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Vikings 2019 Draft Picks Experience Surreal Feeling on Day 1 in the NFL

EAGAN, Minn. — The dream is becoming more real.

All 12 of Minnesota's selections from the 2019 NFL Draft arrived in the Land of 10,000 Lakes on Thursday afternoon as they were welcomed to Minnesota to get set for this weekend's rookie minicamp.

For many, the excitement ramped up once they set foot inside Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

"It's just been a dream come true," said running back Alexander Mattison, a third-round pick. "I mean, it's just been so surreal to know this is actually happening.

"This is actually something I've been working for since I was 6 years old and first started playing football and fell in love with the game," Mattison added. "I'm just super excited, and I can't wait to get the opportunity to step out there and strap on the pads and get going."

Added sixth-round safety Marcus Epps: "It's been so exciting. This is something that I've looked forward to my whole life and worked toward my whole life. I'm just blessed the Vikings organization gave me this opportunity. I couldn't be happier."

While the majority of the rookies landed in Minnesota for the first time, there was one, of course, who had already gotten a taste of the NFL life.

That would be Vikings center Garrett Bradbury, the 18th overall pick in the draft. Bradbury was selected a week ago and flown to the Twin Cities with his father, Tim, for an introductory press conference last Friday.

"I've been super excited," Bradbury said of his past few days. "Coming here [last week] was kind of a tease, just being there for a few hours and then having to fly out, so I'm just excited to be back here, get practicing and meet everyone.

"These facilities are phenomenal, and I just want to get started," Bradbury added. "I trained with a few of [the rookies] during the combine process, so getting to see some familiar faces and my other teammates, I'm just ready to get to work with them."

Over the next few days, rookies will get thrown into the fire with meetings, workouts and the first NFL practices of their careers.

It's a good thing that some of them have taken the past few days after getting drafted to try and soak in the memories of hearing their name called in the draft.

"That was probably the most emotional day that I can remember in a long time," said guard Dru Samia, who was a fourth-round selection. "My family, we were sitting around, we were stressing for a long time, waiting for my name to be called.

"When we finally got that call," Samia added, "it felt like I could breathe again. I guess is the best way to put it."

Added second-round tight end Irv Smith, Jr., "I pictured myself in this situation, but I didn't picture it like this and where I was going to end up. But I'm just so happy to be here and to be a Viking."

Olabisi Johnson, a second-round pick, said: "It was a whirlwind waiting around 'til the seventh round, but I got my opportunity. The Vikings gave me my opportunity, so I'm really excited."

The Vikings rookie draft class includes seven offensive players in Bradbury, Smith, Jr., Mattison and Samia, along with tackle Olisaemeka Udoh, wide receiver Dillon Mitchell and Johnson.

Linebacker Cameron Smith, defensive tackle Armon Watts, Epps and cornerback Kris Boyd make up the defensive players, while the list is rounded out by long snapper Austin Cutting.

Life will soon fly by for the dozen rookies, a group that makes up the largest draft class in team history since the league switched to the seven-round format in 1994.

They will get adjusted to their new lives and get acquainted with their new teammates. And they will dive into the playbook and begin the opening chapter of their NFL story.

But they won't forget the feeling of their first day in the NFL anytime soon.

"It's a blessing. It's pretty exciting," said Boyd, a seventh-round cornerback. "A little anxious and nervous, but you know it's all for a good purpose, a good cause. I mean, you've waited your whole life for it."

Added Cameron Smith: "I think every time I put the helmet on, I'm going to have a smile on my face. I'm just really happy to be here, you know?"