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Vikings Recall Range of Emotions, Memories on Draft Day

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Welcome to the 2016 NFL Draft.

Hundreds of football players will see their dreams realized over the next three days as they get selected by one of 32 franchises.

It wasn't that long ago, however, that current members of the Vikings were in the same situation of waiting until their name was called.

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was in the thick of draft day drama in 2014. He waited in the green room in New York for the entire first round before the Vikings traded back up into the first round to snag him with the 32rd pick.

"When your name gets called, it's a sigh of relief," Bridgewater said. "Especially for me, it was a long night.

"I was the last pick of the first round," Bridgewater added. "I arrived at the draft about 7 p.m. and didn't hear my name called until 11:30 p.m."

View images of current Vikings players when they were selected over the years on Draft Day.

When the Vikings spoke to the media earlier this week, players were peppered with questions about their own draft experience.

Nearly all of them said it was a process that filled their stomachs with butterflies.

"I had to wait a long time, but it was a crazy situation," said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, a seventh-round pick by Carolina in 2009. "Nerve-wracking at times. You know, you lose a little hair – as you can tell, I lost some.

"It's kind of a crazy situation but I was happy I got my name called and happy to take my game to the next level," he added. 

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison was fourth-round pick in 2007 out of the University of Texas.

"It was crazy," Robison said of his own experience. "I didn't think about it too much going into the draft but (the first) draft day I was probably a nervous wreck.

"I understand what a lot of those guys are going through," Robison added. "But it's well worth it when you hear your name called."

Six years after being a fourth-round pick, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen said he has a deeper appreciation for how much work goes into the draft process.

Griffen said teams dig and do their homework on a player to see if he'll be a good fit in their locker room.

"They go back to kindergarten and see how your character was in seventh and eighth grade," he said. "They go back and they go deep. I think those guys do their job well."

And what was Griffen like back in kindergarten?

"I was a knucklehead," he said with a laugh. "A big-time knucklehead."

While most players sweat it out as each round of the draft passes, those who were late-round picks have to do the most waiting.

Vikings center John Sullivan, a sixth-round pick from Notre Dame, recalled that he was just happy to have a chance to play professional football.

"I remember my name being called a lot later than I thought it was going to be," Sullivan said. "But when it finally is, you realize that it's go-time.

"It's your opportunity, and you have to show up, and you have to work your butt off," he added. "Nine years later, I'm still here. It's gone fast."

Even though Harrison Smith is four years removed from the draft, the safety said he can't help but turn it on each year, even if it's just to see who his new teammates will be.

"I always watch. There's a little bit of fan in there," Smith said. "I was always the kid that was watching growing up, so I watch just to see what's going on.

"I don't remember most of it after it happens," he added. "There's so many names called, but it's nice to see what guys we're bringing in and trying to get familiar with it."

Some of Smith's teammates said they don't even bother watching anymore.

But none will forget the indescribable feeling of getting the phone call that changed their life.

"But at the end of the day you hear your name called and it's one of the greatest days of your life," said Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, a second-round pick in 2011. "You get the opportunity to be a part of one of 32 franchises in the NFL."

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