EAGAN, Minn. — A pair of familiar faces helped Xavier Woods land in Minnesota.
First, there was Vikings safety Harrison Smith, whose resumé includes five Pro Bowls and a reputation as one of the game's best players at his position.
"Just as much as I was preparing for Minnesota's offense, I was watching Harrison," Woods, a fellow safety, said Monday after signing with the Vikings. "That was one of the main reasons why I wanted to be here, to be able to learn from him, be able to play, hopefully get the opportunity to play [with] him. That was the main reason why I wanted to be here."
And there was also Vikings first-year defensive backs coach Karl Scott, who made a few stops at the college level before joining Minnesota’s staff in February.
In 2015, Scott was the safeties coach at Louisiana Tech. One of his best players that season?
You guessed it. Woods, who had 56 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and three passes defensed.
Woods said Monday that he also signed with the Vikings for the chance to work with his former college position coach.
"He played a major role as well, just knowing a familiar face," Woods said. "[He's] a guy that I know his coaching technique, his style, one that I loved to play for before.
"I know I'll love to play for it now," Woods added.
View photos of S Xavier Woods signing his contract and touring TCO Performance Center.
The 25-year-old Woods is expected to compete for the starting safety spot next to Smith, and he would provide solid experience if he indeed fills the spot vacated by Anthony Harris, who signed with the Eagles in free agency.
A sixth-round draft pick by the Cowboys in 2017, Woods started 48 of 60 games in four seasons with Dallas. In that time, he tallied 243 tackles (league stats), five interceptions, four tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, 18 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
He was also one of the top safety options available in free agency, as NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal's listed Woods at No. 64 in his top 101 potential free agents before free agency started.
The 2020 season marked Woods' first without a pick, and the safety let it be known Monday that he is unhappy with how his most-recent campaign played out on the field.
View photos of new Vikings S Xavier Woods who recently joined the team.
"Personally, I feel like I didn't have a good season at all. Not to my standards. I've reviewed it and now know what I need to work on to not be in that situation again and play like that again," Woods said. "I'm working each and every day to better myself so that it doesn't happen again. Me personally. I definitely had a bad season.
"I missed a lot of opportunities to get the ball back. Missed a couple interceptions, a couple tackle angles," Woods added. "Then, I would say, preparing a little better. Preparing better."
Scott will likely help in that aspect. So, too, will Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who has watched his defense be bolstered this offseason with the recent additions of Woods, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander.
Woods noted Monday that he is well-aware of the Vikings high standard on defense, even if the unit didn't meet those expectations in 2020.
"I love it. It was another reason why [I came here]. I talked to him, the conversation we had," Woods said of Zimmer and his reputation. "It made me want to come here [more] with the conversation we had and what we talked about. From afar, I've seen his defensive scheme and the positions and the culture around here. I wanted to be a part of it.
"These guys wanted me. The Vikings wanted me," Woods also added. "I talked to Coach [Zimmer] and he told me that I had an opportunity to come and play. That's all I can ask for, the opportunity and, like I said, I told my agent that I wanted to be here."
Time will tell if Woods can make the impact that both he and the Vikings want on the defense in 2021.
But as the calendar flips to April, there is plenty of excitement about the newest member of the Vikings secondary.
"I'm ready to go to work," Woods said.