From DIII to the NFL: Middlebury football alum finds coaching success in the big leagues

By MICHAEL SEGEL

Middlebury is used to celebrating Bills kicker Steven Hauschka ’07, who transferred from Middlebury to go to NC State in 2007. But there’s another Middlebury alumnus who has found his way to the NFL — not as a player, but as a coach.

This season, Drew Petzing ’09 has begun his sixth year as a coach with the Minnesota Vikings, his first as the wide receiver coach. His former coach Bob Ritter ’82 still remembers him as the hard-nosed upperclassman who would volunteer to work in the office when injuries kept him off the field. 

Petzing played as a defensive back on the Middlebury football team his first two years before he was sidelined by injuries which ended his playing career. However, the DB’s injuries may have been a blessing in disguise because his time off the field is what opened the door to his coaching career.

When he suffered his initial injury at the start of his junior year, he essentially took on the role of an extra assistant coach, spending inordinate amounts of time working in the office and watching film with the rest of the coaching staff. The following year when he was injured again, he took on the role of an official assistant coach, receiving a salary for his work —and perhaps taking the job a little too seriously at times as Ritter remembers.

“I went to school with his dad,” Ritter said. “I used to have to pull him aside and say, ‘Drew, you have to go to class. Your dad’s gonna kill me if you don’t graduate on time.’”

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Drew Petzing ’09 is in his sixth year working with the Minnesota Vikings.

Petzing’s love for the game continued to blossom even after he finished his time at Middlebury. Petzing spent six years coaching at the collegiate level, three of those at Ivy League institutions. After graduating from Middlebury in 2009 with a degree in economics and a minor in math and philosophy, he began working at Harvard as a volunteer student assistant. Next, he worked at Boston College in 2010 as a recruiting graduate assistant and later as the defensive graduate assistant in 2011. In 2012, he coached outside linebackers at Yale. 2013 was the year Petzing finally made it to the NFL, working as a football operations intern for the Cleveland Browns. The following year he transitioned to Minnesota, the final stop of his career thus far. He worked with running backs in 2014, one of them Jerick McKinnon, who put up 538 rushing yards, good for third among NFL rookies that year. From 2015–2017, Petzing mainly helped wide receiver coach George Stewart and the offensive coaching staff as well. He helped to foster the young talent of Stefon Diggs who led the team in receptions and receiving yards in 2015 despite missing the first three games of the season. In 2017, Petzing had the honor to be a part of a Vikings team that dominantly finished the season at 13–3 and earned a berth in the NFC championship game. In addition to Diggs, Petzing coached the talented Adam Thielen who put up 1276 yards and 91 catches, sending him to the Pro Bowl. In total, in 2016–2017, Diggs and Thielen combined for 3,995 yards, the most for two teammates that season. In 2018, Petzing worked alongside quarterback coach Kevin Stefanski, the same season that Vikings QB Kirk Cousins came in and set a franchise record with 425 completions. 

Ludicrous as it may sound, Pretzing’s injuries may have been a blessing in disguise because his time on the sidelines is what opened the door to his coaching career.

Now, in 2019 Petzing is looking to be a part of a Super Bowl run. The Vikings are off to a 2–1 start, and have a talented core in Kyle Rudolph, Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, as well as Diggs and Theilen.

Petzing, who now lives in Minneapolis with his wife Louisa, has climbed the organizational ranks one step at a time. One thing has been clear about Drew Petzing for a very long time. From being a student-coach at Middlebury to working towards becoming wide receivers coach on the Minnesota Vikings, Petzing has never run from work in any shape or form. He made contributions on the field as long as he could and then continued to take different coaching jobs which have amounted to his crucial job title today. It’s a model of resiliency and ambition that should be admired.

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Petzing’s hard work in college athletics has paid off as he’s found his place as a mainstay on the Vikings coaching staff.

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