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Xavier Rhodes Recalls Open Road to End Zone, Welcomes Dalvin Cook

MINNEAPOLIS — Xavier Rhodes secured the pass, and from that moment on, he was running!

The Vikings cornerback covered 121.03 yards and topped out at 22.4 miles per hour according to Next Gen Stats provided by NFL.com from Minnesota's game against Arizona last November.

Rhodes recorded his first career "Pick 6" against the Cardinals. It was one of two interceptions for him on the day and part of a career-best season total of five en route to his first Pro Bowl selection. He also was selected as the Vikings Defensive Player of the Year and was presented that award on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium during the 10th Annual Minnesota Football Honors.

Rhodes was asked by event emcee Frank Vascellaro what went through his mind when he caught the pass and began streaking the other way, and Rhodes said, "Run, Forrest, run!," in reference to Forrest Gump.

In an interview after receiving the award, Rhodes said he mentioned the fictional character to teammates on the sideline.

"For some odd reason, Forrest Gump came in my head," Rhodes said. "I was thinking of when he came out of the leg braces and started running fast."

This fall, Rhodes could be cheering, "Run, Dalvin, run!" from the Vikings sideline to support fellow former Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook, who was selected in the second round last month.

Rhodes said he is excited to welcome another player from the Miami area to Minnesota and thinks the rookie will positively impact the team.

"Dalvin is a good guy," Rhodes said. "He's coming in and trying to help in any way possible. He's pretty fast, athletic, can block and catch out of the backfield, so I'm looking forward to him coming to help us out.

"I'm much older than him, but I heard about him when he was coming up," Rhodes added. "I spoke to him a few times, and after that, he went to Florida State. I went back and talked to him a few times, gave him some advice, and the guy's been peaking. He's one of the best running backs coming out, and I'm proud of him."

Rhodes texted Cook congratulations after the selection, and the two connected via a phone call so that Cook could tell Rhodes about rookie minicamp last weekend.

Now prepping for his fifth pro season, Rhodes is positioned to advise younger players like Cook and the 10 other players drafted by Minnesota this year.

"The most important thing is that you have to take care of your body," Rhodes said. "Invest in your body. If you don't take care of your body, you're not going to last long. The number one thing I've realized from playing five years in the league is that you have to invest in your body."

This offseason, Rhodes opted to add boxing to his training.

"That was a great thing for me, helped me with my footwork and cardio, working with my hands," Rhodes said.

In addition to those benefits, Rhodes said he thinks boxing has helped with his "technique, endurance and hand speed."

"It can help with hand placement, which was a problem for me a few years ago, and also moving your feet and staying on your toes," Rhodes said.

In 2015, after a couple of pass interference penalties were called on Rhodes, coaches had him wear boxing gloves during practices. 

"I think the thing we're trying to do is just keep refining his technique and get him to understand what it looks like for the referee as he's coming off of a block," Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said at that time. "If he pulls or he disrupts the receiver out of the route a certain way, it's going to get called. Just making him conscious of that as we're working through the drills.

"Xavier is doing a good job paying attention to the details and keeps working on the techniques and fundamentals," Edwards added.

According to NFLpenalties.com, Rhodes was flagged 13 times in 2015 and 10 infractions were accepted. Last season, the total dropped to 11 flags thrown and eight penalties accepted. Notably, the number of times that Rhodes was assessed for holding fell from seven calls in 2015 to four in 2016.

Rhodes said he didn't have negative flashbacks to those practices and enjoyed his time in the Miami gym, where he also spent time encouraging young people to follow their dreams.

The future is young. It's all about the kids.

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