EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Rookie minicamp in Minnesota next weekend will have a German accent.
Willkommen to the NFL, Moritz Boehringer.
The Vikings made the 22-year-old German wide receiver the first player in league history to be drafted straight from Europe, taking the speedy Boehringer in the sixth round Saturday with the 180th overall selection.
Boehringer tweeted a picture of himself after learning he was drafted:
— Moritz Boehringer (@MoBoehringer) April 30, 2016
“We spend a lot of time trying to look under every rock,” general manager Rick Spielman said, adding: “When we get a hint that someone might have the ability to play in this league, that’s our job to go out and uncover it.”
The 6-foot-4, 229-pound Boehringer put on a head-turning performance in March at Florida Atlantic’s pro workout day, running the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds. Only three wide receivers at the league’s scouting combine in February ran faster than the native of Aalen, Germany. The Vikings included Boehringer in their 30-prospect pre-draft visit and after grilling him about the nuances of the game were satisfied with his ability to pick up a complex playbook.
“He was off-the-charts smart,” Spielman said.
Boehringer didn’t pick up the sport until about five years ago when he was inspired by YouTube videos he discovered of Adrian Peterson highlights with the Vikings. The former soccer player joined a junior youth team, the Crailsheim Titans, for his first season of competitive football in 2013.
“I just started learning the game by playing,” Boehringer said on a conference call with Minnesota reporters. “The first year was really difficult, because I didn’t really have an idea of what I was doing.”
He was clearly a quick learner.
Boehringer debuted in the top-level German Football League in 2015 and totaled 16 touchdown receptions with an average of 20.9 yards per catch in 21 games for the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns, winning the rookie of the year award. He has been working out in Boca Raton, Florida, for several months to get ready for the draft.
Sometime in the coming months, he’ll get to meet Peterson.
“I heard he has a very strong handshake,” Boehringer said. “I will be prepared for that.”
He’s the second player who did not play American college football to be selected in the NFL draft. Eric Swann was the other in 1991, taken by Arizona with the sixth overall pick. Swann didn’t qualify academically at North Carolina State, refused to attend a junior college and instead played for a semi-pro team in Massachusetts.
The NFL’s increased marketing of the game in Europe has helped start a trickle of prospects coming from overseas. Dallas signed British defensive end Efe Obada as an undrafted free agent last year after he played in just five games in 2014 with the London Warriors. Obada spent time on the practice squad and was waived earlier this month before being signed to Kansas City’s roster.
In February, 27-year-old Frenchman Anthony Dable’, a 6-5, 215-pound wide receiver who, like Boehringer, also played in the GFL last season, was signed by the New York Giants after one workout. Dable’ was a free agent who didn’t have to go through the draft process because of his age.
Before and after Boehringer, the Vikings were more conventional.
After taking wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and cornerback Mackensie Alexander on the first two days, they picked Western Michigan left tackle Willie Beavers in the fourth round with the possibility of moving him to guard.
In the fifth round, the Vikings drafted undersized Missouri middle linebacker Kentrell Brothers primarily for depth and special teams with bonus kick-blocking ability. They shuffled around with some minor trades in the sixth round after Boehringer and settled on tight end David Morgan, the first player drafted in Texas-San Antonio program history and the best blocker at his position in the pool this year in the view of the Vikings.
Their first of two seventh-round selections was Vanderbilt defensive end Stephen Weatherly, who was an outside linebacker in college and, interestingly, has learned to play nine different musical instruments over the course of his life. Their last of eight picks this year was 6-foot-4, 216-pound safety Jayron Kearse, a Clemson teammate of Alexander and a nephew of former NFL defensive end Jevon Kearse, who made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons in the league.
As a fifth-year senior, Beavers earned a first team All-Mid-American Conference selection. The 6-foot-4, 324-pound Beavers first cracked the lineup at the end of his freshman year and never lost his spot, starting 40 straight games. With T.J. Clemmings, Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt and Andre Smith at the tackle spots, with Carter Bykowski, Austin Shepherd and Jeremiah Sirles behind them, moving Beavers to guard would make sense. He played there at the Senior Bowl.
“I showed my versatility, so wherever they put me on the offensive line I will be good,” Beavers said.
Brothers, listed at 6-foot and 245 pounds, led the FBS level with 152 total tackles last season. He sure didn’t sound worried about his below-average size.
“I’m able to stay low on long linemen. I’m able to hit low on running backs,” Brothers said. “I just don’t see that as a disadvantage as a lot of other people do.”