Loadholt ready to compete for starting job

The Vikings addressed the offensive line in the second round of the draft, taking massive tackle Phil Loadholt of Oklahoma to help lead the way for fellow former Sooner Adrian Peterson.

Throughout the weeks leading up to the draft, a name that had been linked to the Vikings in the second round was offensive tackle Phil Loadholt. A mountain of a man at 6-foot-8, 330 pounds, Loadholt was a player the Vikings had an interest in – he was one of the 30 players invited to Winter Park for a pre-draft visit. But the biggest question concerning him was whether he would be still be available when the Vikings were scheduled to pick.

In the 2008 draft, offensive tackles flew off the board with regularity in the first round, including some that almost universally received second-round grades. There was a feeling that history could repeat itself Saturday, especially when three tackles came off the board in the first eight picks.

But after that initial flurry, only two tackles came off the board prior to the Vikings' next pick – Michael Oher at No. 23 and Eben Britton at No. 39. Loadholt was a player the Vikings coveted and he said they were in his sights as well.

"I couldn't ask for a better situation," Loadholt said. "I'm very happy right now."

Loadholt said he was impressed with the organization for some time, which took fellow Sooner Adrian Peterson in the first round of the 2007 draft. Although both played at Oklahoma, Loadholt and Peterson were never teammates. Loadholt spent his first two college seasons at Garden City Junior College in Kansas and didn't begin playing for the Sooners until 2007.

But through Peterson and others in the OU football program, he had a high opinion of the Vikings and they were one of the teams on his wish list.

"Even before I came up (to Winter Park) for my (pre-draft) visit, I saw what a great organization they were," Loadholt said. "I was definitely excited for the opportunity to play in Minnesota and the great tradition they have there. I felt really good about the whole process."

Although Loadholt played left tackle in college, he is expected to compete for the starting right tackle job with the Vikings. When asked if the transition from one side of the line to the other would be difficult or potentially take some time, Loadholt said he will hit the ground running at his new position – which isn't entirely new.

"Not at all," Loadholt said of the transition time to the right side. "I played right tackle at the Senior Bowl and some in junior college. I'm very comfortable on the right side and I'm looking forward to it."

Loadholt said he was getting a little anxious as he dropped into the second half of the second round. He had thought he might go late in the first round, where two teams that had brought him in for a visit – the Ravens at No. 26 and the Steelers at Pick No. 32 – might select him. The only other team that brought him for a visit – the Raiders – inexplicably took little-known safety Michael Mitchell with the 47th pick, opening the door for the Vikings to grab him.

Loadholt said the strength of his game is finishing blocks and driving opponents to the turf. He has been described – in good terms in NFL jargon – as playing with a mean streak and physically mauling his opposite number. He admits that he needs to improve playing with better leverage and improve his technique in respect to his footwork, but that will come in time.

How much time that will take will go a long way to determining whether Loadholt is a starter on opening day or not. For his part, his goal isn't simply to make the roster. He wants and expects to be starting when the games count in September.

"I'm definitely coming in with the mindset of competing (for a starting job)," Loadholt said. "I'm a competitor. I love to compete. I'm just excited about the opportunity and looking forward to competing. (Head coach Brad Childress) told me the opportunity is there to compete for a job. That's what I'm coming here to do."

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