Football Wasn't Originally Lowber's Idea

Todd Lowber had just returned from Germany when a trainer who hadn't even seen him play sports started questioning him about being a wide receiver. Now he's got a legitimate shot to make the Vikings roster thanks to the help of that trainer and others, including a familiar last name.

Growing up, Todd Lowber dreamed of playing in the National Basketball Association, not the National Football League.

But the wide receiver now wearing No. 86 during Vikings offseason practices is trying to get past his fascination with Philadelphia-area high school basketball stars like Kobe Bryant and make his own mark on the professional sports scene.

"It was hard for me to make that decision. I'm thinking tunnel-vision basketball, get overseas and try and get in the NBA, but sometimes you have to take a different direction in life," Lowber said last week after a Vikings practice. "I just stuck to it and had faith that it would work out. At one point, it didn't look like it – people couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just had to say to myself, ‘You've got to believe in it. You took this direction, you've got to stick to it.'"

While he ran track and played basketball at Ramapo College of New Jersey, he has the best chance to represent his former college by playing football on the professional level.

"We were a small school, but I'm proud of where I come from. … Me being here, it puts them out there (for publicity). I graduated and that was a big accomplishment for me," said Lowber, who said Ramapo doesn't have a fight song but he could make one up.

He graduated with a degree in law and society, but after working in a law firm in Hoboken, N.J., for a year, it became apparent to him that it wasn't a career he wanted to pursue by enrolling in law school.

While reminiscing about his high school days in the South Jersey area, Lowber wondered if he would ever get on a high school sports show as a basketball player instead of the show regularly interviewing Bryant. Now, Lowber has an opportunity to strive for much better publicity than a high school sports show.

After Lowber returned from Germany early last year, Tom Scott, who used to be a strength and conditioning trainer for the Rutgers women's basketball team, told Lowber his skills would translate well into a football career.

"The first time I met him, he just looked at me and said, ‘Look, I can see you have the tools to be a legitimate wide receiver. He actually didn't ask me about my speed initially. He just said, ‘Man, you're fast,' but I had never seen him in my life. He just said, ‘Man, you're fast, I can tell. Did you ever play football before?' That was the first question."

But it wasn't quite that quick, clean and easy for Lowber to get into the NFL.

He had his blazing speed, but he didn't have any experience in preparing for football. Enter Jim Garrett, the father of Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and a former NFL assistant and college head coach, who trained Lowber for 10 months. Together, they mainly worked to improve the route-running skills of the 6-foot-3, 205-pound athlete.

Then came his first pro day, where the stopwatches registered a 4.1-second 40-yard dash. A Vikings scout was in attendance.

"That was the 4.1. That was the reality of it," said Lowber, diffusing praise for that accomplishment. "Before that, he wasn't looking at me because I'm not a polished receiver. I'm not polished on my routes, but once that speed comes out, you can work with that. If you've got the ability, you can teach the other stuff – you can learn that. That's only a matter of reps and time. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but it's a reality that I'm going to be here, hopefully."

Lowber admits that he still needs to improve on his routes, and Vikings wide receivers coach George Stewart continues to emphasize those details that can make Lowber better. He has the speed – he might be the fastest player in the NFL – and he has the hands from a lifetime of playing basketball. He even said the way he played basketball proves he is tough enough to play in the NFL.

But first he needed a team to offer him a contract, and the Vikings weren't the first.

He said the Philadelphia Eagles were actually the first team to offer him, but that offer didn't appeal to him because of him being a raw receiver. He indicated that he felt his chances to develop were better with the Vikings, calling their offer the first "legitimate" one.

"I can't thank them any more because that took a lot for a guy to pull the trigger and say, ‘We see the talent.' There are a lot of teams that can overlook that, saying, ‘Yeah, you're fast, but that don't mean anything. This is football.' But they (the Vikings) see some other intangibles."

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