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Transcript: Day 3 of the Vikings NFL Draft

Vikings Defensive Lineman Jalyn Holmes

4th Round (102nd overall), Ohio State

Thank you for this opportunity, very excited to get to work. I'm glad to be a part of a great organization like the Minnesota Vikings. I'm just happy to help contribute to the team and help win a Super Bowl this year.

Q: Where do you think you'll play on the line, three-technique or outside?

A: I think I could be that for the Vikings. I can be whatever the Vikings need me to be, honestly. I played a lot of positions at Ohio State. Played defensive end a majority of the time, the last two years I was kicked inside on third down. Right now, I'm whatever they want me to be. I feel like I could be a great defensive tackle with a great coach [Andre Patterson] at the Minnesota Vikings to help me do that.

Q: How much interaction did you have with defensive line coach Andre Patterson leading up to the draft?

A: I first met him at the combine, at the formal interviews. We had a good relationship there, we watched film. Then I met him again at pro day, he basically ran our pro day for the whole defensive line. We talked a couple times on the phone after the pro day.

Q: What do you think you can learn from a guy like Sheldon Richardson?

A: A lot of things, I'm a tall guy, so he can help me with my pad level, hands, learning where the offense is sliding to and when it's sliding away from you. All that stuff that you need to know as a defensive tackle, I feel like that's a great guy to learn from coming in.

Q: What was it like for you to get the call this early on Saturday?

A: It was great. As soon as my phone rang I already knew what team it was. I'm just happy I got drafted to a great team, a great defensive line coach, and to a team that's ready to compete for a Super Bowl next year. I just glad I can be a part of it.

Q: You were a part of some quality defensive lines at Ohio State. What was it like trying to compete for playing time and a starting job there?

A: Honestly, it was fun. At the end of the day, its football, and at Ohio State, I'm glad I went there. We learned how to compete, we learned how to respect each other, and we learn how to win together. That's what I plan to do in Minnesota. I plan to compete always and do my part to help Minnesota win games. 

Q: Do you know Jaleel Johnson, a fellow Big Ten defensive lineman?

A: No sir. 

Q: Rick Spielman mentioned a few months ago how important a strong defensive line rotation is. To come in and know that you'll get to be a part of that right away through sub packages, how do you view that?

A: We did that at Ohio State the last two years, and it helped us a lot being able to rotate seven or eight guys that can really play in the game. I feel like that helps the starters for the fourth quarter, and it really helps the defense. You get new fresh legs to rush the quarterback, and you constantly got to be rushing the quarterback. If we can do that in Minnesota that would really help us. 

Q: Did you check in with Pat Elflein at all?

A: No, my phone has been blowing up so much, he's probably texted me but I haven't seen it yet. I'm definitely going to hear from him soon. 

*Q: Did you contact him last fall to see how his first year in the pros was going? *

A: Yeah, he came back and talked to the team. We were seeing Pat a couple of times when he got the opportunity to do that. He always spoke highly of the organization that he was playing for, so I'm really glad to be a part of it and I'm glad to have another Buckeye who'll be there. 

Vikings Tight End Tyler Conklin

5th Round (157th overall), Central Michigan

*I just want to start off by saying how excited I am and how pumped I am to be a Minnesota Vikings. Just the opportunity the organization has given me to make my dreams come true is I don't know, it's surreal to me still right now. It all happened so fast. I'm just excited to be a part of this organization. I'm excited to help this organization going forward and thank you guys again. *

Q: What do you know about John DeFilippo and how he has used his tight ends in the past?

A: To be honest I don't know a ton about it, but I did have an interview with coach a few days ago and we just talked ball and went over a few plays. Just the way they use the tight ends now. Obviously you have two-time Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph, one of the best tight ends in the NFL. You have mismatches like that and the way they use him it just makes me excited to come in there and use my ability to play off of everybody and I think I can be a huge piece on offense.

Q: How influential was the Senior Bowl in where you fell in the draft?

A:  I think the Senior Bowl was huge. That was one of my big goals, personal goals in preseason. Coming from a MAC school people question the lower level than the power 5. Having the opportunity to go out and compete with the best college football players in the nation was huge for me and also be able to go out there and show my versatility again. I feel like any chance I got to go out there in front of people and play football, not just football but get to know NFL personnel. And kind of tell people who I was, who I am as a person. I really thought that was huge with the opportunity too.

Q: Did you think you lost the chance when you had the foot injury?

A: When I hurt my foot I really wasn't sure how it was going to work out. Obviously the foot injury that was tough in the beginning of the season and going into my senior year and missed my first five games, but after kind of coming back that was still one of my goals and that happened. After I came back I felt great and I haven't looked back since and I'm happy I got a chance to make it to the Senior Bowl.

Q: How does your basketball background help at your position?

A: I think it's just being able to adjust, ball skills, the way you can kind of use your body and the little stuff like that, being able to kind of react out of nowhere. I think those are all things that translate perfectly. I definitely think it's something that has helped me throughout my career and I think it's going to keep helping me.

Q: Were you strictly focused on basketball after high school or did you focus on football too?

A: Out of high school we were all 0-27* *going into our senior year and we were a good basketball school. I didn't feel like I wanted to throw everything away I did in basketball for one year of football. My senior year we ended up going eight and three, winning our first ever playoff game. I ended up going All-State and I just didn't really feel right doing that at the time. And actually kind of going ahead and playing basketball for a semester at the college level. I just missed the game so much and I watched college tight ends and NFL tight ends and it just ended up becoming a dream of mine and it's something I knew I could make happen and I started to kind of make the decision and I just put my mind to it. It ended up working out for me.

Q: How tough was it to walk away from a basketball scholarship and walk-on at CMU?

A: It was definitely difficult. My family they always supported me through everything, my family and friends. A lot of people kind of look at that as not the smartest thing in the world obviously getting a free education and coming out of college with no debt is something not a lot of people get to do. So kind of just throwing that away and switching sports and moving up a level and chasing a dream that probably nobody saw but me. It's scary for a lot of people, my family and friends spoke to me but they also supported me the whole time and believed in me. It's definitely a tough decision but it's one that I had a good support system.

Q: What's most unique about your skill set?

A: I think it's definitely my versatility. I think I'm a great route runner though. I think I can run routes for every position on the field, slot, out wide, in line. I think I'm versatile. However I need to be used, however they want to use me I think that I can do it.

Q: Did you learn during the draft process how teams want tight ends that can move around?

A: We're a mismatch. The fact that we can be in the passing game and create mismatches with linebackers and safeties and also we can get the opportunity to run the ball at times, another can head out there to block whether it's first level or second level. The way the game is going with it being so pass heavy I think it's huge, especially to have multiple tight ends that are versatile and can run routes and create mismatches. That's nice how you can be dangerous as an offense. 

Q: How important was Coach Moore on helping refine your game?

A: He was instrumental, he was one of the best coaches I ever had. Not just football wise but as a person and kind of as a mentor. I mean I was a walk-on I didn't really have a coach that brought me in and kind of looked out for me when I got there. I came in as a wideout and I remember when I was a wideout he would always tell me you're going to be a tight end soon. And I'm sitting there like wait you're really going to move me to tight end? Eventually I moved to tight end and he just helped me create myself into the player I wanted to be and he always believed in me and he was always there for me whether it was on or off the field. That's not always the coaches' job to do for off the field so the fact that he was such a personable coach with all his players, that was a blessing.

Vikings Kicker Daniel Carlson

5th Round (167th overall), Auburn

I'll just open it up by saying how grateful I am to the Vikings organization, all the coaches, the whole staff and everybody welcoming me in and taking a chance on me. I'm thankful for my lord and savior Jesus Christ for this amazing opportunity that is ahead. I can't wait to join the team and begin the next journey for them which is competing for a Super Bowl. Excited for what's ahead and can't wait to get started. Just very excited and feel very blessed to be in the position I am today and to have been drafted by such an amazing organization.

Q: Did you think you'd get drafted?

A: Yes, we figured or at least we were hoping, fourth or fifth round. It's a little more difficult sometimes to tell with being a kicker. Because, obviously, you don't typically have backup kickers. So, it's more of which team needs a kicker and sometimes there's only four or five teams that are really looking to draft a guy. We were hoping fourth or fifth round and Minnesota and Coach Priefer had worked me out privately after the combine. They had shown some interest, I was secretly hoping, such a great team and a competitive team, that would maybe give me a call here soon. The fifth round kind of went away and then it was a big surprise when they traded up. Just super excited for me and my family. Just kind of taking it all in still at this point.

Q: How many private workouts did you have?

A: I had five private workouts total. Miami, the Seahawks, New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals were the other four teams that worked me out. I had quite a few teams reach out to me saying that they would have worked me out had they not been confident in me already. Some teams didn't want to show too much interest just because they wanted to hopefully sneak up on somebody in the draft. Like I said, it's always tough to tell as a kicker and specialist, kind of a unique position already but especially in the draft. Just extremely excited that the Vikings gave me the call, I'm just excited to be a part of the team.

Q: Does being a tall kicker with long legs have any disadvantages?

A: Yeah, I'm not your typical kicker body build I guess, but there are advantages to having longer levers. For people who can understand golf or different sports where having a longer club or whatever it is, you get more force just by simple physics to what you're kicking or hitting. Those are the advantages, it helps a lot with kickoffs, longer field goals, all that stuff. But you have to also try and be consistent, and that's sometimes where a smaller guy has a bigger advantage because he has less long levers to move. That's something I've worked on very hard over the years, making sure I'm consistent and smooth so that I can be as consistent or more consistent than any other body size.

Q: We saw you hit from 56 yards this season. What would you say your range is?

A: It's tough to say, but depending on altitude and weather, obviously Minnesota is indoors which will help a lot, but I made quite a few kicks from 50-plus yards over the years. During private workouts we've backed it up to 65 yards and made those. Kicking in Colorado, which is where I've been for the draft the last few days, with the altitude here I was hitting from 75 yards. It depends on the day, but I think I feel confident from 60 yards and in, and from 65 and in within an indoor setting. If I'm hitting the ball clean I think that is something that I can do pretty consistently. It's more about accuracy at that point.

Q: Did getting attention at the Senior Bowl give you the impression you were going to get drafted?

A: Yeah. I think I had a great senior bowl week. I think I had two kicks from 58 yards on two different days where they cleared the uprights by a very good amount. I think that gives you a little momentum with scouts, coaches and media or whatever it is. I think we had a pretty good idea coming off three solid seasons at Auburn. I was the first ever three time Groza finalist which is what we were going by former kickers and coaches a lot of different people that know the ins and outs of kicking that may not meet just the stat line. I think I've proven myself over those seasons and had a good Senior Bowl week of practice especially. Going into the combine and having a good combine and a private workout we had a pretty good idea and had some confidence but you're still praying hard and waiting. How things turned out and how they traded it up it was really just a wonderful surprise for me and my family. We can't wait to head over to Minnesota.

Q: When you worked out for Coach Mike Priefer, what feedback did you get as far as what he likes about your kicking and some things he wants you to work on?

A: It was probably my favorite workout, honestly. He has so much knowledge about the kicking game. About what coverage unit and he's obviously done an unbelievable job over the years with that. To have that will help my game and what we can do to help the team win and that is obviously the goal. We were able to watch game film and practice film together from my years at Auburn. We talked over what happened at the combine and obviously work out. Just work on some things, see some different kinds of kicks and stuff. It was just all a workout. I think he liked me and I really definitely liked him, as a coach and as a person. Excited to get to work and continue to learn from him.

Q: Where and when was that workout with the Vikings?

A: That was in Auburn. That was my first of the five workouts in Auburn. I couldn't tell you the date but it was a couple months ago.

Q: Was the workout right after the combine?

A: Yes. Basically, a couple weeks at the combine. We had already been able to talk about the combine. I had a very good combine. I think we had a couple extra points then we did a 15 kick script and I made them all. Very, very clean workout there. Good kickoffs and then to solidify that with another private workout was something that boosts their confidence with past seeing what I did on film over the last four year as well.

Q: What can you say about being over 198 out of 198 in college on extra points?

A: They were not necessarily all straight down the middle. That is something I took pride in is it's more of a focus thing when you're kicking it's a 20-yard field goal at an extra point in college. There were kicks where the operation wasn't always perfect every time but the result was and that's what counts. A lot of that is credit to the line, snapper and holder. On those extra points, my job is easy. It's just a matter of focusing. At this next level, extra points are backed up a little so it is going to take that much more focus and hopefully that can continue to keep that streak alive and take pride in making sure I am mentally locked in. Whether it is the first quarter or the fourth quarter and we are up 21 points, I still want to stay locked in and do everything I can to help the team every single time I am out there.

Vikings Tight End Tyler Conklin

5th Round (157th overall), Central Michigan

*I just want to start off by saying how excited I am and how pumped I am to be a Minnesota Vikings. Just the opportunity the organization has given me to make my dreams come true is I don't know, it's surreal to me still right now. It all happened so fast. I'm just excited to be a part of this organization. I'm excited to help this organization going forward and thank you guys again. *

Q: What do you know about John DeFilippo and how he has used his tight ends in the past?

A: To be honest I don't know a ton about it, but I did have an interview with coach a few days ago and we just talked ball and went over a few plays. Just the way they use the tight ends now. Obviously you have two-time Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph, one of the best tight ends in the NFL. You have mismatches like that and the way they use him it just makes me excited to come in there and use my ability to play off of everybody and I think I can be a huge piece on offense.

Q: How influential was the Senior Bowl in where you fell in the draft?

A:  I think the Senior Bowl was huge. That was one of my big goals, personal goals in preseason. Coming from a MAC school people question the lower level than the power 5. Having the opportunity to go out and compete with the best college football players in the nation was huge for me and also be able to go out there and show my versatility again. I feel like any chance I got to go out there in front of people and play football, not just football but get to know NFL personnel. And kind of tell people who I was, who I am as a person. I really thought that was huge with the opportunity too.

Q: Did you think you lost the chance when you had the foot injury?

A: When I hurt my foot I really wasn't sure how it was going to work out. Obviously the foot injury that was tough in the beginning of the season and going into my senior year and missed my first five games, but after kind of coming back that was still one of my goals and that happened. After I came back I felt great and I haven't looked back since and I'm happy I got a chance to make it to the Senior Bowl.

Q: How does your basketball background help at your position?

A: I think it's just being able to adjust, ball skills, the way you can kind of use your body and the little stuff like that, being able to kind of react out of nowhere. I think those are all things that translate perfectly. I definitely think it's something that has helped me throughout my career and I think it's going to keep helping me.

Q: Were you strictly focused on basketball after high school or did you focus on football too?

A: Out of high school we were all 0-27* *going into our senior year and we were a good basketball school. I didn't feel like I wanted to throw everything away I did in basketball for one year of football. My senior year we ended up going eight and three, winning our first ever playoff game. I ended up going All-State and I just didn't really feel right doing that at the time. And actually kind of going ahead and playing basketball for a semester at the college level. I just missed the game so much and I watched college tight ends and NFL tight ends and it just ended up becoming a dream of mine and it's something I knew I could make happen and I started to kind of make the decision and I just put my mind to it. It ended up working out for me.

Q: How tough was it to walk away from a basketball scholarship and walk-on at CMU?

A: It was definitely difficult. My family they always supported me through everything, my family and friends. A lot of people kind of look at that as not the smartest thing in the world obviously getting a free education and coming out of college with no debt is something not a lot of people get to do. So kind of just throwing that away and switching sports and moving up a level and chasing a dream that probably nobody saw but me. It's scary for a lot of people, my family and friends spoke to me but they also supported me the whole time and believed in me. It's definitely a tough decision but it's one that I had a good support system.

Q: What's most unique about your skill set?

A: I think it's definitely my versatility. I think I'm a great route runner though. I think I can run routes for every position on the field, slot, out wide, in line. I think I'm versatile. However I need to be used, however they want to use me I think that I can do it.

Q: Did you learn during the draft process how teams want tight ends that can move around?

A: We're a mismatch. The fact that we can be in the passing game and create mismatches with linebackers and safeties and also we can get the opportunity to run the ball at times, another can head out there to block whether it's first level or second level. The way the game is going with it being so pass heavy I think it's huge, especially to have multiple tight ends that are versatile and can run routes and create mismatches. That's nice how you can be dangerous as an offense.

Q: How important was Coach Moore on helping refine your game?

A: He was instrumental, he was one of the best coaches I ever had. Not just football wise but as a person and kind of as a mentor. I mean I was a walk-on I didn't really have a coach that brought me in and kind of looked out for me when I got there. I came in as a wideout and I remember when I was a wideout he would always tell me you're going to be a tight end soon. And I'm sitting there like wait you're really going to move me to tight end? Eventually I moved to tight end and he just helped me create myself into the player I wanted to be and he always believed in me and he was always there for me whether it was on or off the field. That's not always the coaches' job to do for off the field so the fact that he was such a personable coach with all his players, that was a blessing.

Vikings Kicker Daniel Carlson

5th Round (167th overall), Auburn

I'll just open it up by saying how grateful I am to the Vikings organization, all the coaches, the whole staff and everybody welcoming me in and taking a chance on me. I'm thankful for my lord and savior Jesus Christ for this amazing opportunity that is ahead. I can't wait to join the team and begin the next journey for them which is competing for a Super Bowl. Excited for what's ahead and can't wait to get started. Just very excited and feel very blessed to be in the position I am today and to have been drafted by such an amazing organization.

Q: Did you think you'd get drafted?

A: Yes, we figured or at least we were hoping, fourth or fifth round. It's a little more difficult sometimes to tell with being a kicker. Because, obviously, you don't typically have backup kickers. So, it's more of which team needs a kicker and sometimes there's only four or five teams that are really looking to draft a guy. We were hoping fourth or fifth round and Minnesota and Coach Priefer had worked me out privately after the combine. They had shown some interest, I was secretly hoping, such a great team and a competitive team, that would maybe give me a call here soon. The fifth round kind of went away and then it was a big surprise when they traded up. Just super excited for me and my family. Just kind of taking it all in still at this point. 

Q: How many private workouts did you have?

A: I had five private workouts total. Miami, the Seahawks, New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals were the other four teams that worked me out. I had quite a few teams reach out to me saying that they would have worked me out had they not been confident in me already. Some teams didn't want to show too much interest just because they wanted to hopefully sneak up on somebody in the draft. Like I said, it's always tough to tell as a kicker and specialist, kind of a unique position already but especially in the draft. Just extremely excited that the Vikings gave me the call, I'm just excited to be a part of the team.

Q: Does being a tall kicker with long legs have any disadvantages?

A: Yeah, I'm not your typical kicker body build I guess, but there are advantages to having longer levers. For people who can understand golf or different sports where having a longer club or whatever it is, you get more force just by simple physics to what you're kicking or hitting. Those are the advantages, it helps a lot with kickoffs, longer field goals, all that stuff. But you have to also try and be consistent, and that's sometimes where a smaller guy has a bigger advantage because he has less long levers to move. That's something I've worked on very hard over the years, making sure I'm consistent and smooth so that I can be as consistent or more consistent than any other body size.

Q: We saw you hit from 56 yards this season. What would you say your range is?

A: It's tough to say, but depending on altitude and weather, obviously Minnesota is indoors which will help a lot, but I made quite a few kicks from 50-plus yards over the years. During private workouts we've backed it up to 65 yards and made those. Kicking in Colorado, which is where I've been for the draft the last few days, with the altitude here I was hitting from 75 yards. It depends on the day, but I think I feel confident from 60 yards and in, and from 65 and in within an indoor setting. If I'm hitting the ball clean I think that is something that I can do pretty consistently. It's more about accuracy at that point.

Q: Did getting attention at the Senior Bowl give you the impression you were going to get drafted?

A: Yeah. I think I had a great senior bowl week. I think I had two kicks from 58 yards on two different days where they cleared the uprights by a very good amount. I think that gives you a little momentum with scouts, coaches and media or whatever it is. I think we had a pretty good idea coming off three solid seasons at Auburn. I was the first ever three time Groza finalist which is what we were going by former kickers and coaches a lot of different people that know the ins and outs of kicking that may not meet just the stat line. I think I've proven myself over those seasons and had a good Senior Bowl week of practice especially. Going into the combine and having a good combine and a private workout we had a pretty good idea and had some confidence but you're still praying hard and waiting. How things turned out and how they traded it up it was really just a wonderful surprise for me and my family. We can't wait to head over to Minnesota.

Q: When you worked out for Coach Mike Priefer, what feedback did you get as far as what he likes about your kicking and some things he wants you to work on?

A: It was probably my favorite workout, honestly. He has so much knowledge about the kicking game. About what coverage unit and he's obviously done an unbelievable job over the years with that. To have that will help my game and what we can do to help the team win and that is obviously the goal. We were able to watch game film and practice film together from my years at Auburn. We talked over what happened at the combine and obviously work out. Just work on some things, see some different kinds of kicks and stuff. It was just all a workout. I think he liked me and I really definitely liked him, as a coach and as a person. Excited to get to work and continue to learn from him.

Q: Where and when was that workout with the Vikings?

A: That was in Auburn. That was my first of the five workouts in Auburn. I couldn't tell you the date but it was a couple months ago.

Q: Was the workout right after the combine?

A: Yes. Basically, a couple weeks at the combine. We had already been able to talk about the combine. I had a very good combine. I think we had a couple extra points then we did a 15 kick script and I made them all. Very, very clean workout there. Good kickoffs and then to solidify that with another private workout was something that boosts their confidence with past seeing what I did on film over the last four year as well.

Q: What can you say about being over 198 out of 198 in college on extra points?

A: They were not necessarily all straight down the middle. That is something I took pride in is it's more of a focus thing when you're kicking it's a 20-yard field goal at an extra point in college. There were kicks where the operation wasn't always perfect every time but the result was and that's what counts. A lot of that is credit to the line, snapper and holder. On those extra points, my job is easy. It's just a matter of focusing. At this next level, extra points are backed up a little so it is going to take that much more focus and hopefully that can continue to keep that streak alive and take pride in making sure I am mentally locked in. Whether it is the first quarter or the fourth quarter and we are up 21 points, I still want to stay locked in and do everything I can to help the team every single time I am out there.

Vikings Offensive Lineman Colby Gossett

*6th Round (213th overall), Appalachian State  *

Well starting off I just want to say thank you to this organization. Thank you for the Vikings giving me this chance. I'm excited to get out there and work this week.

Q: What would you say some of your strengths are?

A: I would say my physicality. That's something we really pride ourselves on in college and it's something I can help and bring to the team.

Q: You started at right guard last year, is that where you're most comfortable?

A: Yes sir, but I also played left guard at the Reese's Senior Bowl. I'm comfortable at both positions and I've had a few workouts at center as well. So, it's something that I can definitely work on and become more comfortable at throughout the year.

Q: Do you have a preference of what position you will play?

A: I would say right guard more than others just because I'm used to it.

Q: Did the Vikings express interest to you in pre-draft?

A: I talked to most teams throughout the whole process, just throughout the Senior Bowl and combine. It was really about an even amount amongst other teams. It was a great surprise and I'm very happy to be part of this organization now.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a player? Mean and aggressive or a technician?

A: I feel like both. I really enjoy being very physical and very tough and I mean I play with a lot of emotion, but I'm also going to be very technical while I do that.

Q: What makes you a unique player?

A: I would definitely say my physicality. Like I said earlier it's something I really pride myself on. Every time I step on the field I want to be the baddest guy.

Q: What was the wait like for you today?

A: It was something else. I heard a lot of stuff going around 4th, 5th and 6th rounds. The nerves started to get a flimsy on you but it's nice and I'm very happy where I ended up.

Q: How important do you think the combine and the Senior Bowl were to get more eyes on you?

A: I feel like it was very important coming from Appalachian State which is just recently getting into the spotlight. It was great to get me out there where I could go against those big D-1 guys from Alabama and Georgia. I really felt like that helped me and helped project me forward.

Q: Did you use being a two-star recruit out of high school as motivation?

A: Definitely. Coming out of high school I was around 6'4", 290 pounds. I was a big guy coming from a smaller program in Georgia that didn't get that much recognition. It was something that just drove me through college and once I got my opportunity to come out there and play I really just took the best of it.

Q: Were you at the combine? Do you remember talking to the Vikings?

A: Yes sir, I was. I do, yes sir.

Q: Did you schedule your wedding in July just in case you had to be at training camp?

A: Yes sir, that's exactly what I did. It's going to be in the dead middle of July for that reason.

Vikings Defensive End Ade Aruna

6thRound (218th* verall), Tulane*

I just want to say I'm really happy to get this opportunity to come to the Minnesota Vikings. Beyond blessed and I'm thankful for all the opportunity I will extend to all of the coaches, staff and everybody for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I'm really happy and I'm ready to come out there and work.

Q: How difficult was it leaving your family behind in Nigeria?

A: It was really tough, especially for me. I've been wanting to do something since I was born. My father put a lot of responsibility on me as the fourth child of the house. I wanted to do something that I was going to be proud of for the rest of my life. So, it was my decision, my parents didn't have anything to do with it. They just blessed me and wished me good luck on everything. So, I came over just to do something for my family and bring joy to my country and my family.

Q: Did you not tell your parents you were playing football right away?

A: No, I did not tell them right away I was playing football until I signed my letter of intent to go to Tulane.

Q: How did you start playing football?

A: It wasn't easy at all, it wasn't. When I told my family I was playing football, my dad wasn't upset he was just curious. He doesn't know the game, I have tell him, 'Dad, don't worry, I'm the one delivering the blow, I'm not taking it. So, I'm the one taking people down, so don't panic and don't worry. Everything will be fine.' As soon as I told them, they kind of said, 'Oh yeah, you want to do whatever you want to do and we're going to support you regardless of what it is.'

Q: You started playing during your senior year of high school, correct?

A: I started going to camps in sophomore year of high school. I just went to camps during summer time. But I played organized football, putting on pads and everything, my senior year in high school.

Q: Was that difficult to jump right in as a senior?

A: Yeah, it was difficult. Mostly, I didn't really know what's going on on the field. But I had my teammates that I was playing with that year, they would literally tell me which was my gap and where to go. My coaches would tell me, 'Just pass rush every time. Don't worry about anything else, just line up at the five-technique and just pass rush every time.' So, I didn't really know what was going on on the field, I was just there figuring it out and running. Just doing whatever I could do for the team. It was difficult, I mean, the first time I put on pads, I didn't even know how to do it. I had to go talk to my teammates and they kind of literally put everything on my body and strapped it up for me.

Q: How did you end up switching from basketball to football?

A: That happened with one of my AAU coaches while I was playing basketball. It was one of those summer times when I went outside of Alabama to play ball, and the end of the game we were giving our gear back and one of the coaches looked at me and was like, 'You have a great body for playing football. Have you ever thought about trying football before?' I was like, 'Coach, I would love to try it, but I don't know what that would mean. I've never played football before, I don't know the rules, I don't know anything. But if anybody up to take me and teach me and tell me what to do, yeah, I would love to give it a try.' That's how it all started.

Q: Do you remember playing basketball against Andrew Wiggins?

A: Yes sir. I played against him in my senior year of high school basketball.

Q: What was that like?

A: It was a pretty good game. We beat them pretty bad. We stopped them, and I played good defense like I'm supposed to. We did our job and we beat them pretty bad.

Q: Where you guarding Wiggins specifically?

A: Yes sir. I was on him specifically. For me, I played old school. I don't know if you watch the 70's and 80's basketball, but that's how I play my own basketball. I stick to playing physical, man on man. As soon as we got down to the stadium to play that game, my coach told me, 'Hey, I want you to guard Andrew Wiggins. He's going to be your assignment tonight.' I told him, 'No problem, if that's how you want it I will get it done, just like that.' I gave him one of the lowest scoring games of his high school career, that night.

Q: Wiggins finished with 11 points?

A: Yes, he just had 11 points. All of the 11 points weren't on me, because sometimes I would switch to another man. I think he only scored about six points with me guarding him throughout the game. I think he scored the rest of the points when I wasn't in there or was switching off to another man.

Q: How difficult was it in college to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and do you think that made you a better player by giving you different looks for what you will have to do at this level?

A: At this level, I don't know if you ever watched me play but I am a pass rush guy. I mean the 3-4 was good for me, but at that point, no. I wanted to be a 4-3 guy. I wanted to rush. I wanted to be a pass rusher. But due to what it was at that time with my school, we lost a lot of guys. My redshirt junior year to come there for my last year to me, we can be able to pull in to the smallest body guys so we can literally do whatever. That's what it is for me. It was my last year and now I am looking forward. If you look at my body type and everything I've done over the years, I think is 4-3 is the best when it comes to schemes for me. I think 3-4 wasn't. But it is a team game and I wanted to be there for my team.

Q: In the places you've lived, have you ever seen snow?

A: I've moved around a lot. I was in Indiana in my senior year of high school for playoffs. In my high school when we played basketball everywhere. I've been to Iowa, I've been to South Dakota. I've been to almost everywhere that snows.

Q: Now that you are about to become pro, is your family more accepting of football?

A: Yes. Yes.

Q: You trained with Keith Millard - did he put in a good word for you?

A: Keith is one of the best to do it. I got a chance to work with him in January when I got to California to my training facility, California Strength. Coach Keith was everything I wanted in a coach. When it comes to the defensive line and pass rushing, he taught me almost everything I never knew before. Everything I've done in college, Coach Keith and I discussed so many things. It was a great opportunity to get with somebody like him to learn what it is to know what it is to play defensive line and pass rush specialties.

Q: How important was it for you to put up those crazy numbers that you did in the combine?

A: It was really important. That is probably one of the things that got me to where I am today. With my senior year, the system was the 3-4. All my production I did my redshirt junior year just went down a little bit. People were questioning, "What can he do, what can he not do?" Most people didn't realize the scheme I was playing in wasn't really meant for me to make the plays like people wanted me to. Like I said, it was a team game and I was going to do whatever for my team to go to next level, to go to a bowl game. That is just how that goes.

Q: How much of your family is in the United States now and how much is still back home?

A: I got to see my dad last year when I graduated and my dad and my mom about seven years ago before I saw two of them. I graduated last year and they came for about two weeks and they went back up so I am just here by myself.

Q: Have they ever seen you play football?

A: No, they've never seen my play football. Hopefully that I have the opportunity to play at the next level, one day very soon I will bring them back and they can watch how football is played.

Vikings Linebacker Devante Downs

7thRound (225th* verall), California *

I just got drafted by the Vikings, grateful for the opportunity and I'm excited to get out there.

Q: What was your injury last year and how is that coming along?

A: I don't want to get into too much details about it, but I had a knee injury in the seventh game and I'm just doing rehab right now and I'm going to lean on the Vikings staff to tell me when I'm ready.

Q: Will you be able to participate in spring drills?

A:  I'm going to leave that up to them. If they tell me I'm good, then I'll be good.

Q: How do you think it impacted your draft stock?

A: I would say significantly but everything happens for a reason and I'm grateful to be a Viking now.

Q: How tough was the timing? It seemed like you were playing some of your best football at that point.

A: Yes, I was having a pretty good year. I was two-time player of the week in my conference and it just happened at a bad time, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I can't wait to be a Viking and get out there. 

Q: What was today like watching the TV and watching the draft?

A: It was a long wait. I was actually at the grocery store when I got the call from Coach Zimmer, linebackers coach. And they just let me know that they were going to pick me. I'm just blessed.

Q: Why were you at the grocery store?

A: My dad wanted something to eat because there is no food at my house.

Q: How important was academics to you when picking schools?

A: I would say it was a 50-50 decision. It was a really great school, number one public school in the country that's why I committed to them. And also they have a lot of, I forgot what ranking they are, but they have probably top-five amount of players in the NFL so it was a 50-50 decision.

Q: Kentrell Brothers is suspended the first four games. Are you thinking you could be a guy that could step up and provide depth there at the start?

A: I'm hoping to make an impact wherever they put me and if they put me there I'll for sure make an impact. If they call my number I'll be ready.

Q: Do you think you're a middle linebacker?

A: If that's where they want to put me. I feel like I can do inside and outside, but in college I primarily played inside.

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