Triplett sees Minnesota advantage

Nate Triplett continues his football career in Minnesota and believes his Gopher roots may have contributed to being drafted by the Vikings. He talked about his first experiences after a recent rookie practice and what it's like to take the next step up without leaving the state.

Nate Triplett had a feeling his home-state Vikings would be the one to select him, and he was still ecstatic to be staying in Minnesota after a recent rookie camp practice.

"I was a little nervous right away, but as soon as you hear the familiar whistles and coaches yelling at you, telling you where you need to go, it's pretty familiar. All that being scared about the first day kind of turns into excitement," Triplett said after his first practice in purple.

Triplett's journey to the NFL didn't take him far. He grew up in Delano, about 25 minutes west of Minneapolis, and played for the University of Minnesota. Just like his days ahead with the Vikings might provide a struggle to make the 53-man roster, he was a walk-on with the Gophers who eventually earned a scholarship and blossomed from there.

By his senior year, he was finally given a chance to start every game, and the Vikings' scouts took notice.

"I think playing with the Gophers that the (Vikings) coaches had definitely got to see a little bit more of my tape and maybe more of me in person playing," Triplett said while standing on the Winter Park practice fields that are even closer to Delano. "I think they know me as a person and just how I play. I'm just excited to keep playing, especially with this linebacker corps."

Triplett said he talked briefly before his first practice with another regional linebacker, South Dakota native and Iowa Hawkeyes product Chad Greenway. The main piece of advice the veteran offered was to keep studying the playbook, but motivation doesn't sound like it will be an issue for Triplett.

"Nate has got a high motor. I saw him on some of our special-teams drills to start practice and he's a fast blinker," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "He gets what he's looking at. I've mentioned before that he's a big body. Without going and looking at the team film I thought he did just fine."

Triplett had another familiar face watching his first practice last week – Gophers head coach Tim Brewster. He and Triplett didn't have a chance to talk – "a little busy running around between special teams and all the linebacker stuff," Triplett said – but Brewster did offer some words of encouragement on the day the linebacker was drafted. That also happened to be the Gophers' spring game, which Triplett attended shortly after finding out that the Vikings drafted him in the fifth round.

After registering 105 tackles, including five for a loss, two interceptions and five pass breakups for the Gophers in his senior season, Triplett is moving on to proving himself to another set of coaches, but he doesn't believe he needs to do anything extraordinary to impress them. They already believe in his abilities as a special-teams player, but ultimately Triplett wants to earn action at linebacker.

"I think just showing everything that I did this last year down at Minnesota. In practice, my ability to make plays and my speed to the ball and things like that. Being consistent and doing that in practice will earn me a spot," he said.

So far, so good. The coaches have started with the basics with the rookies and will be moving on to more in-depth studies as the spring and summer progress.

Triplett appreciates the pace and wasn't feeling overwhelmed as he gets acclimated to life on an NFL practice field.

"The coaches are pretty good about teaching at this level. If you have a question, they're always willing to answer that, but at the same time you have to have kind of a quick wit about you and pick things up a little faster than you did in college too," he said. "It kind of takes a little bit of leeway on both sides, but it's going pretty well."

While the difficulty of the defensive installations will increase, Triplett is fortunate to have a couple of advantages over most NFL rookies. He isn't moving further away from family and he knows quite a bit about his new team – he grew up cheering for them.

Making the move from college to the NFL is a change no matter what, but Triplett is finding the time to enjoy the experience as well.

"It's a little weird walking into a new locker room no matter where you play. With the Gophers walking in, I was a little awe-struck. I had always wanted to play there my whole life," Triplett said. "Now walking in and seeing those big names (Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson) is pretty cool too. Just being in that same locker room was a pretty cool thing."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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