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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings rookie safety Jayron Kearse motivated by past, ‘tough’ draft slide

By Andrew Krammer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — In the same city where eight years ago Jayron Kearse was arrested on a felony charge of robbery/home invasion, the dream started to become unclear again.

Kearse, a safety from the NCAA-finalist Clemson defense, watched his close friends and teammates get the call. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander, whom with Kearse held film sessions before Tigers games, was taken by the Vikings in the second round. Fellow Clemson safety and college roommate T.J. Green went three picks later to the Colts. The Falcons took De’Vondre Campbell, ex-Gophers linebacker and Kearse’s childhood friend in Ft. Myers, Fla., in the fourth round.

As picks continued to scroll across the television screen, Kearse’s frustration mounted. He’d left Clemson a year early after saying he received a second-round grade by the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Nearly four months later, on Saturday, April 30th, his phone started to ring with offers should he go undrafted.

“I’d say probably around the midpoint of the sixth round I stopped watching,” Kearse said. “Just thinking my time wouldn’t come.

“Overall, it was a pretty tough day for me.”

That Saturday, Kearse said he left a three-day viewing party full of friends and family at his mother’s house and went for a drive. Shortly after returning, he received the call from Minnesota. He wasn’t a first-round pick like Jevon Kearse, his uncle and former Titans sack artist, or Phillip Buchanon, his cousin and ex-NFL cornerback. But he was drafted. His name was called. The Vikings took him with their final pick at 244th overall in the seventh round.

“I’m thankful it was with the Vikings,” he said. “I like this system, it complements my playing style and gives the the opportunity to play great football.”

Football is in Kearse’s blood and surrounds him. Though before he stood 6-feet-4-inches tall, he was out of the sport he’d played since he was five years old. At age 14, Kearse and another minor were arrested in July 2008, just hours after they committed armed robbery while others in the group stood outside, according to WBBH-TV.

He was in junior high and going the wrong direction, Kearse said. Getting caught that summer night was a “turning point.” He returned to football in high school and the rest is history.

“I believe that’s what has made me who I am today,” Kearse said. “I probably wouldn’t be here if that didn’t happen. It really changed my whole mindset, the way I looked things and the way I carried myself. That was a turning point. Since then, I’ve been motivated to go do great things. Just make my mom proud, make my family proud and also make myself proud. Going on that path, I definitely wouldn’t have been proud of myself. When I got to the end of my life, thinking I could’ve done this, I could’ve done that. I don’t want to be saying shoulda, coulda, woulda. Just put my foot to the pedal and try to go get it. Now I’m in a position to go get it.”

Kearse is seemingly in good hands. More motivation rises to provide for his family, including his 11-month-old daughter Ja’riah. On the field, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is known, even by the 22-year-old Kearse, as a “DBs guy specifically.” And Kearse rejoins Alexander, his former college teammate and roommate. The two would study opponents’ film together on Friday nights before games. Sometimes they attracted additional eager minds.

“We brought everybody in the secondary with us,” Alexander said. “We definitely made it mandatory and stuff like that. We were the leaders on the defense.”

The extra work continued as soon as Vikings rookie minicamp earlier this month. Following practice, the duo were some of the last players on the field as they worked through styles of backpedaling and other techniques they’d just learned. Alexander’s self-described “sick” work ethic is well-documented as he grew up sweating in orange and tomato fields as the son of two Haitian immigrants.

“When you see him putting in the work, you can’t help but go do the exact same thing,” Kearse said. “We push each other. We’re brothers and we love each other. We want to be great together.”

Both players come with questions. For Alexander, no interceptions in college creates uncertainty, whether warranted or not, about his ability to play the football. Predicting Kearse’s future is even spottier. He left Clemson after a junior season in which he recorded career highs in tackles for a loss (6.5) and pass deflections (6). Though Kearse’s play wasn’t near as consistent to attract the same attention his teammates received. He possesses intriguing traits, but didn’t put his best foot forward in the Tigers’ Orange Bowl game against Oklahoma, said Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.

“He has such unique length and he moves well and can drop his hips for that kind of size and height, and his stride even covers a lot of ground when you watch him on tape,” Spielman said. “Does he have to get cleaned up technically? Sure he does. You see some times when he comes up and explodes into hits and other times when he gets a little out of control at times and will miss some tackles.”

The Vikings hope they have landed a seventh-round steal.

Kearse will be just the latest safety to audition for Harrison Smith’s secondary mate. Smith, the fifth-year Pro Bowl safety, has started next to a different player in each of his four Week 1 openers. The Vikings view Kearse as a free safety, according to Spielman, which is the mold they’re looking for in order to free Smith to do more damage near the line of scrimmage.

There’s an opening. And as if he doesn’t have enough motivation, he set a reminder to himself and everyone else with the number ‘244′ atop his Twitter profile.

“Two hundred and forty three guys went before me,” Kearse said.

The post Vikings rookie safety Jayron Kearse motivated by past, ‘tough’ draft slide appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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