MANKATO, Minn. — Ifeadi Odenigbo is one of six defensive linemen at Vikings training camp right now, and he is capitalizing on the low coach-to-player ratio to soak up every bit of knowledge he can get.
The former Northwestern standout knows there will be stern tests ahead, whether it's when the pads come on in training camp or during preseason games against other teams.
For now though, the defensive end is trying to enhance his toolbox as he makes the continuous transition to the NFL.
"I'm trying to be a go-to guy and try to make the team right now," Odenigbo said. "The emphasis is really (using your) hands. In college you can get away with it because you're going against redshirt freshmen, redshirt sophomores, and sometimes it's pretty easy.
"Now in the National Football League, you're going against grown men, men with children," Odenigbo added. "That's a different experience."
The Vikings selected Odenigbo in the seventh round in April's draft after he recorded a team-high 10 sacks in 2016. Odenigbo had 23.5 career sacks at Northwestern, which ranks second in program history.
Odenigbo joins a defensive end group that includes Everson Griffen, Brian Robison and Danielle Hunter — each of whom has a unique bag of pass-rush tricks up his sleeve.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Odenigbo doesn't have those yet, and will likely rely on his natural athleticism as a rookie.
"He's probably going to have to be a power rusher because he's a physical kind of guy," Zimmer said. "He's dealing with a little cut on his foot right now, but he got through practice and everything (Monday).
"He's going to be a different kind of rusher than our other guys, I think," Zimmer added.
But in arriving to camp early, Odenigbo can still rely on his physicality while also working with Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson on new moves and getting a better grasp of the defense.
Odenigbo said that was exactly the case at Tuesday morning's walk-through session.
"It's good for me, and I think it's good for all the younger guys," Odenigbo said. "It's just the fact that, knowing the veterans are coming in, it's going to be hard to get 1-on-1 time.
"You're really understanding the method to his madness," Odenigbo added about Patterson. "Today he was talking about certain stunts that we do and why we do it, and it all made sense."
Odenigbo said Patterson, whose linemen recorded 34 of Minnesota's 41 total sacks in 2016, has worked with him on taking the quickest route to the quarterback.
"The thing for me is my pass rush angle," Odenigbo said. "A lot of times you'll find in younger guys that they'll [go too wide].
"It's getting toward the quarterback … and (using my) hands is something new to me," Odenigbo added. "In college I was more power, power … all power and no finesse. Now I'm working on that finesse."
Odenigbo said he's excited to get into full pads later this week and try and impress coaches during live action rather than just in helmets and shorts.
It will continue an interesting journey for Odenigbo, who didn't play football until his sophomore year of high school.
He begged his parents to play, and then wanted to quit after a rocky first season, only to keep playing because he didn't want his parents to get the last laugh.
Odenigbo has been improving ever since.
"I gave it (another) try my junior year (of high school), and things started clicking and clicking," Odenigbo said. "I got to college, and things didn't go as well … but toward my senior year, it started clicking there.
"Now I'm trying to get it to click here and have a long career," Odenigbo added.