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Notebook: Vikings Rookies Journey Starts with 'Stairway to Heaven'

Posted Jul 23, 2017

MANKATO, Minn. — Vikings rookie Pat Elflein took charge of the tunes on Sunday as he and 2017 NFL Draft classmate Ben Gedeon rode together from Eden Prairie to Minnesota State University, Mankato.

They’ll forever remember that their first NFL season journey began with a Led Zeppelin classic.

“We rolled in listening to ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ ” Elflein explained of his first few moments on campus that included a warm welcome from Vikings fans who were celebrating the start of Verizon Vikings Training Camp outside Julia Sears Residence Hall.

Elflein, a center from Ohio State, and Gedeon, a linebacker from Michigan, have bonded in spite of their alma maters’ heated rivalry. They opted to share a ride together instead of hopping on a bus from the team facility and wound their way down Highway 169.

Elflein admitted to experiencing a little bit of anxiety as they headed toward their first professional training camp.

“There always is, especially with being a rookie and coming to camp for the first time, a little bit of anxiousness, but I feel like that’s normal whenever you’ve got something big coming up,” Elflein said. “I’m excited to get out there and play.”

He and classmates also enjoyed the show of support from fans.

“You’ve got a diehard fan base here in Minnesota,” Elflein said. “That’s my first reaction. I love it. It’s what I’m used to. Seeing all of these fans out here and the little kids makes me excited to play ball again.

“It’s the real deal now,” Elflein added. “Pads will come on, and guys, everyone is fighting for a job. That will be a little different. I’m excited to get out there and compete.”

Gedeon agreed, telling Vikings.com’s Lindsey Young, “It feels good to just get here and to know that we have a couple good weeks of competing, and I’m just excited to get going.”

They don’t know it yet, but another Led Zeppelin offering, “The Immigrant Song,” is on cue for their games at U.S. Bank Stadium: 

Ah, ah.

We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.

Hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new land.
To fight the hordes and sing, and cry.
Valhalla, I am coming.

Early arrivals: This is Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s fourth season but the first time that he has opted to have rookies and select other players report to training camp before Wednesday’s arrival date for veterans. Zimmer said he wanted to give the rookies more exposure to the playbook and that the team will be able to have full practices on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before bringing everyone together Thursday.

The rookies were joined by several other players who have experienced a Vikings training camp before, including defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd who is rehabbing an injury, quarterback Taylor Heinicke and receiver Isaac Fruechte.

“Training camp for me is time to come out here and enjoy what you love doing,” Fruechte said. “I’m a coach’s son and have always been around football. I love it. I still do and I’m excited to be here.

“I’m just trying to work hard and help this team any way I can,” Fruechte added. “It’s fun being here and learning.”

The Caledonia native and former Golden Gopher spent 2015 and most of 2016 on the Vikings practice squad. He recorded a special teams tackle against Chicago in the last season’s finale, when he made his NFL debut, and is excited about the possibility of that role this season.

“Special teams is kind of the heart and soul of the team, the offense and defense working together to try and get something done, a common goal, and you can really affect the game,” Fruechte said. “It’s extremely important, so I love playing special teams and hope to be out there a lot.”

Even though Fruechte is quite familiar with the Vikings and camp by now, he said he thinks the extra time will be “huge.”

“It’s refreshing on the playbook and getting used to the scenery, where you are and what you’ve got to do,” Fruechte said. “It’s great, a good thing for us. It should be an exciting time for everybody.”

Talent search: Receiver Rodney Adams arrived with a camera of his own, chronicling the experience in a vlog series on YouTube.

Adams said his goal is to “pick up where I left off in OTAs, continue to grow.”

Adams has been working out with receivers Adam Thielen and Moritz Böhringer to prepare, and he also received special insight from Thielen.

“The only thing that Adam [Thielen] told me is to be ready for the rookie talent show,” Adams said. “That’s the only thing he’s told me.

“I’m still searching for [my talent],” Adams said. “I’ve got a while to think about what I want to do.”