 games at the position last year. Exum, however, is part of a contingent including Andrew Sendejo and undrafted rookie Anthony Harris pushing Blanton for first-team reps.