The life of any Day 3 draft choice is far from a guarantee, but when his name isn’t called until the 245th pick and the 27th choice of the seventh round, at some point he starts to lose hope.
Tocho is a strong player who has an appreciation for the game and is articulate in his praise of Mike Zimmer, who has earned the moniker “Cornerback Whisperer.” Although Tocho will have an uphill struggle to find a place on the 53-man roster, he relishes the opportunity to fight for a spot.
“It feels great and I want to absorb as much time as I can with people that have paved the way and that know a lot of information,” Tocho said. “To play under a coach like Coach Zimmer will just be very beneficial not only for my career, but for this team as well. Being a player, he has given me a role that I will be able to contribute well in.”
In his four years at North Carolina State, Tocho started 36 of 49 career games, recording 122 tackles, 26 passes broken up and six interceptions, giving the Vikings a lot of film to evaluate.
As was obvious as he spoke to the local media Saturday, Tocho was asked what his primary strength as a player is.
Not surprisingly, he highlighted his football intelligence and ability to absorb complicated schemes and multiple assignments.
“My strongest skill set is my football I.Q.,” Tocho said. “In this league, you have to be able not to only just play one position but have multiple roles as far as playing inside, playing outside, sometimes playing high, playing low, playing press, playing off and you have to be able to also understand a lot of concepts, defense and offense formations, defensive personnel, where everybody is going and what your job is. You can’t just limit it to only knowing your role, so I say having a strong football I.Q. like I do is something that has helped me be able to help my teammates and myself to put us in the best position to make plays on the field.”
While smarts are all well and good, Tocho also enjoys the primal aspect of football – two guys lining up against each other with both trying to impose their will.
His strength is obvious on game tape and he punctuated his upper body abilities by performing 21 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine – more than some linemen and players much bigger than he is.
His style was aggressive and in your face by design.
“I’m coming from NC State University and we were definitely a press team going on towards the end of the season and my career,” Tocho said.” Being able to play so much press, but also being able to mix in off of it has been very beneficial for my career and skill level.”
Whether Tocho makes it with the Vikings or not, he plans to make the most of the experience and absorb as much knowledge as possible, especially from Zimmer, ageless wonder Terence Newman and Pro Bowler Xavier Rhodes. He intends to pick the brains of them from the first day he arrives – hoping the knowledge he adds to his repertoire will win the day when the final roster cuts arrive.
“He has been in the league for a very long time and I just cannot wait to get up there and work with him, all of the other veterans, and the rookies and just everybody that is on the team and be able to just absorb the culture,” he said.
Seventh-round rookies are often an endangered species in the NFL in early September when roster cuts are made, but don’t count out Tocho’s chances because the smartest players find a way to have long careers in professional sports.