Demon Time: No. 0 Hits Different on Ivan Pace Jr

Ivan Pace Jr., Minnesota Vikings
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota VikingsCredit: Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

Football is a game of inches. I’ve been taught that since the moment I started to learn the game. At some point, during this Minnesota Vikings rollercoaster ride, we’ve all been on the receiving end of heartbreak at the hands of that stupid sports expression.

Hell, I got to witness first hand how much an inch can matter last season vs the Cincinnati Bengals, when I had to watch Nick Mullens get stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey on back to back QB sneaks during an overtime loss. They might as well have taken me to midfield and kicked me in the love sack, it would have hurt less.

But what about the players on the field? The biggest freaks of nature in the world roam that gridiron on Sundays and every GM in the NFL is out there looking for the next Randy Moss, Myles Garrett, Josh Allen, Trent Williams etc. Finding dudes who look the part is an obsession for these front office suits.

They’re all trying to outsmart one another, while dealing with egomaniac coaches who always think they can get the most out of ‘Freak of Nature A’ or ‘Monster Athlete B’.

Sometimes that leads to under the radar freak talents to go unnoticed. Not just at the NFL level, though. College coaches do the exact same thing when they scout high school talent. Remember, this is a game of inches, right?

Enter Colerain high school superstar Ivan Pace Jr

I’m from the Cincinnati area and let me tell you, high school football around here is SERIOUS. The whole state is littered with powerhouses and southwestern Ohio is the hotbed. One of the most dominant high schools in the state is Colerain high school.

‘Back in my day’, Colerain high school was talked about like the football boogeyman. Of course my white ass never had to play them. I played in the SWBL which was short for “Slow White Boy League”. Colerain is in the big boys league. Well, in 2018 Colerain was at peak powerhouse level and they were lead by a senior wrecking ball who played both sides of the ball. You may have heard of him, Ivan Pace Jr?

Back then, Pace Jr was listed as a 5’10” 220 lbs. (sure, sure…) Linebacker/Running back. His senior season he won OHSAA Division I Defensive player of the year finishing with 84 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles while also rushing for 1414 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Those kinda numbers on both sides of the ball in Ohio Division 1 are crazy. This Kid wanted to be on the field so much his high school coach had to lie to him about the team’s punter being injured, in order to keep a young Ivan Pace Jr off the field. He was their backup punter.

Ivan put Colerain on his back and pushed them all the way to the state title game. Surely, an absolute stud player from one of the most talent rich football states in the country probably had line of division one college coaches stretching from his front door all the way to Kentucky, right? Well, not necessarily.

Ivan Pace Jr lacks D1 offers entering college

He had exactly one scholarship offer to play D1 football in college at Powerhouse Miami. The U, Baby! The tradition, the history, the- wait not that Miami? MIAMI (OH)?!?!?! HOW THE FUCK DOES THE BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER IN THE WHOLE STATE ONLY HAVE ONE OFFER AND IT’S FROM MIAMI (OH)?!?!

These dipshit coaches should be in prison for this! I got love for Miami, my mom graduated from there, and I’ve worked there but aside from Ben Roethlisberger and a legendary coaching tree it’s not exactly the destination for most high level recruits.

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Why no offers? Well remember that inches thing we talked about? 5’10” linebackers aren’t exactly what these know it all coaches are looking for, they call those guys “Tweeners” because they’re looked at as in between type players. Too slow for one position and too small for another.

Football may be a game of inches but there are things about a person you can’t measure. Sometimes a dawg is a fucking dawg and there’s no real need to overthink that bullshit. So how does a dawg respond when he’s doubted? He reminds the world that he’s a fucking dawg.

As a true freshman this hamster sized Bobby Boucher recorded 7 sacks on the season and famously tied the college football record for most sacks in a game with 6 against Akron. Is that good? Seems good? Surely now people are starting to believe? Then his sophomore season, that was the first time I saw it….. one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen as a football fan.

Ivan had switched his number from 23 to 0. It just fit. The smallest number you can get, a forgotten number in sports, a number that you don’t see very often. It fit him perfect and If you’re going to wear that number you better be a damn good player because that alone is going to make you stand out. The aura was DIFFERENT when he put on that 0. Maybe this will make him stand out even more?

That year was cut to 3 games thanks to Covid, and in his junior season he recorded 125 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble before finally transferring to hometown Cincinnati to play with his brother. I’m going to assume Cincinnati is where he wanted to be all along, that’s where he was from and with his brother being there it was a beautiful thing to see him come home.

Ivan Pace Jr goes to Cincinnati

Ivan Pace Jr, Minnesota Vikings
Eric Canha-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati just had a legendary run with Luke Fickell and was putting some studs into the Pros. Let me tell you I thought the 0 jersey was beautiful in Miami but man, when he put that shit on in Cincinnati it really felt different. The face paint, the black, the swagger this kid played with. To me all I could ever think of was one thing- It’s demon time.

And that’s exactly what that bite sized bowling bowl did. Always been a dawg, and now showing the world he’s a demon as he finished the season with 137 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles to be Cincinnati first unanimous All-American EVER.

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A school that’s had the likes of the Kelce Brothers, Sauce Gardner, Trent Cole and other football legends, he was the first. He was PFFs highest graded Linebacker overall, first overall in pass rush grade, first overall pass rush win rate, and second overall in pressure rate.

IS THAT GOOD?! SEEMS GOOD!! I think I’m starting to notice a theme here? Regardless of size this dude just might be pretty damn good at football. SO SURELY ALL THESE BIG BRAINED NFL COACHES AND GMS WHO ARE PAID MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO SEE THESE THINGS WILL SEE EXACTLY WHAT I’VE BEEN SEEING FOR YEARS.

Well, ladies and gentleman, I sat and watched 7 rounds of of the 2023 NFL draft screaming like lunatic for this kid to be drafted and as the 259th pick came across the screen I once again realized- They are just going to keep doubting this kid because of a couple inches.

Minnesota Vikings sign UDFA Ivan Pace Jr

PRISON FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. They’re so busy looking for these Tarzan “Freaks of Nature” that every single one of them missed a freak of nature that was right in front of their faces the whole time. To be that small and still perform at that level, to not let anyone’s doubt stop you from believing in yourself and realizing the dawg you have inside you, that makes you a freak of nature. If they could open up your chest and measure your heart this kid would have been a top 10 pick, but because he was a couple inches “too short” he completely went undrafted.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will tell you from the second I saw that he picked the Vikings I have been screaming his praises to whoever the hell will listen. Ivan Pace and Brian Flores paired together? I feel like Ivan had to know that he was a perfect fit for the blitzing mad man that was Brian Flores. Add that to the fact that NFL teams were allowing players to wear the number 0 for the first time ever.

IT WAS DESTINY, IT WAS PERFECT. Well, almost perfect. In one of the most disgusting acts I’ve ever witnessed newly signed free agent Marcus Davenport *LOUDEST OF FART NOISES* came in and stole 0. I knew all along what would be destiny, but 40 is cool, I guess? Fuck it, whatever we know this is only temporary.

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Then in his rookie season Ivan Pace Jr. did exactly what the hell he has done his entire life, and showed the world that it doesn’t matter who he is on the field with he can hold his own and he is pretty great at this game we call football. From training camp on it was clear what we had.

The coaches knew it, the fans knew it and we saw it translate to the big stage where he lead all rookie linebackers in pretty much every stat there is to measure. Even the analytics nerds love this kid! This undrafted rookie is the one taking in the play calls from the DC and playing like a fucking honey badger whose hair is on fire while doing it.

He quickly became a fan favorite and on April 24, 2024 it happened. A day that will be remembered until the end of time. After Marcus Davenport was off the team and no longer able to hide number 0 in the training room, Ivan Pace Jr. will fulfill his destiny and claim what was always rightfully his, the number 0.

WE ARE FUCKING BACK. Maybe never been more back! I know the number 0 had been talking to him like the Green Goblin mask. You ladies and gentleman are about to witness demon time. Just like the freshman in college who switched to 0 before his second season, history is repeating itself and if history has shown us any damn thing it’s that this kid is about remind the world once again what he was born to do.

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The wait will be worth it. Thank you to everyone who doubted this Bulldog sized Brian Urlacher, it only made him better for us. You wanted dawgs on the defense? We got em and their leader is a demon in the form of a 5’10” dawg who dawns the number 0.

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