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Consistent Play & Flashy Nickname Help Brandon Dillon Make Roster

EAGAN, Minn. — "The Marian Flash" is here to stay.

The Vikings announced their initial 53-man roster over the weekend, and even after a few tweaks in recent days, Brandon Dillon is still on the team.

Not bad for a kid from Marian University, an NAIA school in Indianapolis with an enrollment of fewer than 3,500 undergraduate students.

Dillon explained the experience of his first NFL cut weekend to

"It was definitely a nerve-wracking experience, and something I'll never forget," Dillon said. "I was waiting on a call, and the call never came. I was happy the coaches trusted me and helped get me in this position."

The tight end played in Minnesota's preseason finale against Buffalo, lining up for 54 offensive snaps and leading the Vikings with five catches for 48 yards.

Dillon went to Target Field on Friday night to watch Butler play North Dakota State in football. He spent an hour chatting with Butler offensive line coach BJ Coad, who was on Marian's staff when Dillon was there.

But with NFL rosters always in flux, Dillon just wanted to make it through the weekend.

"That kind of helped ease my mind a little bit," Dillon said of his conversation with Coad. "I couldn't really sleep Friday night, but then Saturday I woke up and went to practice and nobody said anything [about getting cut].

"I kind of knew before practice on Saturday because some guys were congratulating me, but nobody ever said, 'Hey, you made the 53.' I didn't know if they were going to cut me after practice," Dillon added. "But nothing happened, and afterward, I called my family and said, 'Hey, I think this might happen.' No crazy [celebrations], but they're definitely happy and excited for me."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the team liked Dillon's potential coming out of Marian, where he had had 95 catches for 1,525 yards and 13 touchdowns in three seasons for the Knights.

Dillon began to make plays in spring practices, which carried over to training camp and the preseason.

"He's a guy that I think has a good future," Zimmer said. "He's got the size. He can run, catches the ball well, improved coming out of an NAIA school.

"He improved quite a bit over the time of training camp," Zimmer added. "He's done a really nice job, and I think he's got a chance to be a good player down the road."

Dillon had eight catches for 95 yards in preseason play, but turned heads multiple times in practice, including with a one-handed catch on Aug. 5.

The 22-year-old now finds himself in a position room that features Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith, Jr., and Tyler Conklin. Dillon is now hoping to do his part and keep improving.

"I think I've always been the underdog, just coming from a small high school and a small college," Dillon said. "I think that's a role that embraces my personality.

"I'm not going to be the flashiest player," Dillon added. "I'm just a player who goes on and works hard and is consistent, and that's really my goal here."

But that nickname, though.

Kirk Cousins labeled Dillon as "The Marian Flash" way back in the spring, as the Vikings quarterback kept noticing the undrafted free agent make plays in practices.

Dillon laughed when recalling how the moniker came to be.

"Kirk was throwing a route to me and he said, 'Good job, Marian,' " Dillon said. "And then Sean Mannion asked him after practice, 'Is Brandon's name Marian?' … he didn't know my name yet.

"He assumed my name was Marian, so that's how 'The Marian Flash' kind of came about," Dillon added. "They get a good joke out of it because it's a small school. But I ended up here, so it all worked out."

A few months after initially arriving in Minnesota generally unknown, Dillon will now spend the rest of the week focused on getting ready for Sunday's season opener against Atlanta.

"I'm ready. It's going to be exciting," Dillon said. "I've got a bunch of logistics stuff to handle … getting an apartment … because I wasn't ready for that yet.

"And then on top of it, the game plan," Dillon added. "It's going to be a busy week, but I'm ready for it."