DENVER – Roc Thomas felt the leather hit his hands, turned, and saw nothing but green.
The running back had lined up at Minnesota's 22 on second-and-7 and caught a screen pass from Trevor Siemian. Then, it was off to the races. Thomas took the ball 78 yards for the touchdown, his second trip of the night to the end zone.
He admitted that he was surprised at the amount of clear space he had, taking advantage of an effective block by Josh Andrews, turning on the speed and easily pulling away from two Broncos defenders.
"Man, I mean, I couldn't believe it, but I'm not going to sit there, I'm going to take that," Thomas recounted excitedly after the game. "That's money right there. I'm going to take that."
Thomas got his first touch of the night late in the first quarter, when Siemian handed off to him at Denver's 23-yard line, a play after Anthony Harris' interception of Paxton Lynch. Thomas ran up the middle for a gain of 7 and rushed again on second down for the additional 3.
On first-and-10 from the Broncos 13, Siemian connected with a wide-open Thomas along the left sideline for his first NFL touchdown.
It was quite the splash for the undrafted rookie out of Jacksonville State who admitted he had some jitters before the game.
"I mean, I was thinking before the game, 'OK, my first game,' like my whole train of thought was to go in and try to get my feet wet," Thomas said before adding with a laugh, "but, I mean, I got my whole body wet."
Siemian, who faced his former team and finished with a passer rating of 111.2, said Thomas has "some juice" and it was fun to see him make such a big play.
"All of our young backs can play quite a bit," Siemian said. "It's funny because in practice you don't really get to see them tackled or brought to the game. There's a new dynamic playing in the game, and you get to see that. Guys slip tackles and make big plays."
Thomas wanted to make an impression in his pro debut, and he certainly did so. He led the Vikings in receiving with 102 yards on just three catches, and he also added 29 rushing yards on eight carries.
He said he was "pretty pleased" with his performance and sang praises for the men up front.
"The offensive line blocked great," Thomas said. "It was an excellent game up front blocking-wise. The scheme we had and the game plan we had was great, so I feel pretty good right now."
Thomas, who was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted rookie this spring, was a multipurpose offensive threat at the college level and hopes to carry over that versatility to the pros.
Thomas said he felt Saturday night's preseason win over the Broncos showcased what he brings to the table. He hopes to have a shot at the third running back spot vacated by Jerick McKinnon, who signed a multiyear deal with San Francisco in free agency.
The young running back said he watched film of McKinnon and even has incorporated boxing into his training regime in an attempt to further work on patience in his footwork.
"You know, boxing, you get that footwork right, you can dance," Thomas said.
Looking ahead at Minnesota's first preseason game, Thomas had worried he might not even be back in time to compete after missing time due to an injury earlier in training camp.
"During that time I missed, I was kind of down," Thomas said. "It was just great to go out there and have fun with the guys. It was a great experience."
The Vikings entire corps of running backs saw game action except for Dalvin Cook, who was a non-participant Saturday night.
Latavius Murray started out the evening. While he only played in Minnesota's first series, Murray made it count.
The "Tay Train" rumbled for back-to-back rushes of 20 and 21 yards, respectively, putting the Vikings into Broncos territory and helping Kirk Cousins and the offense strike quickly. Murray finished the night with four carries for 43 yards.
Rookie Mike Boone took handoffs from both Siemian and Kyle Sloter, and he tallied 22 yards on 12 carries. He also caught all three passes thrown his way for 21 yards through the air.
Mack Brown, who signed with the Vikings last season after spending time with Washington, was Minnesota's second-leading rusher with 34 yards on 11 attempts.
"I think the young guys played excellent," Thomas said. "The older guys set us up great at the beginning of the game – they kind of got us on the board early.
The Vikings trailed by one in the third quarter, but the team battled back, pulled away and topped the Broncos 42-28.
"The young guys, we stayed in it, we kind of kept our minds straight, we were talking to each other, uplifting each other, things like that," Thomas said. "It was a good team effort."