EAGAN, Minn. — Brandon Dillon is the kid from Marian University who is turning heads at Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
Just ask Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
"Brandon Dillon, I think he's done a nice job at tight end," Zimmer said Thursday when asked about players who have stood out in camp so far. "He's a guy that, I think, has shown some good things for being an undrafted guy."
Dillon joined the Vikings this spring as an undrafted free agent from Marian, which is a private Catholic school in downtown Indianapolis that Dillon proudly boasted has an enrollment of roughly 3,450 undergraduate students.
The rookie tight end had 95 catches for 1,525 yards and 13 touchdowns in three seasons for the Knights, but he's quick to point out life is a little different in the NFL.
"It was definitely a surreal experience, just getting out there and playing with guys you've watched on TV for that last 10 or 12 years," Dillon said of training camp. "That was probably the most exciting part, just getting out there and living out a childhood dream.
"The most challenging part was learning the plays and being locked in for two-and-a-half straight hours," Dillon added. "It was definitely a big adjustment, but I feel like I handled it pretty good."
Dillon said he's proud of his small-school roots, even if it means some ribbing from teammates.
"I definitely came from a small school, and all the guys give me crap for it," Dillon said with a smile. "I have a small-school chip on my shoulder … I was under-recruited my whole life.
"But if you can play football, then you can play football," Dillon added.
Dillon is one of five tight ends who has been practicing, joining Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith, Jr., Tyler Conklin and Cole Hikutini. David Morgan is on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list.
"I just want to show I'm a versatile tight end. I can block, catch, block in the passing game … I'm a physical run blocker," Dillon said. "I can do special teams. I want to show I'm a versatile player."
Here are three other topics that Dillon covered with Vikings.com:
1. What has been the biggest jump for you in the NFL?
"The physicality is a big step. But my main focus is going out there and giving 100 percent every play. But it's not the end all, be all. Football is football, so once I get adjusted to that, then I'll be acclimated. I feel like I'm getting acclimated that and starting to realize things here and here. The veteran tight ends have been really cool, giving me tips a lot. That's helped, too."
2. What was your favorite college memory?
"Probably my senior year, we beat our rival [and top-ranked] Saint Francis. That, and winning the [NAIA] national championship my freshman year. Those are the two games that are circled on our schedule."
3. What did you do on the players' off day on Tuesday?
"I kept a normal schedule pretty much … woke up in the morning and came in and did some film work and got an ice bath," Dillon said. "But then I went and played nine holes of golf, just to get out of the hotel room. I tried to enjoy it and not wish it away.
"It was a nine-hole executive [course], just a Par 3 course," Dillon added. "It was just good to get out and get away from football for a little bit."
What did you shoot?
"You don't want to know [my score] … I honestly gave up the last five or six holes. It was just relaxing to go."