Transcript: Smith and Stephenson Addressed the Media on Friday

Vikings Tight End Irv Smith Jr.

I’m so excited to have this opportunity. I’m blessed the Vikings believed in me, and that they wanted to make me a Minnesota Viking. It’s an amazing opportunity, I can’t wait to get out there.

Q: What was it like growing up in a football family?

A: It was amazing. My dad doing all the things that he’s done, as a young man having him as a mentor and seeing all his footballs, his helmets, his trophies and everything around the house, just seeing all that motivated me to put myself in this position I’m in today.

Q: What do you know about Kyle Rudolph, and how do you see the two of you working together?

A: I see him as a player that I definitely looked up to playing football, especially as a tight end. He’s done so much, been a Pro Bowl player, and I can’t wait to work with him and learn from him.

Q: Did you always want to play tight end, considering that was your dad’s position too?

A: When I was younger I started out playing receiver. I started playing football in eighth grade, and my sophomore year I started playing tight end. After that I switched over to the position.

Q: Did your dad try to steer you in that direction?

A: He definitely did. At first he said, “You can be a receiver, and be slow receiver, or a fast tight end.” I wound up being a fast tight end and it worked out.

Q: What kind of advice has your dad given you throughout this process?

A: He’s helped me so much, honestly. Just telling me some of the things to do, some of the things not to do, learning from his mistakes. Just picking his brain. He’s helped me so much and he’s going to continue to help me throughout this.

Q: Do you take pride in your versatility and your ability to play in the slot and out wide?

A: Yes sir, that’s really what I pride myself in mostly. All the best tight ends in the NFL and all the greats, they were able to do both; run block and make plays in the passing game. It opens a lot for you and helps the team in all phases of the game. It’s something I pride myself on and I’ll continue to work on and improve as a player.

Q: Talk about your ability to create mismatches.

A: It’s something that I really pride myself on. I believe no linebacker or safety one-on-one can stay with me, and I’m going to keep proving to people [why] that’s how I feel.

Q: What did you learn from O.J. Howard, playing behind him early in your career?

A: I learned a lot from O.J. I was a freshman and he was a senior, and the way he carried himself as a player and a person, the way he treated everyone, that’s something that I really took from him. On the field he took no plays off, was a complete tight end, I believe, and it’s proven that he’s doing the same thing in the NFL today.

Q: How do you feel you are as a run blocker? Do you think you’re still a work in progress in that area?

A: Yeah, I definitely think I’m a work in progress. I went against what I feel like was the top competition in college, and I did a great job of it, but it’s definitely something that I can always improve on and it’s something that is going to be a main focus this coming year.

Q: Have you ever been to Minnesota?

A: Never. I can’t wait.

Q: Have you seen snow?

A: I’ve seen snow. I’ve never lived in it, but I’ve seen it. I’ll have to get used to it.

Q: Are you going to go out and buy a car now? I heard yours broke down on the way back from Tuscaloosa.

A: Yeah, I was driving form Alabama to New Orleans and it ran out on me. I had it since my sophomore year of high school, so yeah, it’s time for a new lift.

Vikings Director of College Scouting

Jamaal Stephenson

Happy to be here on day two of the draft here in Minnesota. Excited to add another player to the Minnesota Vikings, Irv Smith, tight end from Alabama. We believe Irv is a perfect fit for our new scheme offensively, what they want to do in terms of a mismatch guy. He is an “F” sort of tight end, a guy we can move around. We can line him up wide, we can line him up in tight. We can use him in the backfield. He has a lot of versatility. He is a great kid. Another kid just like Bradbury, A+ character, tough guy. We are very happy to add him.

Q: How important was it getting Kirk that middle of the field type threat?

A: It was crucial. It was one of the things we talked about for the last two, three weeks in our meetings was we wanted to be more explosive on offense. We want to move the ball and keep our offense on the field. We feel like Irv can do that for us. A guy who caught 44 balls for Alabama last year and I believe 20 went for first downs. He is a guy that is going to help us move the chains. We are happy to get him here.

Q: Was he your target coming into the day?

A: He was one of the guys we had targeted, yes. So was Bradbury [yesterday]. That is why we are so excited that we got two guys we feel that can help us right away.

Q: Did you think he might go earlier or that he would be available?

A: We felt like he would fall in that area. Didn’t quite know but we sure were excited that he fell to us.

Q: What do you think the way the board played out with so many offensive linemen and cornerbacks going at the same time?

A: We kind of knew there would be a run on the corners for sure because I think there were maybe one or none that went yesterday. We knew there’d be a run on corners. This draft is so deep offensive line-wise. We knew guys would be coming up to get those guys, too. Our board played out pretty much like we thought it would.

Q: How do you see him working with Kyle Rudolph in the 12-personnel set?

A: I’ll let the coaches talk to you guys about how they plan to use these guys. I can just tell you athletically, he is kind of what we’ve been looking for.

Q: Does he have a ways to go to develop or is he pretty far along as the youngest tight end in the draft?

A: He didn’t play much as a sophomore because O.J. Howard was the guy there. This year he kind of took over. He’s got a lot of playing experience and a lot of production on a really good team. A team that has a lot of weapons and he still caught 44 balls. He is experienced, comes from a good pedigree. His dad played in the NFL as a first round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints. I think he will come in and be ready to go.

Q: What is it about his skillset that allows him to lineup outside or in the slot if you need him to?

A: He’s an athletic guy. I mean he’s a guy that ran in the 4.5s at the combine. He’s really quick, he’s a good route runner, he’s got a big body.

Q: How is he as a run blocker?

A: He’s okay. He’s a work in progress more from that standpoint. He’s certainly tough enough and willing, which are the two things you look for.

Q: Going back to Bradbury, can you explain how nice it is to work with some of these guys at the Senior Bowl and get that extra look?

A: It’s always great to see guys. The more you can see them, the more you can have exposure to what they can and cannot do. I was down on the field at every practice. I was spending a lot of time with the line groups and he was one of the leaders there. Actually, when I went for my school visit to NC State he kind of stood out there. He was kind of the leader of the team, not necessarily always vocal, but you felt his presence.

Q: Were there any big surprises in the draft?

A: There were a couple. Yeah, there were a couple guys we didn’t think would go as high as they did, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Q: With the game changing at tight end by creating all the mismatches, does that increase your sense of urgency getting this pick now?

A: No. We just stay true to our board. He was the guy that was there and we felt comfortable with him in our offense and he was a guy we talked about the last two, three weeks.

Q: Any trade talks?

A: Yeah, they were flooding in and we just felt like he was too valuable to what we wanted to do so we stayed in.

Q: What was your exposure to him leading up to this point?

A: We had him at the combine. He had a great interview. Like I said, I was at his school and did his school call – met with his coaches, watched him practice so all of our scouts who cover that area had seen him prior to.

Q: Can you talk about your injury?

A: Well, it got kind of rowdy. You should see the other guy [laughs]. Torn achilles, I’m on the mend, but life’s about adversity, right? How do you bounce back?

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