EAGAN, Minn. — Irv Smith, Jr., has caught his first passes in Vikings Purple.
The 2019 second-round pick participated on Friday in the first walk-through session and practice of the Vikings three-day rookie minicamp.
He made a nice adjustment on a corner route and spent a considerable amount of time in blocking drills, which was perfectly fine with him.
“I’m definitely a versatile tight end,” Smith told the media between the walk-through session and practice. “I feel like I can do all of the things a tight end needs to do well. In-line, be in the backfield, split end, out wide. I feel like I can bring all of those aspects to the team.”
He later added: “I don’t want to be classified as a receiving tight end. I want to be classified as a complete tight end.”
Smith did plenty at Alabama, moving to different places in formations, making blocks for a potent rush attack and creating big plays through the air.
He finished his three-year career with 58 receptions for 838 yards and 10 touchdowns in 38 games. Of those receptions, 33 gained a first down or scored a touchdown.
In his final campaign with the Crimson Tide, the 6-foot-2, 237-pounder caught 44 receptions for 710 yards (16.1 yards per reception) and seven touchdowns in 15 games. Smith was named to the All-SEC Second Team by coaches last season after 28 of his receptions went for a first down or scored a touchdown and 11 catches gained 20 or more yards.
“I definitely feel like I made improvements each year, from my freshman year to sophomore year to junior year,” Smith said. “I definitely feel like I’m going to make more improvements this year.”
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said during his media session that it is good to start working with the rookies, even if it was in a limited capacity.
“You always like to see them with your own eyes,” Zimmer said. “I know we had someone down at the Alabama workout, but I wasn’t there.”
Smith is the youngest player selected in this year’s draft (he’ll turn 21 in August), but he didn’t seem wide-eyed the day after signing his first pro contract.
He can credit the experiences of his father, a first-round pick by the Saints in 1993, and his time at Alabama for helping him ready for this dream-come-true moment.
“Coach [Nick] Saban, his philosophy is not only preparing us for football but for life,” Smith said. “Just coming here now and being here, he definitely prepared us. You know there’s definitely going to be a difference, but I feel like it’s the closest thing to NFL.”
The New Orleans native was asked to compare his emotions between Friday and when he first arrived on campus in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
“Coming in as a freshman in college, you’re moving into a dorm,” Smith said. “I was 17 years old; you have a lot of maturing to do, so I feel like I matured a lot through that process, and my family, my team and my coaches at Alabama helped me prepare for this moment.”
Smith, who was born Aug. 9, 1998 (the day of Minnesota’s first preseason game of the season, a 28-0 victory at New England), said he has a personal reason for why he’s excited to wear the No. 84 donned by 1998 Rookie of the Year (and future Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver) Randy Moss.
“Well, it’s funny because I wore 82 in college, and my dad wore 82 in the league,” Smith said. “He wore 84 in college, so I felt like it would be cool to switch it up a bit.”