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Notebook: Jalyn Holmes, Vikings Rookies Adjust to New Home

EAGAN, Minn. — Jalyn Holmes seems to be feeling comfortable in the Vikings new home.

Holmes, the other seven members of his draft class, 17 undrafted free agents, 31 rookies invited on a tryout basis and eight young players who spent part of 2017 with Minnesota hit the brilliant green (Kentucky Bluegrass sod from a farm in Colorado) practice fields Friday for the first time at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. 

Following a morning walk-through session, Holmes participated in a media session with reporters, relieving the joy that occurred when he was selected last Saturday with the second selection of the fourth round and 102nd overall pick.

“It kind of was better because I thought I was going to go Friday, but I ended up not going, so Friday night was a hard night,” he said of emotion captured in the video below. “So then I [went] second in the fourth round, and we were just relieved. Everything that I worked for, everything my parents sacrificed, it paid off. It was just a good moment with my family.” <center>

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 Although Holmes said he wanted to go off the board earlier, he thinks joining the Vikings is “a perfect situation” because Minnesota’s defensive line room has “good older guys, and I can learn how to be a better football player and handle everything that comes with it, so that’s a great fit.”

As for his fit within one of the most formidable fronts in football, the Vikings have said they will start work with Holmes at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot. Minnesota signed veteran Sheldon Richardson to a one-year deal this offseason and plans for the former first-round pick to start alongside Pro Bowl nose tackle Linval Joseph. 

Holmes played defensive end and then kicked inside on third downs at Ohio State and said he played three games at the 3-technique on all downs.

Holmes said he looks forward to contributing however and wherever he can. He said he’ll probably try to nudge his weight up from 285 to 290, picking up tips on technique from coaches and teammates along the way.

“I’m coachable, and I’m willing to do what I’ve got to do to play any position that the coaches ask me to play,” Holmes said. “That’s probably the main thing.”

He said he doesn’t mind a backup role because he’s seen the results from a deep defensive line at Ohio State. He also is looking forward to being back in front of former Buckeyes teammate Pat Elflein for reps once Organized Team Activity practices fire up later this month.

Who won their battles at Ohio State?

“He was a Rimington Award [winner], so he got me a couple times, but I got mine, too,” Holmes said. “So Pat definitely helped me become the player I became, especially going inside. Going against guys like him in practice every day definitely helped me get here.”

*Downs not down on injury: *Seventh-round selection Devante Downs participated on a limited basis because he is recovering from a knee injury he suffered in his senior season.

“I’m not full go yet – I’m just waiting for the trainers to give me the go-ahead, and then I’ll be good,” Downs said. “They haven’t given me a time, they’re still assessing me.”

It’s not the first time that Downs has faced adversity. He bounced back from a knee injury as a high school senior to become an impact player at Cal, starting 20 of 40 games played and totaling 212 tackles, 8.0 sacks and five interceptions.

“It’s a slow process. People try to look down on it, but obviously I came back from it,” Downs said. “I’m going to do it again, and I have no doubts in my mind that I’m going to come back stronger.”

Downs lined up at the middle linebacker spot on Friday during a walk-through, but he said “I want to learn everything.” He liked his placement in the Vikings spiffy new locker room.

“I’ve got a locker next to Anthony Barr, so that will be cool – maybe he’ll teach me a couple things,” Downs said.

Transition time: In addition to new surroundings and a substantial difference in time zones from Maui to Minnesota, Hawaii native Hercules Mata’afa is adjusting to a new position group.

Mata’afa, who played defensive line and excelled as an interior rusher at Washington State, was one of three undrafted linebackers signed by the Vikings. He said he began work with his new team at the strongside linebacker position and that Defensive Coordinator George Edwards referred to him as a “pressure player” who can rush. 

Named the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year as a junior in 2017, Mata’afa said he is proud to have this opportunity with the Vikings.

“It’s a big deal, especially for my island, because not a lot of people from Maui make it out to the NFL,” Mata’afa said. “There’s only been one other case, and right now I’ve got a boy who played at the same school as me at the New Orleans Saints (DE Mitchell Loewen played in two games last season, including the opener against the Vikings). It’s big for my hometown and big for my island, so I’m excited about that.”

As for his unique first name, Mata’afa explained, “It was between Hercules or Anthony. I came out being the biggest baby in the family, and my family’s got seven kids, so I was the biggest.”

He said he learned the story about Hercules during his youth by watching the Disney movie.

That’s strong, man: From a linebacker conversion to a new Viking who has shown Herculean strength, enter Colby Gossett, a guard and sixth-round pick out of Appalachian State.

Gossett ranked fourth among offensive linemen with 32 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine and said he’s maxed out at 480 pounds.

Gossett said “it’s incredible” to be with the Vikings.

“I’m just really happy to be up here and starting to get to work,” Gossett said. “It’s nice to get around the guys and really get a feel for the whole program and everything.”

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