EAGAN, Minn. – Lewis Cine knows what it's like to win; he also knows what it takes.
Cine arrived in Minnesota Friday and spoke with Twin Cities media members less than 24 hours after being drafted 32nd overall by the Vikings.
The former Georgia standout is fresh off helping the Bulldogs win the CFP National Championship as he starts his NFL career. And it's not the first championship he's been a part of, either.
Cine attended Everett High School (Massachusetts) for three seasons and as a junior helped Everett win a second straight MIAA state championship. He then moved to Cedar Hill, Texas, to live with an uncle and played at Trinity Christian School for his senior season. Cine's coaches there included Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, and Trinity went on to win a championship that season.
View exclusive photos of Vikings first round pick, S Lewis Cine, in his first photoshoot with the team since being drafted.
"You know, I've won in different places, so I kind of understand what it takes. It takes sacrifice. It takes being unselfish. It takes the late nights, waking up early even though you don't want to," Cine said. "But, it's all for a cause. Everybody wants to win, and when everyone wins, everyone is happy. So, I know what it takes. I'm ready. I'm prepared for that."
Part of being prepared includes stepping into a new locker room with ears and eyes open.
Cine is transitioning from the best defense in college football to being the "newbie" in an NFL locker room. That adjustment doesn't intimidate him, though.
"It's a process I've been through so many times before, from middle school to high school to college, where you restart right back to ground zero," Cine said. "With me, I've always taken it with a humble step. Coming in, learning, finding out the older vets, learning from them, trying to follow in their footsteps and how they do things the right way.
"You know, kind of take that step to see where it leads me to, and it's always done right by me, and I don't plan on stopping it," he added.
View photos of Vikings S Lewis Cine's draft night as he was selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
One of those vets Cine is looking forward to studying is Vikings All-Pro safety Harrison Smith.
Smith interestingly is the last safety Minnesota drafted in Round 1 (as the 29th overall pick in 2012). Cine said he's watched Smith "a whole lot" over the years and admires his on-field performance and overall approach to the game.
"The fact that I'm going to be learning from him, taking information from him, learning his tips and pointers, has got me excited," Cine said. "From what I hear, he is a very laid-back guy. Real excited about football. That's what he loves. He is a film junkie, and I see the same [in] myself, so I think we're going to get along real well."
Cine, Smith and the Vikings other members of the secondary will be learning a new system under Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell, who has said a 3-4 base defense will be implemented.
Though he doesn't know exactly how he'll be worked into the Vikings defense, Cine is confident in his abilities to contribute immediately and in different ways.
Cine called himself a "problem-solver" on game day.
"And the fact that I can do a whole lot of things, coaches love that. They don't want a one-trick pony," Cine said. "I can run. I've got the size. I'm smart. I can do the whole – everything, the whole nine yards.
"The team is not just going to put me in one place or the other," he added. "They're going to allow me to play the game at my full potential."
No matter how Cine is utilized, though, you can be certain of one thing: he'll be fast.
The 22-year-old shined at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds. Impressive, to say the least, particularly for someone measuring 6-foot-2 and 199 pounds.
View behind-the-scenes photos from the Thomson Reuters Vikings Draft Room during Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft.
But while the time may have turned the heads of outside observers, Cine wasn't at all surprised by his results – even though he'd never even practiced the specific drill.
"I always was a fast guy. A lot of people were surprised about it because I'm a big person, tall person, so they're, like, 'Oh, how can he move at his size like that?' I always knew that's something I could do," Cine said. "Believe it or not, I didn't run a full 40 until the combine. I was just working on 10s, 10-yard splits and stuff, because I already knew the rest would handle itself."
Add speed to physicality, and you've really got a solid start for an NFL safety.
Cine's game certainly isn't lacking on physicality, as he's garnered a reputation throughout college football as a hard hitter.
He doesn't plan on toning down that tenacity, but Cine also is cognizant of playing within the parameters.
"I want to play the game safe. Let me say that for sure," Cine said. "I want to be in the game, one; I want to not get fined, two; and I want to be dependable to my team, three. The way to do that is to practice the safe way, the right way to tackle and bring people down."
New Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah were excited to welcome Cine to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center Friday.
O'Connell and Cine reviewed a bit of film in the coach's office, and O'Connell said Cine will "be a part of a defensive style of football we want to play."
"From the standpoint of the explosiveness, the vertical speed, the physicality, which he plays in the run game, being a major, major factor there," O'Connell said. "Then the fact that he loves football. I can just tell talking with him. I give his coaches at Georgia a lot of credit. He has been very well-coached. I think he will fit in with our defensive staff here.
"I think this morning we just were watching plays from his season and kind of comparing them, and I would throw out some things from our defense, and I think I heard the word 'why' two or three times," O'Connell added. "You have heard me say, we want players that ask the why. We want players that want to understand not only what we're asking them to do, but why we're asking them to do it. For a young player, day one, after a really early morning flight to come in and already be asking that question, I think we're off to a great start."
Cine said Friday that things "still feel surreal," and reality might not quite set in until he begins home-hunting in the Twin Cities.
But as he starts this next chapter of his football career, he's doing so with a good head on his shoulders.
"I see myself as a pro. I always looked at that in the same light in college," Cine said. "Watched a whole lot of film. I took care of my craft right away, and it showed on the football field.
"I've gotten the chance to be the first-round pick by a team that I want to play for, but I know there's yet a whole lot to come," he later continued. "It’s a marathon, not a sprint. So be consistent, come day-in and day-out ready to work, ready to learn, and let everything handle itself."