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Different Paths Lead 7th Rounders to Minnesota

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — One played in a capital city of Division I college football where national titles and draft picks have been harvested for decades.

The other played for a Division II school that, before Saturday, hadn't seen a player drafted by an NFL team since 1974. 

But within a span of four spots in the seventh and concluding round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Alabama offensive lineman Austin Shepherd and Newberry linebacker Edmond Robinson became members of the Vikings.

Shepherd played home games in Bryant-Denny Stadium, which opened with a capacity of 18,000 in 1929 and has expanded to accommodate 101,821 Crimson Tide fans on game days with help along the way from Bear Bryant. Robinson played for a college that bears the same name as the town that is home to a little more than 10,000 people every day but boasts two Vikings players (Brandon Bostick is the other). 

Both were excited to learn they'll be on the same playing field by the end of next week when Vikings rookies report for a minicamp.

"It feels great. I've been waiting all day, just waiting my turn, and am just happy to be a Viking, happy to come up North," Shepherd said.

Robinson said his agent advised him he would go between rounds 5 and 7 and become the first Wolves player drafted since LB Greg Hartle went off the board to the St. Louis Cardinals more than 40 years ago.

"It was a long process, but I'm just happy to be a Viking," Robinson said.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was excited to land both players so late into the process to reward the extensive process scouts and coaches undertake in finding the best fits anywhere and everywhere.

In the case of Shepherd, he was hidden behind 2013 first-round pick D.J. Fluker on the depth chart. After redshirting in 2010, and appearing as a reserve for two more seasons, Shepherd started the final 27 games of his career and implemented what Fluker taught him.

"He really taught me how to play tackle," Shepherd said. "I kind of watched him, and every little thing they did and how he studied. He was one of the hardest studiers in film watches that we had. He was in there trying to get better, so he kind of helped me off the field more, just trying to learn the playbook and get better."

Shepherd was invited to the Senior Bowl, and opted to work at guard because multiple teams were asking if he had played that position.

"I figured since I had 27 games on film at tackle, that I'd give a shot at guard. I kind of came up with the idea because I heard so many people asking me if I've ever played guard," Shepherd said. "It's just a little different than tackle. Tackle you're more on an island, so guard, you kind of have to learn how to work with the center and the tackle. I feel more than comfortable. I feel like I could play any position they need."

Spielman, who also drafted offensive linemen T.J. Clemmings (in the fourth round) and Tyrus Thompson (in the sixth) over the weekend, said the Vikings will probably begin working with Shepherd at guard.

"There's another multi-position guy, played right tackle with Alabama, can slide inside," Spielman said. "Played some guard at the Senior Bowl as well, a very tough, physical aggressive kid, comes from a big-time program, a kid that's well-coached, and I felt we got great value where he was at in the seventh round."

Robinson capitalized on an invitation to the East-West Shrine game, a rare invite for a Division II player to go to the combine, and a campus visit by linebackers coach Adam Zimmer while he was already in South Carolina for the Gamecocks Pro Day.

"A lot of guys are excited and happy for me," Robinson said. "I'm glad I did what I could at the combine and the East-West Game, and now it shows in being the first to get drafted in over 40 years, it's an amazing feeling."

Spielman said Robinson is a "very talented athlete that's a little raw" but a player that coaches will be excited to work with.

"He's played outside. You don't see him a lot in the film at a stacked position, but he has great length. He has great speed and range," Spielman said. "He's going to be another guy that has a lot of athletic tools to work with but it's going to be a little bit of a learning curve, but you can't teach his length, you can't teach his speed and you can't teach his athletic ability, so we'll look at him as maybe a guy that can play multiple positions at linebacker, maybe do some pass rush off edge, but we're very excited from his standpoint, from the athletic skillset that he has a lot of tools to work with and we'll see how quickly he comes along."

View college images of Newberry LB Edmond Robinson.

Robinson described Newberry's campus of about 1,100 as a place where "everyone knows everyone."

"After the first day there, you'll know everyone that's on campus, so like you said, after four years everyone definitely knows who each individual is," Robinson said. "It's a great campus, it's really small but I adapted to it well so I enjoyed my years there."

He'll get the opportunity to adapt again, and potentially make his mark at another college campus when Minnesota reports to MSU, Mankato for training camp in July.

"I'm excited to get the opportunity to go out there and show what I can do in front of the Vikings coaching staff," Robinson said.

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