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Chuck Foreman, Robert Smith, Kevin Williams & Chad Greenway Revisit Draft Days

Chuck Foreman hosted some friends in Miami who traveled from his home state of Maryland.

Robert Smith was too uneasy to enjoy a pancake with roommates.

Kevin Williams left his spot manning the grill.

Chad Greenway got the most out of a landline's phone cord before a send-off.

The four former first-round picks of the Vikings — Foreman in 1973, Smith in 1993, Williams in 2003 and Greenway in 2006 — recently got together for a conversation hosted by Pete Bercich that was a featured segment of the "Minnesota Vikings Podcast."

Each shared draft memories and explained signature "welcome-to-the-NFL" moments.

The conversation starts at the 26:10 mark after pre-draft analysis by Vikings Entertainment Network's Jay Nelson, Chris Corso and Eric Smith. Listen to the whole episode, or check out some highlights, below.


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Draft Day memories

Foreman: "I had some friends come down from Maryland, and we just had a little get-together at my apartment. … Coming out of the University of Miami, I played three positions: running back, wide receiver and corner. … I had a real big day at the Senior Bowl, and that's when everybody was saying, 'Being a running back might be the best way to go.'

"When draft day came, I had no clue which way it was going to be. We didn't have [live TV coverage]. We didn't have all of that kind of stuff, so it was a little bit different. For me, I think it was a big thing because I was on the phone with [former Vikings General Manager] Jim Finks.

"When we got to the 12th [selection], they called my name, and Jim Finks calls me in a couple of hours and sends me a ticket. I fly to Minnesota, and he asked me what position I wanted to play. I could have played either one. It didn't make a difference to me. I decided to start off at the running back position, and that's where it went. You don't have the 12th player picked in the draft nowadays choosing where he wants to play. Now guys specialize."

Foreman chose wisely and went to the Pro Bowl in each of his first five seasons. He rushed for 801 yards and four scores as a rookie when he also added 37 catches for 362 yards and two scores. Foreman finished with 5,887 rushing yards and 52 rushing touchdowns in seven seasons with the Vikings.

Smith: "It was crazy. I actually ran a track meet, was running track for Ohio State that spring, and we had the Penn Relays over in Philadelphia. I flew back to Columbus Saturday night, and on Sunday morning, was just nervous as I'll get out.

"I remember going to Bob Evans and taking a couple of bites of pancake and couldn't eat any more. I talked to a couple of teams and heard some things from my agent that teams around 14 to 16, in that range, might be taking me, and nothing happened. I had been watching the draft up until that point, but nothing happened. After pick 16, I turned it over to 'The Ren and Stimpy Show' and was watching that."

When it was time for Minnesota to use the 21st overall pick, the late Dennis Green, who was preparing for his second season as head coach of the Vikings, called Smith and reconnected.

"In reference to a visit I had made to Stanford, when he was there two years previously and I was thinking of transferring from Ohio State to Stanford with Denny and his staff, … he said, 'I let you get away once. I'm not letting it happen again.' It was a really cool experience."

Smith said an initial meeting with former Vikings running backs coach Tyrone Willingham quickly brought him back to earth.

"Ty Willingham was a stickler for details. Ty started the de-drafting process right away," Smith explained. "He sat me down and we put on some film from Michigan State the previous season and he talked about how it was a good game but it could have been a great game if I had followed my blocks properly. It was a really cool experience, nerve-racking, but one of the coolest days of my life."

Note: Bercich was an assistant coach at the time the Vikings drafted Williams. He explained Minnesota's mindset that led to a bit of chaos. The Vikings knew they wanted Williams but thought they could trade down a couple of spots, reap extra picks and still get the dynamic defensive tackle. The only problem is no one would do a trade tango with the Vikings for their No. 7 pick, which led to a delay in Minnesota submitting Williams' name until after Jacksonville drafted Byron Leftwich and Carolina tabbed Jordan Gross, making Williams the ninth overall pick of 2003. Williams was focused on 'cue as the confusion unfolded.

Williams: "All of the family was over. We were out barbecuing in the yard, had a big TV on the porch and letting the draft go. I was expected to go from 12 [or later]. I talked to every team under the sun, and Minnesota was nowhere on the radar. I had no idea, didn't know anything about Minnesota.

"I think I was on the grill, flipping ribs or chicken, and the seventh pick comes up, it's Minnesota and they don't pick, so I don't pay attention," Williams continued. "Whoever the next two teams were, rush in and get their picks in, and Minnesota still didn't pick. No one is really paying attention. We're just trying to keep up with what position or pick it was. It gets to No. 9, and they pick me. They didn't call me. I hadn't heard from them or anything.

"My brother's girlfriend at the time just starts screaming, 'You just got picked!' I'm looking at the TV kind of shocked, really," Williams added. "You always hear that they're going to call you first, so I'm like, 'OK.' The house phone rings, and it's [former Head Coach] Mike Tice. 'We've just picked you and want to get you up here.' So I'm excited. The family is in awe. It's one of your lifelong dreams, so I just totally disregarded the cookout.

"Being from country Arkansas, I should have known that I could have left the next day and done the same thing that I did. I rushed to Little Rock, an hour-and-a-half away, trying to get a flight," he recalled. "To get to Minnesota, it's 11 o'clock at night. What are we going to do at 11 o'clock at night? So I could have just gotten up early and left the next day and gotten there that morning and done the same thing. It was a whirlwind from the time they picked me to getting to Minnesota and doing all of the interviews."

Williams missed just five games and racked up 60 sacks in his 11 seasons with Minnesota. He garnered five First-Team All-Pro designations and six selections to the Pro Bowl along the way.

Greenway: "On draft day, I was back on the farm in South Dakota. All of my friends and family were around. Back then, I think it was 15 minutes per pick. It seemed like an eternity that day, and I got picked 17th, so you had a long wait that day, just sitting around and waiting. I knew, basically, from 9 to the end of the first round is where I could go without much clarity on who would take me, but I can remember my wife, we were about to get married and she said, 'I just want to go anywhere south of Iowa City.' It's actually kind of hard to go north of Iowa City in the NFL, but the 16th pick came and went. That was the Dolphins.

"I want to say the first voice I heard was [former Head Coach] Brad Childress, but then it was [former Vice President of Player Personnel] Fran Foley really soon after that. It's just a whirlwind, a crazy day," Greenway continued. "All of these dreams and work and everything you've done kind of culminates in this one day, and the funny part is I get this call, we're in this cornfield in South Dakota, and I get the call and it drops. They called the home phone, and it's on the landline with the curly, pigtail cord, and I've got the thing stretched 30 feet so I can get in front of the TV and get back to my [easy chair].

"We go to our small-town gymnasium, and it's filled with the entire community, just supporting me and was awesome," Greenway added. "We flew up to Minnesota. Much like Robert said, it wasn't as quick as Coach Willingham was, but Coach [Fred] Pagac, the next morning, it was, 'Show up at 8 a.m., and we'll go right into the playbook.' Once I started playing in the Cover 2 scheme and kind of understood it, it was like, 'Why the hell did I have to start this so soon? This is really easy.' It didn't take that long to learn."

Although he suffered a season-ending injury in his first preseason game, Greenway bounced back and spent his entire career with Minnesota, starting 144 of 156 games he played, leading the Vikings in tackles in six consecutive seasons and garnering a pair of Pro Bowl selections.

View every Vikings first round draft pick through the years.

Welcome to the NFL moments

Foreman: "It hit me when I got in the huddle. OK, there was [Fran] Tarkenton on one side [and] John Gilliam. I looked across [at the defense] and it was the Purple People Eaters, all of the guys that a few years earlier I was watching on TV. That was a moment where I said, 'Wow, I've definitely got to bring my best game to compete with these guys.'

"Then, I got my first baptism when we played the Kansas City Chiefs and [Hall of Fame DT] Buck Buchanan [in the preseason]. That was my first big hit, and then I looked up, 'That hurt a little bit more than I'm used to.' He picked me up by the collar and said, 'Welcome to the NFL.' That was the way it went."

Smith: "Sitting in my first minicamp meeting next to Roger Craig. That was somebody that I had grown up watching, and obviously all of the draft stuff was cool and very exciting and memorable, but sitting next to Roger Craig in a meeting was absolutely surreal because … of the Super Bowls from the Bill Walsh era [in San Francisco]. It was unbelievable to me that I was sitting next to him."

Williams: "I think it really set in that I was playing at the top level in a preseason game. I had to go in against [Hall of Fame LT] Willie Roaf. I tried everything I could to get around him, but I ain't got around him yet.

"He was holding me with one hand and taking me where he wanted me to go," Williams added. "I couldn't do anything against him. It was like, 'You're on the big stage now. You've got to bring it every day. You've got professional, grown men that have been doing it a while and are called the best for a reason."

Greenway: "I think the one thing I noticed right away, we went to our full-team minicamp, I was blown away at how good everybody was in general. … I realized real early that if I didn't bring the goods every day with energy and effort, the stuff I can control, I was not going to have much of a chance. Everybody was so good. … You think, 'How am I going to make this thing work?' You find your way one day at a time."


Vikings I.Q. Presented By Pepsi

Pepsi will partner with the Minnesota Vikings to offer fans an interactive, free-to-play social and gaming experience through the Vikings App called Vikings I.Q. Fans will have an opportunity to make real-time Draft predictions, socialize with other Vikings fans and win prizes from Pepsi! To play, simply download or open the Vikings App then click Menu > Fantasy Games > Vikings I.Q.