What a difference a year makes.
In April 2003, when Mike Tice appeared before hard-core fans at the Vikings draft party, he had been the victim for the second time of problems with the 15-minute clock and, with the crowd in a lather for the Vikings to take defensive end Terrell Suggs, Tice was booed lustily.
In April 2004, there couldn't have been a more pronounced difference after fans learned that USC defensive end Kenechi Udeze, who many draft experts had going in the top 10 picks, was the newest member of the Vikings. Tice was cheered like a political candidate at a fundraising dinner. The smile on his face lit up the fan party and he was able to joke with the crowd – a far cry from the boos and middle fingers he endured the previous year.
"It worked out a little better than last year, huh?" asked Tice with a smile. "We were very fortunate to get Kenechi – the guy we love. We were all keeping our fingers crossed in the draft room – and I'm sure all Vikings fans – that we would pick a defensive player. And we picked up a hell of a defensive player. It just brings us one step closer to what you (the fans) deserve – a Super Bowl ring."
Udeze's drop down the draft board was likely the result of a shoulder injury he sustained at the end of last season, but that wasn't a huge concern to the Vikings – who had done their homework firsthand.
"He was the only player we brought in for a physical," Tice told VU. "We were concerned about (the injury) – but not as much as if we had been (picking) at No. 7."
Director of College Scouting Scott Studwell said the Vikings' fortunate draft position resulted from a run on wide receivers – five in the first 15 picks – that left three players the Vikings coveted – Udeze, Will Smith and linebacker D.J. Williams still on the board with only two picks left in front of the Vikings.
"We knew that wide receiver was going to set the tone (in the first round)," Studwell told VU. "Several teams needed a wide receiver and there were some talented ones out there."
Studwell found himself squirming a bit as the Vikings traded down one spot with Miami to secure a fourth-round pick. With the Patriots looking to leap-frog the Dolphins to get offensive lineman Vernon Carey, Tice said he contemplated getting greedy and toyed with the idea of trying to make another deal to move down.
"We thought about it, but Scott was screaming ‘Make the pick!' so we did," Tice said.
And, after two years of battling the 15-minute clock, it wasn't a problem this time around.
"If it was up to me, I would have made the pick with 14:59 left on the clock," Studwell told VU.
Udeze An Easy Pick
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