EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —It's a good thing that MyCole Pruitt has hands that measured 10 ¼ inches.
The Vikings plan to give him a lot to handle.
Minnesota drafted Pruitt in fifth round with the 143rd overall pick, and within a week had him working multiple roles in the offense during their rookie minicamp.
"I'm learning two different positions, and it's basically being mentally tough and being able to handle the load that he's going to put on me," Pruitt told former Vikings linebacker and analyst Ben Leber Sunday after the minicamp wrapped up.
Pruitt's stats at Southern Illinois placed him as the Missouri Valley Football Conference leader in career receptions (211), receiving yards (2,601) and touchdown catches (25) by a tight end. He looked smooth and fluid running routes in Friday's practice that was open to media and told reporters after that he also takes pride in blocking.
"Whatever was asked of me, I was able to do that," Pruitt said. "We had a great running back, Malcolm Agnew, down there at Southern Illinois, and our run game was strong, so blocking was definitely part of our game out there."
As for the transition to pros, Pruitt said the debut practices were up-tempo.
"I would just say while you're in the drill the pace is a lot faster," Pruitt said. "They want you sprinting through everything. You can't take a play off at all. That's just the mindset I've got to have and the way I'm going to go from here on out."
Pruitt grew up playing basketball, then added football as a high school freshman in St. Louis. He earned an opportunity to play for the Salukis and peaked as a senior with a school-record 81 receptions that ranked him 12th in FCS in receptions per game (6.8).
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, who played at Southern Illinois from 1983-86, said he liked what he saw from Pruitt at his alma mater, as well as the East-West Shrine Game and NFL Combine. Pruitt ran the 40-yard dash in a position-best 4.58 seconds, led his group with a 38-inch vertical and had top-tier performances in the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttles.
"He's a very athletic H-back type fullback. They put him out on the slot and he played something on the line of scrimmage as a tight end," Spielman said after drafting Pruitt. "I know when we talked about him, he ran very fast at the Combine and he showed up at the All-Star game.
"He has a lot of the traits that we're looking for, especially in (Offensive Coordinator) Norv Turner's offense, being able to do multiple things," Spielman continued. "He has very good hands, he's aggressive as a blocker, and Norv, as we sat there and talked about him through the draft meetings, felt that we can do a lot of different things with him and play him at a lot of different positions."
Pruitt said he's been flattered to hear others compare him to Dolphins tight end Charles Clay, a sixth-round pick who is preparing for his fifth season.
"We have a lot of the same measurables, and I would say our game is a lot alike," Pruitt said. "He obviously made a big impact down there in Miami and was able to get a big contract from that, so I'm extremely honored to be compared to a guy like that."
Pruitt is listed at 6 feet, 2 inches and 251 pounds; Clay is listed at 6-3 and 245, with hands that were measured at 9 5/8 inches. Pruitt edge Clay's 40 time at the combine by .15 seconds, but Clay had times that were .22 seconds faster in the 20-yard shuttle and .03 faster in the 60-yard shuttle.
After combining for 34 catches for 245 yards and five touchdowns in his first two seasons, Clay broke through with career highs of 69 catches, 759 yards and six scores in his third year and followed with 58 catches for 605 yards and three TDs, including six receptions for 114 yards against the Vikings last December in Miami.
View images of new Vikings TE Mycole Pruitt from his time at Southern Illinois.
"I've gotten a chance to look at his tape," Pruitt said. "I've never gotten a chance to talk with him. That would be great to one day get to do that. I've looked at his tape and seen all the things he does, and if I can make an impact like that and bring it to the Vikings, that would be huge for us."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he has read and heard about the comparisons to Clay.
"(Clay) did a lot of multiple things for them, and I know he played very well against us down at Miami when we were down there this year, but Norv felt that to get an athlete of that caliber that can do multiple positions can give you that much more of a weapon on the offense," Zimmer said. "So Norv can say, 'Well I can use him sometimes in a slot to try and create a mismatch.' We can use him as a potential Rhett Ellison, use him in a lot of different places to try to utilize his speed and his athletic ability and his ability to catch the ball to create mismatches."