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Byron Murphy & Josh Oliver Excited for Vikings Culture, Coaches … & Harrison Smith

EAGAN, Minn. – Byron Murphy, Jr., was just as excited as everyone else to see that Harrison Smith is remaining a Viking.

Murphy visited Minnesota Thursday to sign his contract, tour the facility and meet with the media. Asked during his press conference about Smith restructuring to remain in Purple, Murphy offered a subtle fist pump from the podium.

"I saw that news, and I was just like, 'Man, that's a great player,' " said Murphy.

The 25-year-old corner has been watching Harrison Smith, 34, for much of his football journey and doesn't take for granted the opportunity to learn from him in Minnesota's secondary.

"Knowing and hearing the type of leader he is on this team, that's a big thing to have somebody like that, and that good of a player [to learn from]," Murphy said. "I can't wait to get on the field beside him."

Murphy, who spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Cardinals, said people in Arizona and around the league spoke highly of not only Smith but of the entire Vikings organization and culture.

Those factors were significant in his decision to join the Vikings in free agency, despite interest from other teams.

View photos of Vikings CB Byron Murphy Jr. during his first day at the TCO Performance Center with the team.

Murphy spoke with former Cardinals teammates Patrick Peterson and Jordan Hicks, who both signed with the Vikings after playing in Arizona. Peterson played the past two seasons for Minnesota before joining Pittsburgh, and Hicks is preparing for his second season with the Vikings.

"Jordan Hicks called me, and I had a great conversation with him. Talked about a couple things. Obviously Pat Pete, he's been my mentor since my rookie year, so that's like my big brother. Congrats to him, as well, [for signing with the Steelers]. I have to say that. That's my guy," Murphy said. "He told me the same thing Jordan said – 'The culture here is something that is different. You're going to love it.' So I just took their advice, and hearing other guys out who obviously have been in the same program as me, they came here and saw the difference, which was one of the biggest things that impacted me, as well.

"I feel like this was the perfect fit for me," Murphy added. "Knowing my coaches [in] Arizona had talked to me about the coaches and staff here … I kind of related to that, connected with that, and I just felt like that was the most important thing for me to hear about."

Similar sentiments were shared by new Vikings tight end Josh Oliver, who chose Minnesota as his free agency destination.

"It was the right opportunity, the right fit, the right team," Oliver told reporters.

Oliver and Murphy each were asked about their specific positions and where they expect to be utilized on game days.

Murphy solely played outside cornerback throughout his college career at Washington but played in the slot some after being drafted by the Cardinals. He noted the intricacies and attention to detail required at the nickel corner position, while outside presents its own challenges because it "puts you on an island out there."

"I'm a team guy, so wherever the team puts me," Murphy said. "Wherever the team or coach wants me to be, I'm down with it."

Oliver acknowledged the reputation he's garnered as a blocking tight end but believes he can be an asset as a receiving target for Kirk Cousins, as well.

"That's something I've been able to showcase just recently, my ability to block, but I also think I'm versatile and I'm able to help in the passing game," Oliver said. "I've seen this offense from afar. I saw them last season.

"It's exciting to be a part of guys like T.J. [Hockenson] and J.J. (Justin Jefferson)," Oliver later added. "[The coaches] see me as someone who can help work the edges, whether that's blocking and also a 1-2 punch in the pass game, too, to help complement T.J. and J.J., so I'm excited."

Oliver, who's had 26 catches over 35 games, pointed out the irony that a critique against him coming out of college was his blocking ability; now, it's the aspect of his game that is being credited the most.

"I take it as a compliment," he said. "Anytime you can be referred to as having a specialty, that's a compliment in my eyes."

View photos of Vikings TE Josh Oliver during his first day at the TCO Performance Center with the team.

This offseason marked Oliver and Murphy's first experience in free agency, and they each took the process in-stride.

Murphy said he spent time during the process with his family, including his 6-year-old son Malakai, whom he called his inspiration.

"I found out I was having a kid the day was going to college. I was 17," he shared. "It was hard at first, obviously, trying to go to college knowing you're having a kid. But at the end of the day, it was a blessing. I'd say it was the biggest blessing in my life – just changed me to grow as a man, quicker and faster. Something that motivates me every single day.

"Every time I wake up, knowing I have a why. That's my why. Every day motivates me," Murphy said before adding proudly, "Now he's playing basketball, right? So he's a little hooper right now. He's doing good."

Murphy and Oliver both will look forward to showing their families around Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center and having them in the stands of U.S. Bank Stadium on game days.

"Everything here is nice. I'm not going to lie. Everything," Murphy responded when asked about the Vikings topping a recent NFL Players Association survey. "To come here and see how much time and effort they put into this building, into their players, their coaches, the people upstairs, it's just a blessing to come here and see that and be a part of something like that. It's a blessing to see how nice this whole facility is.

"When I first entered [U.S. Bank Stadium with the Cardinals last season] I was just like, 'Man, the people here and everything, it feels like the crowd's into it,' " Murphy added. "It was just a different feeling. Now I get to have a chance to go into the stadium and do the same thing."

Oliver faced the Vikings will with the Ravens in Baltimore in 2021 but has not played at U.S. Bank Stadium. He said the initial impression of TCO Performance Center impressed him.

"It's awesome. The facility is great, the people are great," Oliver said. "You couldn't ask for a better place to be."