EAGAN, Minn. — Jeff Gladney waited until the 31st pick for his phone to ring Thursday night.
When his phone did buzz, it was the team the cornerback wanted to hear from on the other line.
The Vikings tabbed the former TCU standout in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, using their second selection on Day 1 to bolster a position that was an area of need for Minnesota.
"I had talked to them a few times in the draft process … I never lost faith in [the Vikings]," Gladney said. "I thought they were going to draft me, and they did."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer shared an anecdote from Thursday's call with Gladney, a First-Team All-Big 12 selection with the Horned Frogs who is happy to stay in purple.
"When we called him — [college scout] Pat [Roberts] gets him on the phone — and he said, 'I've been waiting for you guys to call.' That's part of what you like about him," Zimmer said. "He's a competitor and he wants to get out there and go."
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said Gladney "has tremendous upside."
Minnesota picked Gladney at No. 31 after trading back from No. 25 with San Francisco. The Vikings acquired a fourth-round pick (No. 117) and a fifth-rounder (No. 176) from the 49ers.
Gladney, a senior out of TCU, stands at 5-foot-10 and weighs in at 191 pounds. He started 10 of 12 games in 2019, totaling 31 tackles (24 solo), one interception and 1.5 tackles for loss. His 14 passes defensed led the conference.
While Gladney is a shorter cornerback, he was described by NFL draft analyst Charles Davis as playing with "great aggressiveness and intelligence."
The Athletic's Dane Brugler tabbed Gladney, the fifth overall cornerback picked Thursday, as the third-best cornerback in this year's class.
Zimmer has been known to excel at working with cornerbacks who are under 6-foot, such as former Cowboys, Bengals and Vikings defensive back Terence Newman.
"Gladney reminds me of a lot of guys who have played similarly for me in the past," Zimmer said. "Very good acceleration … tough, competitive kid … wants to challenge receivers and good in and out of the breaks.
"Long arms … I know he's a shorter guy, but he makes up for it with his toughness and his length," Zimmer added.
"There are specific traits you have to have to play corner in this defense," Spielman said. "Gladney fit every single trait we were looking for from a physical standpoint."
Gladney said his height isn't a factor on the field and that he brings a feisty attitude each and every game.
"I play very physical," Gladney said. "It doesn't matter what size opponent I'm playing, I'm going to bring the physicality to him and see if he wants it, or if he doesn't."
Gladney filled a position of need for the Vikings, especially after Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander signed with Cincinnati in free agency. Minnesota also terminated the contract of Xavier Rhodes, who opted to sign with Indianapolis. Mike Hughes, a 2018 first-round draft pick, leads Minnesota's cornerback group in seniority.
"We knew we needed some corner depth, but it was more about it being the right price when we got the guys," Zimmer said. "We didn't want to reach for a player."
ESPN draft analyst Louis Riddick was a fan of Gladney landing with the Vikings.
"This is another guy who has a lot of upside, a lot of potential, a lot of speed," Riddick said. "He just needs to develop his ability to finish on the football the last third of the down. … You have a good athlete that really just needs some more coaching, some more refinement, but that's exactly what you're going to find at this point in the draft."
Gladney is the first TCU player to be drafted by the Vikings in the first round in franchise history.
The Vikings are scheduled to have three picks on Day 2 of the 2020 draft — a second-rounder at No. 58, plus No. 89 and No. 105 in the third round.
View photos of TCU CB Jeff Gladney who was selected by the Vikings in the first round of the NFL Draft.