Gophers edge rusher Esezi Otomewo moved to tears after being drafted by Vikings
Otomewo became the first Golden Gophers player drafted by the Vikings since they took linebacker Nate Triplett in the fifth round in 2010
Tough guys don’t cry, right? Well, not exactly.
The Vikings on Saturday selected University of Minnesota edge rusher Esezi Otomewo with the No. 165 pick in the fifth round of the NFL draft in Las Vegas. It didn’t take him long to get emotional.
“When I first got the phone call, I looked down at the phone and saw it was a 612 number,’’ Otomewo said. “I instantly knew Minnesota. I just looked around, tears came down my face and I picked up and it was emotions flying left and right. It hit me. I haven’t cried like that in a minute. I was just ecstatic.’’
Otomewo became the first Golden Gophers player drafted by the Vikings since they took linebacker Nate Triplett in the fifth round in 2010. Triplett didn’t make the team, but Vikings’ first-year general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah obviously hopes it will be different with Otomewo.
“I think he’s got a bright future,’’ said Adofo-Mensah, who had Otomewo in for a pre-draft visit. “He’s gritty, he’s tough, he’s got a quiet leadership presence about him. I haven’t gotten to meet (Gophers) coach (P.J.) Fleck yet, but he sent me the purple rower thing with all the team’s signature on it. I’m excited to meet him. I’ve heard so much about their culture.”
Entering the draft, Otomewo wasn’t certain where he stood with the Vikings.
“I didn’t know how much they were heavily watching me,’’ he said. “I kind of like knew they liked me a lot, but I didn’t know how much.”
Otomewo redshirted as a freshman in 2017 and didn’t start any games in 2018 or 2019 until moving into the lineup in 2020. In 2021, he had 4 ½ sacks while starting all 13 games.
Otomewo didn’t go through the pre-draft process since he hurt his knee in the Gophers’ bowl game last December, and he figured that would drop him to the fourth or fifth round. He said he didn’t need surgery and that he’s “good to go.”
The Vikings were expected to bring in a punter to compete with Jordan Berry, and that’s what will happen.
Following the conclusion of the draft, the Vikings agreed to terms with Ryan Wright, an undrafted free agent from Tulane who averaged 47.5 yards per punt in 2021. He will look to beat out Berry, who has a one-year contract worth the minimum of $1.12 million with no guaranteed money.
The Vikings agreed to terms with seven other undrafted free agents, headed by Wake Forest linebacker Luiji Vilain, whom a source said got a $20,000 signing bonus and had $207,000 of his rookie contract guaranteed. Others to agree to terms were Miami of Ohio safety Mike Brown; Appalachian State wide receiver Thomas Hennigan; Toledo running back Bryant Koback; Miami of Florida linebacker Zach McCloud; Sacred Heart center Josh Sokol; and Tulsa defensive tackle Tyarise Sevenson,
Virginia Tech receiver Tre Turner was announced by the Vikings as having agreed to terms. But a source said he instead will sign with Las Vegas, which is giving him $40,000 in total guaranteed money compared to $2,500 offered by Minnesota.
Tackle Vederian Lowe, a sixth-round pick from Illinois, is married with two young boys and has what he called “full guardianship” of his brother Vydalis, 15.
Lowe said that after their mother Veneka Cockrell died in 2019, there was a period in which Vydalis then needed to help take care of the grandmother of the brothers, who has had health issues. But eventually other arrangements were made, and Lowe and his wife Haylee agreed to take in Vydalis.
“Me and my wife came together and decided to take him out of that situation and we thought we could give him a better life with a more structured household,” Lowe said.
The Vikings got an explosive player with the selection in the fifth round of North Carolina running back Ty Chandler, who rushed for 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 6.0 yards per carry.
“Hopefully, I hit some home-run plays,” Chandler said. Adofo-Mensah said he will be valuable in the passing game.
Wide receiver Jalen Nailor, a sixth-round pick from Michigan State, watched the draft while “chilling” at his home in Las Vegas. He didn’t attend any draft festivities. … Tight end Nick Muse, a seventh-round pick from South Carolina, is the brother of Seattle linebacker Tanner Muse. … On making six trades during the draft, Adofo-Mensah said he wanted to “target parts of the board because it’s an auction.”