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Vikings DT Chigbo Anunoby: Kicking in his past, medical school in his future

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The only thing keeping Chigbo Anunoby from medical school is the sport he'd never seen until he played it for the first time at age 14.

The Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle was insulated from American football as a kid growing up in London, where soccer consumed most of his time. He was an Arsenal supporter and a forward on his youth teams, and until his father got a teaching position at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, Anunoby had no concept of what his new home's most popular sport was like.

"I'd never seen it," Anunoby said. "The first game I played in was my first time watching American football. That's how crazy it was."

Thanks to his soccer experience, Anunoby joined his high school team as a kicker, until his coaches reasoned they might have a better use than special teams for a 6-foot-4, 215-pound 14-year-old.

Anunoby's journey through the game now includes stops at two small colleges -- Lincoln and Morehouse -- bisected by a two-year sabbatical from football. He's been in camp with the Colts, Redskins, Titans and is now trying to stick with the Vikings. He's got degrees from both Lincoln and Morehouse, in mathematics and biology, respectively, and plans to attend medical school once his playing days are over. But for now, those plans are on hold as the 6-4 tackle seeks to extend his NFL career.

"I'd have to get myself back in the mode. It's been a while since I looked at a biology book or anything," Anunoby said. "I'm hoping to get myself back in the mode, and when this ship has sailed, I'll get right back into it."

He was going to be done playing after two years at Lincoln thanks to a coaching change that led him to focus on schoolwork for two years. But when a former coach convinced Anunoby to come to Morehouse, he figured he'd give it another shot.

Anunoby is 26 now, and his chances of making the Vikings' roster appear remote. Still, with Shamar Stephen out until the beginning of the season because of knee surgery, players such as Anunoby might see some opportunities in the team's final three preseason games.

If it happens to delay his return to a biology textbook, all the better.

"I'm trying to take advantage of the reps that I'm given," he said. "Whatever happens, happens."