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Truesdell's transition leads to new opportunities

Vipers TE Nick Truesdell (85) uses his size and speed to create opportunities for Tampa's offense.

HUMBLE, Texas -- There were plenty of reasons the Tampa Bay Vipers selected Nick Truesdell with their first pick in the XFL Skill Players Draft.

Start with his size to his speed to his makeup. It’s not that often that a 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end who can run a 4.5 and is ready to lead falls in your lap.

“He’s been everything we thought he’d be as our first pick in the draft, everything we saw on tape and video,” Vipers head coach and general manager Marc Trestman said after Saturday’s joint practice with the New
York Guardians at Turner Stadium.

“We also got to know him as a person. He’s one of the leaders here. He’ll do anything for the team that you’ll ask him to do. He’s really unselfish. He doesn’t have to say a word on the field. Everybody knows who he is and where he lines up.”

The Vipers open the season at the Guardians on Feb. 9 (2 p.m. ET, FOX).

Truesdell, 29, has taken quite the football journey. He played sparingly in college before bouncing around the pro ranks. He's been in several NFL camps since 2013 (Cincinnati, Tennessee and Indianapolis) and spent time on Minnesota’s practice squad in 2018. He’s played in the Indoor Football League, Arena Football League and last year with Salt Lake in the Alliance of American Football.

The former wide receiver who once caught five touchdowns in the first half of an Arena game wasn’t ready to give up is dream when the AAF ceased operations. The next adventure began when the Vipers selected Truesdell fifth overall back in October.

“It’s like any other league, like the NFL, like the AAF, they’re all an opportunity to play, and I’m glad to be here and glad to play with these guys,” he said. “I want to make it to the next level, the NFL. I’d be happy staying here if that’s what happens. I just want to be the best teammate I can be and help my team in any way I can.”

Truesdell transitioned to tight end in 2016 on the advice of Colts coaches, who felt his height and frame would be ideal for a position change. Playing at about 230 pounds then, Truesdell put on the added muscle to endure the physical demands of tight end.

He admits to losing a smidge off what was 4.4 speed, but not much.

"He’s one of the leaders here. He’ll do anything for the team that you’ll ask him to do. He’s really unselfish. He doesn’t have to say a word on the field. Everybody knows who he is and where he lines up."

Marc Trestman on Vipers TE Nick Truesdell

“I bring size and I can bring speed going down the middle of the field a lot,” he said. “I’m going to be guarded by safeties and linebackers, so not too many backers and safeties are my height, so I’ll get a lot of jump balls and a lot of balls down the field.

“And of course guys double me a lot too, so that means somebody else is going to be open. I can stretch the field and definitely get jump balls in the end zone.”

Truesdell has quickly developed a chemistry with projected starting quarterback Aaron Murray. The training camp roommates share a respect for the game, according to Trestman.

“Aaron is all about football and so is Nick,” the former CFL and Chicago Bears coach said. “That’s a good combination.”

Murray spent three years with the Kansas City Chiefs after being a fifth round pick in 2014 out of Georgia. He can’t wait to utilize Truesdell in the Vipers offense.

“Big tight ends, you’re seeing it in the NFL right now,” said Murray, a Tampa native. “Those dudes are everything. The best teams in the league usually have a guy that can get split out one-on-one with a linebacker or a safety and win those matchups, whether it's a jump ball, a slant, a skinny, corner route.

"He’s one of those guys who can make it and win those matchups for us.”

Tight end still isn’t natural for Truesdell, but he’s getting there. The reps that started in minicamp last month and have continued during the two-plus week stay in the Houston area are making a difference.

“I’m learning something new every day and trying to work on different stuff every day,” he said. “It’s a completely different position. It’s been like 2-3 years now. I’m trying to perfect my craft every day and get better at one thing every day.”