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Trio of former Gophers making most of longshot opportunity with Vikings

EAGAN, Minn.—On Friday, May 4, about 20 miles from Dinkytown, a trio of former Minnesota Gophers were busy trying to make a name for themselves on the first day of Vikings rookie minicamp at the team's new training facility in Eagan.

While no Gophers were selected in last week's NFL Draft, running back Kobe McCrary, safety Kunle Ayinde and defensive tackle Merrick Jackson were awarded tryouts with Minnesota with the hope of making the Vikings' roster ahead of OTAs.

"Just (trying to show) that I can play at a high level," said McCrary, who joined the Gophers as a junior college transfer and finished his Division I career with 133 rushes for 738 yards and 11 touchdowns. "You know, last season I didn't have too many reps, and with the reps I did have I made the most of it."

All three players are trying to make the most of this opportunity with the Vikings, and all agree that it helps to have former teammates along for the ride.

"It's good to have some other people to come out and talk to and kind of bounce ideas off of," Ayinde said. "It's been good to have them around."

Ayinde ended his college career with 117 tackles and a pair of interceptions, while Jackson, a situational player with the Gophers, had 3 1/2 career sacks.

"I feel like if I do what I need to do, (my skills will) be evident," Jackson added. "That's what I'm focused on doing right now."

All three understand that making the Vikings is a long shot, but that hasn't stopped them from competing.

"I've always kind of been an underdog, so I've always kind of had the mind-set of doing a little more," Ayinde said. "Whether that's going in the film room early or staying late on the practice field, I'm going to do whatever I can to get that edge above everybody."

At this point, it's about trying to prove to every other NFL team that they made a mistake by not signing them.

"That's exactly what we're trying to do," Jackson said. "It'd be great if we all made the team. That said, for us to even get this opportunity shows a lot. It's huge for the (Gophers) program."

"It really starting to hit me today," he added. "It's a dream come true to play in the NFL. These are first steps toward doing that"