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Lewis Cine Views Beginning of a Marathon, Not a Sprint; Aims to Prove Vikings 'Right'

EAGAN, Minn. – Lewis Cine knows Draft Night is merely the beginning of a long run.

After waiting through the first 31 picks of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, a phone call from new Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah summoned Cine to the starting line.

That call was surreal in different ways for the Vikings GM and the first Vikings draft pick of 2022.

"I guess he didn't know. I said, 'Hi, I'm Kwesi,' and he still didn't know. I said, 'I'm the general manager of the Vikings,' and he still didn't really get it," Adofo-Mensah smiled. "Then I said, 'We're a building full of dream-chasers. You want to come chase dreams with us?'

"And then he starts yelling. So that was a great moment and something I'll never forget for the rest of my life," Adofo-Mensah said.

Cine spoke to Twin Cities media members via a video conference call late Thursday night and said while his "dreams are coming true," he's keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground.

"I still look at this like a marathon and not a sprint. I've still got a long way to go," Cine said. "I've still got a lot to prove. I know the team believes in me, of course, but I've still got to prove them right."

The 22-year-old is grateful for the opportunity to do just that.

Cine, who racked up 73 tackles for Georgia en route to the National Championship, said playing for the Bulldogs – and in the SEC in general – helped him get where he is today.

"Day-in and day-out competition. Going with the best the country has to offer. Practices were hard," Cine said. "Just being there developed me as a player and got me ready for the next level. Obviously there's things I'm going to have to do to stay in the league – that's something I'm prepared to do."

Kevin O'Connell expressed excitement about his first player drafted since joining the Vikings as the franchise's 10th head coach.

"I think anytime you can add a really good football player, with the traits of toughness, that explosive speed – a guy who made a lot of plays on, really, the best defense in college football, [it's huge]," O'Connell said. "That unique skill set that we can add to our back end, that kind of interchangeable field that we can maybe have at that safety position, it'll make for great competition.

"Because we feel really good, obviously, about Harrison Smith and Cam Bynum and the ability to add [Lewis] to that room," he added.

Adofo-Mensah echoed confidence not only in Cine's fit for Minnesota's defense but also for the team's locker room.

"We talk about our culture, goals of our culture – smart, tough, competitive – and I think we added somebody who's off the charts in all three," Adofo-Mensah said. "Incredibly dynamic player; adds range all over the field. Just an incredible player. He was one of our targets, really, in the teens. … We're excited that this came to fruition."

Cine was the fifth Bulldogs defender to be drafted Thursday, helping the school set an NFL Draft record for defensive players in one first round.

O'Connell spoke with several of the Georgia prospects during the pre-draft process; along the way, he'd been impressed by their consistent praise of Cine as a teammate.

"It's not a coincidence that five of those guys got drafted tonight," O'Connell said. "[And when] we asked them, 'Hey, which one of your teammates would you want to bring with you?' – and we talked to a lot of those guys – but Lewis Cine's name came up a lot."

Cine took the praise in stride, crediting the team's overall culture.

"We all were tight, honestly. We treated it like 'I depend on you, you depend on me, and together we're all in.' That was just the mindset," Cine said. "I honestly don't know. I go about my business the right way. I'm straightforward. I do what I gotta do when I gotta do it. And I'm action-oriented."

Though Cine acknowledged he'd had "a good amount of communication" with the Vikings coaching staff, he intentionally entered Thursday evening ready to embrace whatever came his way.

"I tried not to approach it with a whole lot of expectations of who's going to pick me and who's not," Cine said. "What I came through the door [thinking] was, 'Wherever I go, it's just a blessing for me to have a foot in the door.' Once I get there, to make the most of it. I'm just blessed that I was picked."

Cine did not attend the NFL Draft. Rather than being lured by Las Vegas' bright lights and big stage, he opted for an evening in Texas with those he cares about the most.

That group included his 5-year-old daughter, Bella – Cine’s “why” – along with multiple family members and loved ones.

"The fact that they were there for me means a whole lot – there to support me, to enjoy the moment with me. It just means the most," Cine said.

While he currently lives in Texas, Cine grew up in Florida and Massachusetts after moving to the United States from Haiti at age 4. He understands Minnesota climate conditions can be trying and unpredictable, to say the least, but isn't too concerned about moving to the Twin Cities.

View photos of Georgia S Lewis Cine who was selected No. 32 overall in the First Round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

He assured media members he's been through the gamut of weather.

"I'm from Boston, so I'm used to the cold," Cine said. "I was born in the Caribbean. I've lived in the heat, I've lived in the cold, so that's going to be no issue for me.

"I have coats. They're just in my closet. … I guess I'm gonna have to bring them things back out," he added with a laugh.

As Cine travels to Minnesota Friday – possibly needing one of those coats to combat a chillier-than-normal April – he's eager to take the next step in his NFL journey.

"I think the fact that I was selected where I was selected by the Vikings, they have a whole lot of faith in me," Cine said. "I just have to … come in with a mindset to soak everything in, to learn, to be coachable. To bring good vibes to the organization and to be an asset in the long run."