All Thigpen wants is a chance to show his stuff

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 30, 2007 - 6:51 PM

The Vikings spent one of their last draft picks on the quarterback from Coastal Carolina, who can make plays with his arm and his feet.

The Vikings did end up taking a quarterback in the NFL draft. It just didn't happen on the first day, and it wasn't Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. Instead, the Vikings used their first pick of the seventh and final round Sunday on Tyler Thigpen from Division I-AA Coastal Carolina.

"We tried to play that as close to the vest as we could all the way along," coach Brad Childress said, when asked about his team's months-long insistence that it would consider taking Quinn with the seventh overall pick. "We graded guys the way we graded them. And we're comfortable to get [running back] Adrian Peterson there."

Childress also seemed comfortable with adding Thigpen as the fourth quarterback to the Vikings roster. This means Tarvaris Jackson will enter training camp as the starter with Brooks Bollinger, Drew Henson and Thigpen behind him.

The 6-1, 216-pound Thigpen was fine with that. Heck, he was just happy to be drafted at all. When the Vikings took him with the 217th overall pick, he became the first player from Coastal Carolina to be drafted by an NFL team.

"He's got an explosive arm," Childress said. "He can throw the football and he can move around and create plays with his feet as well."

Not bad for a guy who served as a wingback and punter his senior year in high school and by his own admission "didn't take the offseason very serious my first three years at Coastal."

That changed this past season -- in part because the Chanticleers went to a spread offense.

In 12 games, Thigpen threw for 3,296 yards, completing 217 of 339 passes (64 percent), and 29 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. It marked the first season he completed more than 50 percent of his passes. On the ground, he led the Conway, S.C.-based school with 780 yards on 113 carries and five scores as the Chanticleers finished 9-3 and won a third consecutive Big South title.

Thigpen was named the conference player of the year and finished seventh in voting for the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the I-AA offensive player of the year.

Thigpen wasn't invited to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis but did make visits to Minnesota, Detroit and Kansas City. The Vikings also sent quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers to watch him work out at his pro day, and Childress and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman reviewed tape of the quarterback.

Still, until the Vikings called Thigpen to say they were taking him, he didn't know if he would be drafted or end up signing as a rookie free agent.

"I always wanted to have high expectations and at least say I was going to go in the draft," Thigpen said. "I'm definitely excited by this opportunity I have in front of me. The opportunity that Minnesota has given me to come up there and show my talent."

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