SATURDAY, APRIL 27, 2013
5th round choice, #120, LB Gerald Hodges
Q: What do you think about getting drafted by the Vikings?
A: There’s no other feeling in the world. I’m talking weight off my shoulders type of feeling. I’m just sitting here watching it and I just so happen to get in the shower to try to take the stress off me and as I’m getting out of the shower my phone was ringing. I wasn’t even rushing to get to the phone because I didn’t know what it was but I get over there and I see Minnesota and I look on the board and it says Minnesota pick and I just started crying. It’s a blessing.
Q: Did you expect to go a little earlier?
A: Yes sir. You know like I said, I expected to go earlier and I thought I was going to go earlier, but God has his plan for every person and God puts me where he wants to put me and who he wants to put me with and I let him take it in his hands and let him guide me. It’s just a real moment right now. It’s just a blessing and a lot of weight off my shoulders and my family too.
Q: Did Minnesota talk to you about how they might use you at all?
A: Yes sir. I just got off the phone with them and they told me they really liked me and you got a chance to really come here and make a real impact for us. So whatever you guys need me to do I’m ready to do it, I’m ready to be a Viking and ready to get started.
Q: Are they going to use you on the outside?
A: They didn’t say. I told them I can play either outside or inside. I can just play the linebacker position as well and I believe that I’m going to do nothing but get better at the linebacker position. I have had great coaches that made me ready, and I’m just ready to go.
Q: Were you the will backer in 2011, and the SAM in 2012?
A: Yes sir, that’s right.
Q: When’s the last time you played middle?
A: I never played middle. Sometimes coming in playing different teams I moved into the box sometimes but I never played a true middle-backer until practice.
Q: I see you were a former safety, how comfortable do you feel dropping in coverage?
A: I feel very comfortable. I feel like that was one of my strong points and that’s why I wanted to go a little bit earlier than when I went in the fact that I was great in the coverage. But like I said, God has a plan and the coaches see certain things in players that they want so I’d feel real comfortable in coverage and playing in the box at the same time.
Q: What was it like to get recruited and play for Coach Paterno?
A: It was a blessing. It was like being coached by, not a God because no one is higher than God, but it was like being coached by a legend while he was still coaching. That was a blessing to even be in his hands. He was more of a father figure than I would say coach. He taught a lot football, but at the same time, he taught us a lot about how to be a man and how to show respect so it was definitely a blessing being able to play for him.
Q: How difficult was it when players were leaving? Were you one of those players who tried to make sure as many players stayed as you could possibly get?
A: Yes sir. We didn’t really have to go around and tell guys because we had a big meeting through the players in which we talked to the guys. But like I said, God has a plan for everyone and we couldn’t do too much. If someone said they were leaving it’s not like we could chase them down and make them stay because they’re going to make a decision, but it was our job to let those guys know what it means to play Penn State football and what it means to be a part of a family. That was our main goal which was to let them know the true meaning of playing Penn State football. It wasn’t trying to make them stay or anything like that, it was to let them know what the situation was and how they should feel about it before they should go making decisions just because we couldn’t play in the bowl game.
Q: Why did they move you from safety to linebacker?
A: My freshman year, Navarro Bowman and Sean Lee, had a few injuries my freshman year so about the third or fourth game of the season, I went down there and I wanted to play a little bit more than I was playing and I went down there and told him I wanted to play line backer and he recruited me my whole high school career, that was my line backer coach so he wanted me to come in there and brought me down there. That’s what he wanted the whole time I believe. I was just ready to go play and go get on the field.
Q: You added 30 pounds since your freshman year, do you think you’ve maxed out on the bulk strength you can add?
A: No sir. I believe I’ve been keeping my weight just stable because I have been flying around through this whole process, but I believe once I get on my regimen I can put on weight or lose weight; whatever the coach needs me to do.
Q: With the off field stuff going on in the last couple of years, do you think it was a real maturing process for you?
A: Definitely. I believe throughout this last year it was truly a maturing process. With a new coach coming in and having to learn new defenses and having to learn against new offenses, NFL offenses at that, just being able to talk to younger guys and let them know how you feel about the program, it was a blessing to even be in the situation. I feel like it was also very maturing to them when everyone is trying to knock us down and just being able to have other guys in your class to be there by your side to help mature as a person, as well as a man.
Q: How did you monitor the draft Thursday night?
A: I just sat there and watched it with my mother and father and watched it progress. Each and every guy that I knew, congratulations, because at the end of the day we’re all trying to attain the same goal and we’re trying to be the best and maximize our potential. I wasn’t mad or anything, I was a little frustrated with more and more rounds and more and more picks that fell, but God has his plan for me and God now has me where he wants me.
Q: Did you take note at all on Thursday of what the Vikings did?
A: No sir. Like I said, when I talked to the Vikings at the combine and then on my pro day, I wasn’t thinking they were thinking about me, because for some reason there were other teams that were very interested in me and you think those other teams are going to draft you. But at the end of the day, not every team you interview with is going to draft you and any team can like you from what they see on film and know that you’re a good person at heart so I didn’t even know they were really that interested in me. It wasn’t until they called me when I was like, this is an amazing feeling.
Q: Which teams did you think were interested in you?
A: Teams like Tampa Bay, Dallas, New Orleans, teams like that when every time a pick came up there was no phone call, I was just waiting around and was thinking, well maybe someone will pick me up and then I hopped in the shower and when I came out my phone was ringing showing Minnesota and felt like it was such an amazing feeling.
Q: Did you say you played Mike at the Shrine game?
A: Yes sir. We were in a 3-4, where I played inside linebacker.
Q: Did you feel comfortable doing that?
A: Yes sir, I felt very comfortable. With my potential in being able to move quickly that could really improve my game and improve my work playing inside linebacker because of being able to move as well as I can inside the box and outside the box.
Q: What was it like returning kicks?
A: That was fun. That right there shows my loyalty that the coaches trusted in me, the loyalty they have for me and the respect they have for me, and for them to even put me back there as a linebacker shows the loyalty and the trust they had in me.
5th Round Choice, #155, P Jeff Locke
Q: What did you feel about being drafted by the Vikings?
A: Just very excited. I can’t wait to come out and work with Coach [Mike] Priefer and the rest of the staff and get to meet the team and get to work.
Q: Was this about where you were expecting to go?
A: You can’t really expect anything in this process. I was just kind of hoping to go. My agent had said around the sixth round so that’s all we had.
Q: Do you know Chris Kluwe? Have you ever worked out with him at all?
A: I met [Chris] Kluwe one time at UCLA and then he was at the USC game this year. I saw him on the sideline and shook his hand and talked for a little bit but we haven’t talked a whole lot.
Q: Do you expect to compete with him? Do you know what you’re walking into right now?
A: I just know I’m competing. Talking to Coach Priefer, he said just come in and be ready to work and that’s all I’m going with.
Q: What was the extent of your communication with Coach Priefer throughout the pre-draft?
A: Pre-draft we talked at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine. We had one-on-one sit downs and went over some stats and stuff and spoke at both of those events. Then he came out for a private workout at UCLA with me. We had dinner the night before and just did the workout and that was kind of the extent of our talking.
Q: Growing up, were you more interested in soccer or football?
A: Definitely growing up I was a big soccer player. I hadn’t really touched a football until I got to high school and then it kind of just took off from there when I started kicking and getting more serious about it.
Q: Will it be awkward at all competing with Chris Kluwe?
A: I don’t think it would be. I’m just going to come in and compete. Either way you’re competing with somebody in the NFL no matter where you go. I’m just going to come in and do my best.
Q: You know his off-field reputation of course it proceeds him wherever he goes; do you have any thoughts about that or are you just thinking about the football field and trying to kick?
A: Yeah, just what you said at the end. I’m just going to come in and do the best that I can. I haven’t done a whole lot following Kluwe with his off-the-field stuff that you were talking about, so I’m just ready to come in and play football.
Q: You were on the National College Players Association board; what sort of work did you guys do?
A: We organized some players; we tried to education players mainly on issues going around college athletics. We helped get a bill passed in California. It was just kind of an intern job and just what we call the Players Council. Just helping out the President of that organization.
Q: What have the Vikings told you about what they want out of you out of this position?
A: They just told me they want me to come in and come kickoff to the best of my abilities. I’m just going to come in and give them the best I have.
Q: Do you think you’ll be competing with the kickoff job because Blair Walsh is kind of a bomber?
A: I actually just misspoke before, I meant to say punt and hold. Blair Walsh is definitely great on kickoffs. I want to be available to kind of back up that role if necessary. But I’m definitely focusing on punting and holding, sorry for misspeaking before.
6th Round Choice, #196, G Jeff Baca
Q: Is this where you thought you would be drafted?
A: Yeah, me and my agent were talking about (getting picked) on the third day. The call came in, and I couldn’t be any more excited; that’s for sure.
Q: Do you feel comfortable at guard and tackle?
A: Yes; absolutely. I haven’t heard much from coach about what position that I will be playing but I am excited to come in and compete. The more I can do, the better.
Q: Which of those positions (guard or tackle) do you feel stronger at?
A: I really don’t know. I think with great coaching from coach. I’ve heard nothing but great things about him and good coaching from him on technique. I think I can excel at either position.
Q: You looking forward to blocking for Adrian Peterson?
A: Yeah, definitely. I didn’t give it much thought until my brother said something and I’m extremely excited to be blocking for him.
Q: Did the Vikings have much contact with you?
A: They did. Not an overwhelmingly amount but we were in contact at the East-West Shrine game, and again at the combine, and also in contact this last month or so.
Q: You played some center in one of the bowls too didn’t you?
A: Yes, sir. I played about three quarters of it in the bowl game.
Q: Do you feel like you can be versatile anywhere along the line?
A: Absolutely, and I believe I can play all three positions on the line. Like I said , with proper coaching, I think that is something I can absolutely do.
Q: You’re not the biggest, strongest guy. Do you expect to put on some weight?
A: I would love to grow some more (laughter). I wouldn’t be opposed to that. I haven’t talked to coach about what he wants me to weigh. I am about 304 (lbs) right now, so whatever he wants when he sees me next week or whenever we talk.
Q: What do you see is the strength of your game?
A: My athletic ability and my versatility. The ability to play multiple positions on the offensive line.
Q: You had the best time in the three cone drill among offensive lineman at the combine. Did that mean much to you?
A: It does, especially with the amount of time I have put in, doing those drills and getting coached up in Southern California by prolific athletes and Ryan Flaretty down there. The amount of work that we put in (is a lot) and I do take pride in that, and also showing off my ability to pull and hopefully that transitions to the field.
Q: What happened in 2010?
A: I was academically ineligible. I was a pre-med major my first two years at UCLA, and in the Spring quarter of 2010 I was taking Spanish, Biology, and Chemistry. I ended up failing two of the three classes. I got in over my head a little bit and didn’t realize the time commitment that the pre-med major was taking on me and got in a little over my head on that. I changed my major to political science, made the honor roll 7 out of the 8 semesters after that, and finished off and graduated.
Q: So it is easier to be a politician than to be a doctor?
Q: With Locke coming here, do you expect to room with him early on?
A: Oh I don’t even know. I haven’t even really thought about that. I don’t know how they do the rooms or anything. I am just excited to bring my fellow Bruin there to Minnesota.
Q: How do you get all that hair into your helmet?
A: Its actually grown out a lot, so we will see. It might have to go.
7th Round Draft Pick, #213, LB Michael Mauti
Q: What do you think of being picked by the Vikings?
A: I think it is a great opportunity. It is a great organization. I couldn’t be happier.
Q: Did you slide a little further than you expected?
A: I really tried to go into this draft without expectations just because I understand my situation medically. It got more and more difficult as time went on. But I couldn’t be happier to get picked by such a great organization. I have always had respect for the Vikings and what they have been able to do, so I am just happy to be a part of it.
Q: With three knee surgeries, how much time would you said you’ve spent in rehab?
A: Way to much. With those recent injuries I’ve just been rehabbing and getting back; sprinting and things. I feel great as far as agility and stuff like that and I feel like it’s going to be a good summer. I’ll get therapy, and get ready for camp.
Q: Coming from an NFL family would you say that is in your blood?
A: I would think so. Having my dad play 8 years in the league definitely helps. I did everything I could to be in this position and just a great opportunity I have in front of me and I’m just trying to make the most of it.
Q: Are you more of a middle linebacker at Penn State or did you play outside as well?
A: I think more outside, but I think at the next level I will be more of an inside guy. I have a lot of experience in the 4-3 defense, and I have played all three positions at Penn State. I have talked many schemes with the Vikings yet, but I am sure we will get into that more next week.
Q: How are the knees; are you able to come in and compete right away?
A: I think so. I will probably be a little more limited this year and in the OTA’s next weekend but once we get more into the preseason and I am running around and flying around a little bit I’ll be ready to go.
Q: When did each of the injuries occur for you?
A: My most recent one was in the beginning of November of last season. I got high low and there was nothing I can do about that one. I had one in 2011, and another one in 2009 on my right.
Q: Which knee (did you injure) twice?
A: The left.
Q: The Vikings have had pretty good success helping players through torn ACL injuries. Do you take heart in that you’re going to an organization that has had a lot of success working through this injury?
A: Yeah absolutely that gives me confidence. I spoke a little bit with the doctors at the combine and they were confident in the way the MRI’s looked. I had a great surgeon and Dr. Bradley with the Steelers did my surgery. So they understand where I am at, and I think it is going to be a great relationship as far as when I’ll be ready. I think I will be ready by preseason camp so that is my goal and where I plan on being.
Q: What was that whole combine experience like as a guy who was more poked and prodded than other players?
A: It was interesting. You kind of sit there while 32 doctors poke and pull on you. I kind of got the expectations from a number of players that have gone through the process so I had a little bit of an idea what to expect.
Q: A lot of scouting reports with you talk about your leadership skills. How important is that to you with the turmoil your program has been through over the years?
A: I think that just going through the situations that we went through at Penn State which were kind of unprecedented given the whole scandal we were able to take control over our whole program. We view that adversity as an opportunity to make a positive situation with our great senior class. It was the most fun season that I’ve had while playing and we had a great group of guys last year.
Q: As far as getting reunited with Gerald Hodges, how close were you guys through the injury process?
A: I couldn’t be happier to be playing with Gerald next season and the season previously. He’s a great support structure and he’s a familiar face to go through the new process with. I couldn’t be happier in this situation. We have a great opportunity in front of us.
Q: There’s a story that you sent out a letter to all 32 teams general managers, is that true?
A: Ya that’s true. I sent that back in December. I didn’t report that to the media, I just wanted that to be between me and the general managers. I wanted to let them hear from me about where I was and where my mind set was on getting back and healthy. I know I’ll be ready again and it’s all about how you rehab and fight back.
7th Round Draft Choice, #214, OG Travis Bond
Q: Travis what do you think about being a Viking?
A: I love it. I’m very happy with the pick. I feel like I have a lot to prove so I’m just going to come in and work as hard as I can.
Q: What was the extent of your contact with the Vikings during the pre-draft process?
A: I had met with the offensive line coach. He had came to meet me at Carolina to get to know me, find out what type of person I was and basically talk a little football. So that deal went well, worked out at pro day. He had a lot of information to give me about basically how to be an offensive lineman in the NFL. The meeting went well. That was the contact that I had.
Q: What are your strengths?
A: I love run blocking. We got Adrian Peterson, big-time running back. I just want to make sure he has a big hole to run through when he comes scoring touchdowns.
Q: When did Coach Davidson come down there to meet with your privately?
A: He came down in about March, March 25th I want to say. One afternoon just came and met with me and taught me a little bit.
Q: Did he work you out too or just talked?
A: We just talked. The pro day was the next day he basically just did everything in pro day.
Q: Where is your weight at right now?
A: About 327.
Q: Where was it at its high point at UNC?
A: The highest I’ve ever been at, it was about 375, that’s not good at all. I felt like losing the weight helped me a lot in this process.
Q: How difficult was it to drop the weight?
A: It was kind of difficult because I’m a Southern boy, I live about three hours from Chapel Hill. When I come home, my mom and grandma, everybody loves to cook so that was the difficult part, just staying away from home.
Q: What did you have to give up at home?
A: Fried chicken, barbeque, corn bread, macaroni and cheese, pork chop; all of that.
Q: What do you expect to play at for the Vikings? Do you expect to put on a little weight for those guys?
A: I don’t know. Wherever they want me at I can get there because my lowest was 316 and my highest was 375 so I feel like anywhere they want me to play at, I can play at. I think I’m a good athlete for a guy at my size. I can dunk a basketball, I played basketball, so I feel like I’m a pretty good athlete.
Q: What’s it like to get hit by a truck?
A: Oh wow, that was a bit of a shock that night. Not a fun thing to do believe me. Being hit by that truck pretty much turned my life around when it came to riding a scooter, I gave that up easily.
Q: What were the circumstances that happened when you got hit?
A: Let’s see, I was just going to study hall one night and I don’t know, it just happened. Whoever the guy was driving, I don’t know if he was drunk or what, but I just know I got the worst of it. Me and his truck got the worst results.
Q: Did you do a lot of damage to the truck?
A: When I got up and looked at it I was a bit shocked. When I looked there was a dent on the front side on the driver side, there was a dent on the side of his truck. I was hurt in the process and his truck had a boo boo.
Q: When did this happen again?
A: This happened in February 2012, about February 5th I want to say. It was like a Sunday or Monday.
Q: How quick did it take for you to bounce back?
A: I didn’t even know my wrist was broke. I was lifting weights, I wasn’t even going to go to the hospital but my tutor had told me to go to the hospital because they didn’t want me to just pass out or anything. So in the process of within the next few weeks I was bench pressing, I had quite a lot of weight up there and it just felt funny when I was benching. I had got it x-rayed the night I got hit but nothing showed up and I thought that was strange too. So when I got my MRI I came to find out my ulna and my radius were separated.
Q: So you still made it to study hall?
A: Yeah I got right back on the scooter, drove to study hall, my scooter was messed up too, and just drove on to study hall. Some girl came like when I got hit, she ran up to me and was just like, ‘Are you okay, are you alright?’. I was just like, ‘Yeah I’m okay’. She was just like, ‘I feel so helpless’. I said, ‘No you’re okay, it’s fine’. I just laughed about it and went to study hall and explained to my tutor why I was late. My friends were laughing at me because I joke a lot and they thought I was playing but I was like, ‘Dude, go look at my scooter’. Me and the scooter got the worst part of the deal.
Q: Do you remember how much weight you were lifting when you realized something wasn’t right in your wrist?
A: It was about 405 because I think we were doing something with maxing or something. It was about 405 and when I was lifting it just felt funny. I just got up from under the bench and I went and told my head trainer Scott Trulock that my wrist is really feeling weight right now. When I got the MRI, like I said my two bones were separated.
Q: How did you end up playing guard? You’re built like a tackle.
A: I talked to coach a few days ago actually and he told me the reason why I played guard was because we were a little short-handed at guard, which we were. We didn’t have a lot of inside players but we had quite a few tackles. So he felt like in order for me to get on the field, the best thing for me to do was to play guard. I thought about it for a minute and I had never played guard in my life. When I actually got there, I like being physical so when I actually started playing it was pretty fun. Like I said I like being physical, I like getting all up in the defensive tackle’s face. That’s the fun part about football, the battles won and the trenches. I felt like we’re always going to be on the dog when it comes to that situation. People that don’t know sports always think we’re nobodys on the field but we’re actually making the big plays.
Q: What do you think the biggest challenge will be in making the jump to the next level?
A: I would say the pace of the game. I think I’m big enough and strong enough to compete with anybody. It’s just going to be the pace of the game, getting used to my new environment. I wouldn’t say necessarily learning the plays, just the speed of the game. That’s what I would say because at Carolina we played a no-huddle type offense so that was pretty fast and the format to approach that offense in the NFL is going to be pretty much slowed down from that. I think the running process will be there, it will be pretty good for me.
Q: Were you a guard your entire college career?
A: No I played tackle as well. I didn’t start playing tackle the last year because I lost all the weight, but that helped me. Playing tackle was actually the best thing that a lot of people say happened to me because they say it showed how diverse I am. Moving at games, sometimes being guard at one minute then stepping out at tackle the next minute at the same time in the game that I actually get to show people that I can transition my body from being physical to being more technical sound.
Q: Did Coach Davidson say whether he saw you as a tackle or a guard?
A: He did. He said you can play guard, we like you as a guard but we also like you as a tackle as well. So I guess whatever I fit at the best, that’s what he’s thinking right now. Anywhere is fine with me.
7th round, #229, Everett Dawkins, DT, Florida State
Q: What do you think about being a Viking?
A: I’m loving it. We’ve got a great team. We’ve got Christian Ponder, Xavier Rhodes, Sharrif Floyd, Cordarrelle Patterson, a couple more players, Adrian Peterson. I’m ready and I’m loving it.
Q: Are you excited to play with Xavier again?
A: Yes sir. I know Xavier is a shutdown cornerback. You don’t have to worry about anything on this side of the ball because I’m ready.
Q: What type of role did you play there (Florida State)?
A: I played the three technique in the 4-3 defense. My body and my playing style is more of an attack one-gap style and that’s what Minnesota is. I’m loving everything about it and getting to go back to the way I used to play. Getting up the field, getting at the quarterback, and being able to make plays.
Q: Was it frustrating being asked to do something you are not suited for (at Florida State)?
A: Yes, sir. I wasn’t thinking about it at the time back in the college, but I’ve been thinking about it today and it really hit me today when I fell to the 7thround. I expected to go in the 3rd or 4th round. It’s been a hard day for me, but I’m thankful and God put me in the position that I’m in for a reason so I’m just ready to work.
Q: What was it like when you finally did get the call?
A: It was a great feeling. I’d been sitting up here with my family since twelve o’clock and I even watched the draft for a little bit yesterday because I was thinking I might go in the 3rd round, but it was a great feeling and I’m glad they pulled the trigger on me. I’ll make sure they didn’t make the wrong choice.
Q: What did you do between noon and now?
A: I’m in South Carolina and everybody here is a real tight knit group. We basically just sat around watching the draft and eating and everything waiting for the pick.