EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Purple 84.
A childhood fantasy that transitioned into a teenage dream became reality for Bucky Hodges on Friday morning.
Selected by the Vikings in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Hodges arrived at Winter Park Thursday with the Vikings 10 other draft picks, 13 undrafted free agents and several players who were invited to try out during the Vikings minicamp.
On Friday morning, he was in the locker room — the same space where his favorite football player, Randy Moss, had once put on the Purple 84 practice jersey — and on the field for a walkthrough.
"This 84 is legendary, and I want to build on it," Hodges said, still sweating from participation in special teams drills. "There's some big shoes to fill, but I held the 7 [of Michael Vick] down at Virginia Tech a little bit. Now, it's time for me to hold 84 down."
Hodges began his Hokies career as a quarterback after a touted prep career, but did scout team work at tight end as a redshirt in 2013 to provide a look similar to what coaches thought they'd face from former North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, a first-round selection of the Lions the following spring.
The position switch rekindled memories from Hodges' time as a tight end in youth leagues, and he transitioned to the position in 2014 when he garnered Freshman All-American designation from *USA TODAY *after catching 45 passes for 526 yards and seven touchdowns.
Hodges played tight end again in 2015, recording 40 receptions for 530 yards and six scores but was primarily used at receiver in 2016 when he posted 48 receptions, 691 yards and seven more touchdowns.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he thinks Hodges will be able to adjust to the demands of a tight end in the professional game.
"He's a big, top-shelf guy. He has been able to go over the top of guys and get the ball," Zimmer said. "He has got great hand-eye coordination. It's going to be a little different for him, playing more of a traditional H-back role, but he's a big guy. He's 6-6, 250, and he's going to have to get in the weight room and get stronger. But he runs a 4.5-(second 40-yard dash). He's got some work to do."
Hodges opted to leave Virginia Tech with a year of eligibility left and enter the NFL Draft, where he was selected by Minnesota with the 201st overall pick, connecting him to a dream he visualized with his father, Temuchin Hodges, as a child in Virginia.
Hodges was just 3 years old when Moss made his record-setting rookie debut with the Vikings, but Hodges caught on quickly.
"My first time that I ever probably said Moss, I was like 4 years old," Hodges explained. "I was outside with my dad. My dad used to always have me watching football and basketball, but I remember we were outside at my grandma's house, Maxey Drive, and I was 4 years old. We were throwing the ball, and I was jumping."
His father, Temuchin Hodges, said, "Who do you think you are?"
"Moss, Moss, Moss!"
Hodges kept jumping, by the way, recording a vertical of 39 inches that was the best of any tight end at the NFL Scouting Combine this year. He also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds, which was the fifth-fastest time clocked by a tight end.
That athleticism and consistent production are strong reasons the Vikings were interested in Hodges, who knows that the work is only beginning. He wants to help the team and put up productive numbers, but on Friday, Purple 84, was the number that mattered the most to him.
"It's a legendary number," Hodges said. "I'm just hoping to throw my name into that hat and build on it so some kid will want to be like me someday."
Although he was initially disappointed by not being selected until the sixth round, Hodges said he considers landing in Minnesota "a blessing."
"There's no better place for me to be than Minnesota," Hodges said. "I love how this is a football town. The Vikings are everything up here. I'm very proud to be a part of this culture. There's a lot of openings, and I'm hoping I can move my way up there."