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Vikings Rookies Looking Forward to Locker Room Reunions

EAGAN, Minn. – A trio of former teammates whose lockers lined up at Boise State will now share a locker room in Minnesota.

After drafting running back Alexander Mattison in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Vikings added another pair of Broncos last weekend by drafting tackle Ezra Cleveland (58th overall) and signing defensive tackle David Moa as an undrafted free agent.

Mattison, who expressed his excitement after the Vikings drafted Cleveland, took to Twitter again after Moa joined the crew.

Moa spoke to Twin Cities media members via video conference Thursday and said he "can't wait" to tackle Mattison in practice again when restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted.

"[It feels] like just yesterday I was tackling him at fall camp. I'm excited for that," Moa said. "And then I have to go through Ezra and his athletic-freakish self."

Moa, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility at Boise State to play the 2019 season, assured local reporters that Cleveland "has all the traits" necessary to be a successful offensive lineman at the next level.

"He's nasty, he's hardworking, he's grimy," Moa said.

The nose tackle works out regularly with Cleveland. When he told his friend and teammate that he had signed with the Vikings, Cleveland's level of excitement rivaled Moa's.

"He was freaking out," Moa said with a smile. "Him and Alex were calling me all the time. Alex actually messaged me during the draft wishing me best of luck and [saying] that if I [did end up] in Minnesota, he'd be ecstatic.

"I actually had both of them as my locker room buddies, my locker room partners right next to me to my left and right, so we've always had that history of being really great friends with one another," Moa added.

Although the Vikings offseason program and rookie minicamp are happening on a virtual-only basis right now, Moa and Cleveland will be grateful for the friendly faces when they arrive in Minnesota.

And they're not the only ones.

Are five ducks enough to constitute a flock? Because if so, the Vikings have a flock of former Ducks on their roster.

Minnesota drafted wide receiver Dillon Mitchell in the seventh round last year, in December signed running back Tony Brooks-James to the practice squad and in January inked receiver Bralon Addison to a reserves/futures contract. Last weekend they tabbed Troy Dye, their lone linebacker selection of the draft, in the fourth round. Tackle Brady Aiello joined the team shortly thereafter as one of Minnesota’s 12 UDFA additions.

"I'm so happy for Troy," Aiello said. "He's an awesome guy. He's a great leader. He's going to do great things in Minnesota."

Aiello added: "We've got a lot of Oregon guys, which is pretty cool. I'll definitely see some familiar faces in the locker room."

The reunions don't stop there.

Prior to the 2020 NFL Draft, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was the only Michigan State player on Minnesota's roster, but the Vikings added two more Spartans, drafting defensive end Kenny Willekes in seventh round and reaching a deal with offensive lineman Tyler Higby.

Higby, who started 30 games on the Spartans offensive line, texted his two-time teammate Saturday night after reaching a deal with the Vikings.

"We were both pretty excited, [and] we talked more Monday about it," Higby said. "But we were roommates all four years in college, too, so we were pretty good friends. We talked about living together again when we're up there.

"It started freshman year. I was with our quarterback, and he was with another player in our dorm room; we were suitemates," he added. "We kind of just clicked, all four of us. … We did everything together."

And last but not least, two of the Vikings rookies share not only an alma mater but also a last name.

After drafting Baylor defensive tackle James Lynch 130th overall on Saturday, Minnesota added Bears linebacker Blake Lynch as an undrafted free agent.

They aren't blood-related, but James and Blake have a close connection.

"Our lockers were alphabetical, so our lockers were by each other the whole time [at Baylor]," Blake said. "We were just super close."

Blake mentioned another unique tie to Vikings cornerback Kris Boyd, whom he played with at Gilmer High School (Texas). He and James also teamed with fifth-round draft pick Harrison Hand at Baylor before Hand transferred to Temple.

"I know a few guys, and that's huge for me," Blake said. "I'm just ready to get to work with those guys."