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Rookies Drew Inspiration from Vikings Long Before Draft

EAGAN, Minn. — Kris Boyd was trying to keep his emotions in check.

The seventh-round cornerback, along with the 11 other Vikings 2019 draft picks, sat down with Vikings.com for interviews last week before the start of rookie minicamp.

When the topic of current Vikings players came up, Boyd immediately rattled off the name of a player he couldn’t wait to work with.

But it wasn’t the chance to go against Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs that most excited Boyd, or the chance to join forces again with college teammate Holton Hill.

Instead, Boyd went into a lengthy answer about Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes, the man who was the source of his emotions on draft night.

“See, I was crying when I got drafted. It was a dream come true,” Boyd said. “I might cry now, you asking me this question, because it was Xavier. I usually don’t watch NFL players and say, ‘I want to play like him’ or, ‘Oh, I like his game.’

“They would ask me that when I was at the Senior Bowl, and I didn’t have nobody to say except Xavier,” Boy added. “Growing up, when I saw Xavier play, I was like, ‘Oh, he’s different. He’s different. I like him.’”

Boyd then explained what he likes about Rhodes, a two-time Pro Bowler with 10 career interceptions who was an All-Pro at two different positions in 2017.

“His physicality. That’s it,” Boyd said. “He’s big, strong, he’s going to cover you, and he’s going to get physical with you.

“And he puts that on film. I love it,” Boyd added. “That’s what you gotta do. That’s what you gotta be to be a corner – physical.”

Boyd wasn’t the only defensive player to gush about the chance to play with established Vikings.

Safety Marcus Epps, a sixth-round pick out of Wyoming, said he has a laundry list of items he wants to learn from All-Pro safety Harrison Smith, who has been to four straight Pro Bowls.

“Man, there are just so many things. I can’t even say one thing,” Epps said. “I’m so excited to just pick his brain.

“He’s been one of the best safeties in the league for a long time now, so it’s great to have somebody like that to come in and learn from,” Epps added.

Sixth-round defensive tackle Armon Watts picked the biggest (and perhaps baddest) Viking in defensive tackle Linval Joseph.

But Watts had a bit of an inside look on Joseph stemming from his time working Vikings assistant defensive line coach Rob Rodriguez at the East-West Shrine Game in January.

“He showed me a lot of film on those guys [and] Linval Joseph,” Watts said. “[I’m eager to get to work with] all of the guys up and down the defensive line.

I didn’t study [Joseph] like I would have other players, but once Coach Rob put me on him, it’s definitely somebody I looked at, his game and how physical he is,” Watts added.

As for Minnesota’s offensive rookies, there were split on a handful of answers with the skill players, including quarterback Kirk Cousins, Thielen and Diggs, plus running back Dalvin Cook and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

“I can’t wait to get out there and play with some of those playmakers on the offense – definitely Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, those guys. Dalvin Cook,” said running back Alexander Mattison, a third-round pick. “I can’t wait to get in there and pick those guys’ brains and go at it with those guys.”

Added rookie tight end Irv Smith, Jr., “Definitely Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and Thielen, and Kirk Cousins.”

Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell specifically mentioned Diggs and his do-it-all mentality.

“I’ve always liked Stefon Diggs. He’s been a dog. He’s always making plays,” Mitchell said. “He’s not afraid to go in and get a block.

“He’s willing to do anything to help the team,” Mitchell added, “and I believe he’s a guy I can pattern my game after.”

The Vikings newest players completed three days of rookie minicamp over the weekend and will join their veteran teammates on the field for Organized Team Activities in the coming weeks.

They won’t have time to be starry eyed, however, as the work for the 2019 season soon.

“I think there’s a lot of potential,” first-round pick Garrett Bradbury said. “I know there’s a ton of talent, so just excited to see all that come together on Sundays.”

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