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Minnesota Vikings Podcast Episode 51 Highlights: Cameron Dantzler Explains Nickname "The Needle" & Confidence Level

Vikings third-round draft pick Cameron Dantzler says he's been doubted his entire life.

Growing up in Hammond, Louisiana, the cornerback had a lanky body frame, which resulted in a unique nickname given to him by his high school coach that has stuck with him to this day.

"The Needle."

"It came from around like sophomore year when I weighed like 140, 150 pounds," Dantzler said. "I was always a tall, skinny guy. I was always tackling people and [my opponent] would just stay down for a long time.

"My coach was like 'We are going to call you The Needle!' It's stuck with me for a long time."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has long had a taste for tall cornerbacks, and the Mississippi State product fit the bill at the 89th overall pick.

While his length is certainly a strength that could translate to the league, the 6-foot-2, 188-pound Dantzler has always said that confidence is his best trait.

"My confidence is going to be more dangerous when I step to the next level," Dantzler said. "Me being a smaller guy, you just have to have confidence in what you do and know your abilities. I just try to do that with everything I do, not just football."

Dantzler believes that most successful cornerbacks in the league have that mindset and even have an edge of "cockiness" to their game.

"It's confidence, but you got to be cocky a little bit," Dantzler said. "I have a little flavor and cockiness in my game," Dantzler laughed.

That definitely translated to the field for Dantzler as a Bulldog, where he never allowed his opponent to collect more than 60 receiving yards throughout his college career.

A wild statistic from Pro Football Focus circulated across Twitter last week on that success he had over his final two years at Mississippi State:

Here are five other topics that Dantzler covers during the show.

1. Quarterback in high school

Dantzler attended Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Louisiana. He was the team's starting quarterback his junior and senior seasons, which he says helped him get a scholarship to Mississippi State.

The dual-threat QB ran for 1,901 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns and threw for 1,381 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Dantzler believes this experience will help him at the cornerback decision on the NFL level.

"I just feel like playing the quarterback position in high school really helps you play cornerback. A lot of corners really play quarterback in high school. You know what the quarterback is thinking. You know his reads and his eye contact to the receiver. I have just tried to progress that to my game moving forward."

2. Dominant in the SEC

Dantzler started 22 of 35 games in Starkville, appearing in 13 games as a redshirt freshman.

Throughout his career he allowed just 36 catches for 459 yards on 568 pass coverage snaps. He totaled 108 career tackles, including 6.0 for losses and 1.5 sacks and five interceptions.

Dantzler attributes much of his success to his former defensive backs coach, Terrell Buckley, who is the only player with 50-plus interceptions to never make a Pro Bowl in NFL history.

"He was a guy that taught me a lot. When I was coming into college, I never really played corner. I was confused still. I didn't have hips or nothing like that.

"I was athletic, so they tried me at corner," Dantzler said. "Having a guy like Coach Buckley, he really taught me a lot with my patience, eyes and hands. I really got most of my confidence and swagger from him."

3. Relationship with Justin Jefferson and SEC teammates

Dantzler and Vikings first-round pick Justin Jefferson both grew up in the same state and have continued to have a lot in common through the years.

The teammates were rivals in college in the SEC, but they have a special relationship that has continued to develop throughout the draft process.

"We actually trained together at the combine too," Dantzler said. "We would always say to each other, 'What happens if we get drafted together?' We battled a lot in the combine, in college, and it's just a blessing to have a guy like that on your side to battle against every day in practice."

4. Role models in the NFL

Growing up in Louisiana, the player that Dantzler looked up to was an easy choice: All-Pro defensive back and former LSU Tiger Tyrann Mathieu, who grew up in New Orleans.

When Dantzler asked about some of the other players in today's NFL that he wants to pattern his game after, he was quick to name two other superstars at the position.

"Jalen Ramsey and Richard Sherman," Dantzler said. "Those guys play with fundamentals, they have good technique and they've got that swagger to them. Especially Jalen Ramsey, I just love that swagger about him, and I try to watch his game."

5. Fisherman at heart

When asked about his hobbies off the field, Dantzler said he loves to get outdoors.

"I like to go fishing," Dantzler said. "I'm a nature type of guy. I like to go fishing, hunting; I just like the wilderness."

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