EAGAN, Minn. – Oli Udoh comes from small-school roots, but he is feeling comfortable at the NFL level thanks to the support of coaches and teammates.
Udoh, one of three offensive linemen drafted by Minnesota this spring, was grabbed at the 193rd overall spot from Elon University. Having started 45 games for the Phoenix at right tackle, he's spent a lot of time learning from Vikings right tackles Brian O'Neill and Rashod Hill.
He also watches film of left tackle Riley Reiff and emphasized that "the whole O-line room" has been incredibly helpful in making the transition from college to the pros.
Udoh said he learned as much as he could during rookie minicamp and OTAs and has put that to work throughout minicamp and now the first part of Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
"I've [been working on] a lot of footwork, a lot of drills," Udoh said. "There's been a lot of emphasis on zone-blocking footwork and gaining with our first step, so I've seen a lot of improvement in that since I've been here."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer highlighted Udoh's size and athleticism during his session with Twin Cities media members on Saturday.
"[He's] very smart," Zimmer added. "He's done a good job. Obviously, he's still working on technique and hand placement and all those things, but I think the coaches have been impressed with him."
Udoh is learning from Vikings Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Rick Dennison, whom the team hired during the offseason.
The rookie called Dennison a "technician" with a low-key demeanor.
"He really emphasizes, on our zone techniques, gaining with our first step. He puts a lot of emphasis on the different protections that we have," Udoh said. "He's a pretty cool coach to play for."
Under the guidance of Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski and with the influence of Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak, the Vikings are gaining a new offensive identity for 2019.
The focus on being an athletic, fast-paced unit excites Udoh as he continues to feel more and more comfortable in the system.
"The fact that they're saying they want to play fast, I respect that. It's awesome," he said.
"It's a learning experience for everybody," Udoh added. "Just the fact that [the veterans ask] questions and I get to listen in on that and gather as much knowledge as I can from the conversations that we have in the room, it's great."
Here are three other topics Udoh covered with Vikings.com:
1. If you could spend time with any one person for a day, who would that be?
"I'd probably say Jay-Z, just because of his upbringing and how successful he is now after everything he's had to go through and persevere through. [And he came] out on top and is one of the most successful businessmen coming out of hip-hop."
2. What do you like to do in your free time?
"I'm a movie/video game guy, so either of those two. I'm pretty chill."
Do you have a favorite genre of movies?
"I'm all over the place, but action and horror are the main ones. I still watch the Final Destination series, and then the Jordan Peele movie was pretty good, Us."
3. What is one of your favorite things to eat?
"I'd say farina. It's a Nigerian delicacy. The farina is on the side, and you basically eat the farina with a different type of soup – vegetable, okra, Egusi soup or bitterleaf soup. It's one of my favorite meals."