Former Gopher’s trip to NFL prospect needed help

The Minnesota Vikings have talked with a former Minnesota Gopher that needed some help to find his college home.

Jalen Myrick’s journey to the NFL draft needed some help from a former Minnesota Gophers coach, but it wasn’t the former football coach.

Myrick, who grew up in Bloomingdale, Ga., needed some family connections with former Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith to find his way to a Big 10 team. Myrick’s father has a friend that moved from Georgia to Minneapolis and knew Smith. After seeing Myrick’s highlights from his junior year, Smith turned them over to former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill. That led to Myrick landing on the Gophers football team.

It was a long way for the speedster to earn his chance at the major college level, but he eventually took advantage. However, Myrick needed to undergo a maturation.

Former Gophers defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said Myrick was “like 18 going on 15” when the cornerback first arrive in Minnesota.

“I would say I started growing up my junior year,” Myrick responded when asked about that. “Going into my junior year was probably the biggest transition I made growing up and I feel it carried on to my senior year and I feel I matured a lot.”

A collapsed lung that he suffered during his junior year when he was tackled on a kickoff return showed him how quickly his NFL dream could be threatened, and now he views himself as a student of the game, an aspect of the position that is so important in the NFL.

“I’m looking at the receiver splits, looking at the whole formation and seeing what kind of concepts they have out of this formation, what has been ran, what can beat me in this formation?” he said.

Myrick was a two-time Honorable Mention Big 10 selection and had 41 tackles, including 3½ for a loss, and led the Gophers with 12 passes defensed as a senior. However, he said NFL coaches want to see him be more aggressive going after the ball in the air, and he said he agrees with their assessment.

“Things they want to see me improve on – instead of going for the [pass breakup], go for the interception. Be a better player,” he said. “I had five career interceptions, but I should have had about 10.”

The Minnesota Vikings didn’t conduct a formal interview with Myrick at the NFL Scouting Combine, but they got a look at him at the East-West Shrine Game and, he said, had been talking to him throughout the year.

His ability to return kicks (43 kickoffs for 1,052 yards with a 100-yard return for a touchdown) adds to his NFL value.

His size (5-foot-9½ and 200 pounds) will likely dictate that he play inside as a nickel cornerback, but his 4.28-second 40-yard dash, the fastest among defensive backs at the NFL Scouting Combine, likely would have generated more attention if Washington WR John Ross hadn’t broke the Scouting Combine record prior to Myrick running it.

Either way, the former Georgia state runner-up in the 100 meters has the speed and the desire to make it in the NFL and the Vikings are likely to be among the teams interested in him.

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