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J.J. McCarthy Lands in Minnesota, Connects with Justin 'Jets' Jefferson

EAGAN, Minn. – When Justin Jefferson offers a word of advice, you pay attention.

That's exactly what J.J. McCarthy did when he received a message from the Vikings phenom receiver shortly after being drafted 10th overall by Minnesota on Thursday.

"He reached out to me and sent me a great text," McCarthy told Twin Cities media members Friday afternoon. "He told me confidence is key in this league. And just being able to hear that from him, to be able to get introduced to all the wise words he's going to be giving me over the years, I'm just extremely excited and can't wait."

McCarthy is only freshly 21 (Jan. 20), but he has already demonstrated that confidence Jefferson referenced.

The former Wolverines standout, who went 27-1 in his collegiate career and led Michigan to a National Championship, is self-assured and certain – while remaining grounded – in his skill set, along with desire for continued development.

Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell have been impressed by those traits, whether in on-field workouts or meetings with the quarterback.

Adofo-Mensah referenced a virtual call during which McCarthy wasn't afraid to look him in the eyes and ask, "Is there a reason you wouldn't draft me?"

The directness of the question speaks not only to McCarthy's assuredness but also to the relationship he'd already built with the Vikings GM.

"I wanted to be no [other] place but talking to him. He's such a great guy. He's such a great human being," McCarthy said Friday. "We just hit it off. He was asking, 'What's a song that embodies who you are?' and all that good stuff.

"But the reason I asked that question is because I was genuinely curious," McCarthy added. "I'm always trying to get better, and I want to hear from great minds and different perspectives on how to do that. Kwesi and I developed a great relationship, and I felt comfortable asking that question."

Adofo-Mensah appreciated that comfort level.

"I said, 'Honestly, from a talent standpoint, no; you're just a bit of an unknown because you played in an offense that's pretty run heavy,' " Adofo-Mensah recounted Thursday night. " 'So there's some guesswork. But from what we've seen, we think you can do it – and in meeting you and knowing the person, all those different things.' "

It's true: McCarthy's sample size (713 college pass attempts) is smaller that of the other five quarterbacks who flew off the board in the first 12 picks. But the Vikings – and experts around the league – really didn't need to see much more.

"Once you get around the person, a lot of that guesswork goes away," Adofo-Mensah said.

NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah said following Minnesota's selection that McCarthy reminds him of former NFL QB Alex Smith coming out of college.

"When you get to the video of J.J. McCarthy, the velocity and the accuracy is there," Jeremiah said during NFL Network's broadcast of Round 1. "He wasn't relied upon like some of the other quarterbacks we've seen go so far in the draft, but when you do your homework on him, you see the ability to make these big-time throws. The athleticism. You get some inside pressure, can you beat that free rusher? Absolutely, he can make that happen."

Charles Davis added: "Can he make the plays? Can he carry a team? All I know is, when the pressure is up … how about fourth down in the Rose Bowl against Alabama, the play he made there?"

Fellow Michigan alum and new Vikings teammate Josh Metellus has no doubt McCarthy is ready for the next level.

Metellus noted the professionalism expected by former Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, as well as the pro-style offense the Wolverines ran and big-time moments they've encountered over the past three seasons.

"People talk about 'sample size,' but playing at a program like [Michigan] and being in the College Football Playoff every year he was their starting quarterback, those weighty football games, that's how you build up your football hours," Metellus told "It's not just because you played 50 games in college. Those 50 games could have been insignificant. It's, what type of games did you play in? What type of role did you play in those games? I think that's a big part of him.

"I know he was in NFL-type situations at Michigan because I was there, and I know it's going to translate very well for him," Metellus added.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell also pointed out the way McCarthy has navigated high-pressure situations with poise and maturity.

"Digesting his entire season, you really go back through and center your focus on those weighty downs – those third downs where you see him third-and-7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 – at a pretty strong clip, move the football team and generate new downs and get them down in the red zone. And make some big-time throws to put the ball in the end zone," O'Connell said. "Those big, big moments in games when they needed him, you know, [sometimes] to find a way, other times just to make a throw, other times to extend a play. He made a lot of those plays.

"By the time I was able to absorb all the film and really get to know J.J. a little bit more, connect some more dots, and understand what we're really projecting with a person and player like J.J. McCarthy, I'm really excited to have him on our football team," O'Connell added.

View photos of Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy who was selected No. 10 overall in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

The feeling couldn't be any more mutual.

McCarthy was all smiles Friday, greeting media members and proudly wearing a purple tie.

It's clear the moment isn't too big for him, but he admitted it's still a bit surreal to be receiving text messages from Metellus and Jefferson.

"Former Michigan man, he told me, 'Hey, this is Josh Metellus, number 44. It's like, 'C'mon, man. I know your number. I know who you are," McCarthy quipped.

Soon, he'll be sharing a locker room with all of them – and he'll be bringing with him both confidence and the willingness to learn and develop.

"Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, Aaron Jones. The big boys, Christian Darrisaw, Brian O 'Neill, I just met him earlier, Garrett Bradbury," McCarthy said. "A lot of great pieces that make this organization what it is.

"Justin is a key part of that. He already let me know, 'I go by Jets,' so we don't get any confusion there," he added with a laugh. "But, yeah, it'll be great to get that connection going with all the guys."