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3 Vikings Rookies Go From Undrafted to 53-Man Roster

Posted Sep 5, 2017

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — No news was good news for a trio of Vikings on Saturday afternoon as the 3 p.m. (CT) deadline passed for NFL teams to submit their roster cuts.

After the deadline came and went, defensive end Tashawn Bower, linebacker Eric Wilson and tackle Aviante Collins each found themselves on the 53-man roster just months after landing in Minnesota as undrafted free agents.

Each player said they tried not to think about the looming deadline after the Vikings wrapped up Saturday’s practice.

“It’s kind of like draft day where you’re waiting on your number to get called,” said Bower, who said he knew he was in after a congratulatory text from Vikings defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez. “But this time you don’t want to get called. It’s still a long process and a long day.”

Added Collins: “I was sitting here waiting in the locker room, and the vets told me to get out of here because it was going to mess with my mind. The next thing I knew it was 3 p.m., and I got a call from my agent saying everything was good. I wasn’t jumping up and down. I just couldn’t believe it was real. I sat there in silence with my hands between my knees.”

Wilson said he could finally breathe a sigh of relief when he didn’t hear from the Vikings.

“It was great when it was finalized to know what position I put myself in and was blessed to have, and it was great for my family to know that, as well.

Bower made an impact this preseason by notching a team-high 2.0 sacks. He switched jerseys from No. 64 to No. 90, and also has a new locker, which resides next to former LSU teammate Danielle Hunter.

“It’s funny that I wound up next to him. It kind of went by seniority at LSU, so I was never up there by him,” Bower said. “Every single day, even when we’re not here, he’ll tell me to do this or that have to have my eyes here or hands here. It’s small talk that really encourages me.

“If you work hard, good things will come. I worked hard and I’m here now, but I’m going to keep working hard so this team does well,” Bower added. “The ultimate goal is not for Tashawn Bower to have five sacks and eight tackles. It’s a team thing, and that’s what matters.”

Wilson is one of six linebackers on Minnesota’s roster after going undrafted out of the University of Cincinnati.

The 22-year-old said while he might not get a ton of playing time, he’s willing to play anywhere and contribute on special teams. 

“It shows it’s not where you start – it’s the work you put in and where you finish,” Wilson said. “Those guys have grinded to make the roster after being undrafted, and a lot of that has to do with teams and your contribution to special teams in any way.

“I know that’s major in my game – just being a part of teams and making, you know, not just making the 11 and making plays [on defense] but actually making plays on teams,” Wilson added. “It’s very important, and I like teams. It’s another play, it’s another opportunity to change the game. I love it.”

Collins landed with the Vikings after a strong collegiate career at TCU, and is one of nine offensive linemen on Minnesota’s roster.

Collins said he’s prepared to sit and learn behind starting tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers while working on his craft.

“I know I made mistakes, a lot of mistakes in the preseason, but I didn’t let that eat at me and I kept going at it and kept fighting,” Collins said. “I’m not the best player or the greatest athlete, but they saw my hunger, and I think that helped me out a lot.”

“There’s so much I can learn from Riley and Remmers,. Those guys have been through this,” Collins added. “Even though I made the 53-man roster, I still have to prove myself.”

Bower, Wilson and Collins are three of 19 players on the Vikings who began their careers as undrafted free agents, joining the likes of Case Keenum, Adam Thielen, Remmers, Tom Johnson, Andrew Sendejo and Marcus Sherels.