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DL Esezi Otomewo Continues to Feel Right at Home with Vikings

When Esezi Otomewo first arrived in Minnesota as a redshirt freshman on the University of Minnesota football team, he instantly felt right at home.

Five years later, he gets to extend his stay, just 26 minutes down the road.

Otomewo was selected in the fifth round of this year's NFL draft by Minnesota. On Tuesday, the Vikings announced their initial 53-man roster, with the 23-year-old rookie being one of six defensive lineman to make the cut.

"It's a blessing," Otomewo said on making the roster. "Getting over that hump and being a part of the team is a dream come true, but at the same time, we've got work to do still. I'm not satisfied with where I'm at, and there's a lot of things we've got to do as a team so we can reach our goals."

Otomewo isn't the only Gophers rookie to make an NFL roster. Offensive tackle Daniel Faalele made the cut with the Baltimore Ravens, while linebacker Boye Mafe and tight end Ko Kieft made Seattle's and Tampa Bay's rosters, respectively. Faalele will join former Gopher teammate Rashod Bateman, who was drafted in 2021 by the Ravens.

"It's a huge accomplishment for those guys, but I know they want more for themselves," Otomewo said. "They're going to keep working hard, just like I am."

Last season with the Gophers, Otomewo recorded 30 total tackles, including 24 solo, as well as three sacks.

Otomewo said the largest adjustment for him between college and the pro level is the mental aspect of the game. But he added learning from veterans such as Dalvin Tomlinson and Harrison Phillips has been extremely beneficial.

"It's been a blessing, I'm not going to lie," Otomewo said. "They are great veteran guys that took me in, and they just want me to do better. So does the whole D-line, not just the interior."

Otomewo, as well as the rest of the Vikings defense, has had to learn a new scheme under Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell. Otomewo said things have gone well for him so far in figuring out the new system, but he knows he still has plenty to learn.

"It's been good to me so far, especially once you get it down," Otomewo said. "I'm still getting it down; I'm not saying I'm there yet, because you can never be there. It's been good learning under Ed."

With the regular-season opener against the Green Bay Packers just around the corner, Otomewo said it's going to be an amazing feeling continuing to play in the state of Minnesota.

"It's very special," Otomewo said. "It gives me chills sometimes, just the irony of me going from the University of Minnesota to playing with the Vikings. It's a special feeling. It's surreal still."

Luiji Vilain welcomes helmet duty | By Craig Peters

Helmet duty never felt so good for Luiji Vilain.

The outside linebacker had four helmets, two per hand, as he walked off the practice field and was asked by media to participate in interviews.

Carrying helmets and or pads after practice can be among tasks assigned to a rookie, but Vilain didn't seem to mind, especially a day after making Minnesota's 53-man roster.

"It's been great, just a blessing that the people upstairs believe enough in me to put me on the 53," Vilain said. "My mindset is I'm going to keep working. This is part of the goal. This isn't the whole goal. The goal is to play and play well, so that's where my mind is at."

Vilain played collegiately at Michigan and was drafted in the CFL but opted to transfer to Wake Forest in 2021. The native of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, went undrafted by an NFL team this spring before signing with Minnesota.

He said friends and family found out about his fate on the team about the same time. A barrage of text messages came in, from those he's known for a long time to Vikings fans that have become more familiar with him of late.

"I've been getting love from people back home and the Vikings fans everywhere," Vilain said. "It's been love. It's been great."

Vilain made a mark in the Vikings final two preseason games, returning a fumble 14 yards against the 49ers and intercepting a tipped pass at Denver.

"I just went out there and took it play by play, trusted my coaching and trusted the advice I got from the older guys and just did what I did," Vilain said.

Ryan Wright will always remember 66 | By Craig Peters

Ryan Wright's days in the 66 jersey are numbered.

Due to NFL rules, the punter who made the Vikings squad as an undrafted rookie can't keep wearing the number that was issued to him into the regular season.

"It's going to have a special place in my heart as my first NFL number," Wright said. "They're going to let me know what I can choose from tomorrow."

Wright battled with veteran Jordan Berry, who was released last week before Minnesota closed its preseason slate at Denver.

The Tulane product and California native responded well with a gross average of 56.3 and a net of 50.3 on four punts. Three were downed inside the 20-yard line.

"Last week I thought I was the starting punter. I think that's the way they wanted me to act," Wright said. "Obviously crazier things have happened in the NFL. It's a very brutal business, so I didn't want to say that I had won the job yet, because who truly knows, except the coaches."