Sometimes all it takes is for one person in the right place to see you and make a judgment on you to give you a shot at an NFL career. Such was the case for UTEP cornerback Adrian Ward, the seventh-round draft pick of the Vikings.
Ward, who led the Miners in interceptions in each of his two seasons with UTEP, knows his NFL dream is a long shot. When he looks at a cornerback depth chart on the Vikings and sees Antoine Winfield, Fred Smoot, Brian Williams, Ken Irvin and Ralph Brown, it can be a little daunting. But, he's looking to catch someone's eye and make a name for himself.
"I'll (try to fit in) any way I can," Ward said. "Special teams – whatever – just trying to make the roster."
He does have one thing going in his favor – speed. As the draft was winding down, the Vikings were looking at a couple of specific needs – a kicker and a potential return specialist. The kicker idea died when the Jets moved in front of the Vikings to take Ohio State's Mike Nugent. The kick return position remained a possibility, and that's likely where Ward will get his opportunity to make an impact.
Ward wasn't able to showcase his talents at the Combine, because he wasn't invited. The Sporting News listed 92 cornerbacks on its draft rankings and Ward wasn't among them. He also wasn't on a list of 80 prospects compiled by Pro Football Weekly. CBS Sportsline listed his name, but no stats and a silhouette where a photo was supposed to be. Only draft savant Mel Kiper noted his potential, ranking him 76th.
But clearly the Vikings saw something in him and he's convinced it's his 4.37 time in the 40-yard dash. He hopes to parlay that into a return job – competing with Keenan Howry for that spot. He knew the Vikings had an interest, but didn't know to what extent until the final round of the draft.
"Earlier during (the offseason) they talked to me," Ward said. "Earlier in the year I knew they had some interest – (my) coach told me that (Vikings scouts) had come to see him."
As difficult as it is for a seventh-rounder to make an NFL roster is, Ward's battle will be even more difficult. Why? He doesn't return punts.
"I didn't (return punts in college), but I'm capable," Ward said. "I've done it in high school, so I think I have a knack for it. I wasn't really given the opportunity to do it (at UTEP)."
While he doesn't have the fanfare or media attention of the picks that went off the board Saturday, he will join the 400 or more NFL rookie hopefuls looking to prolong their football dreams. And, if he can once again catch the attention of the right person, he will take another step to beating the long odds stacked against him.
Ward Looking To Overcome Long Odds
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