A year ago the Vikings had a very successful draft, with their top five choices -- running back Adrian Peterson, receiver Sidney Rice, defensive back Marcus McCauley, defensive end Brian Robison and receiver Aundrae Allison -- making important contributions to the team.

The Wilf family spent millions on free agents and new acquisitions in the offseason to improve the team, trading away some draft choices in the process, but the Vikings also signed an impressive group of undrafted players that will be in training camp in late July.

Once the draft was over, on the board in the draft room were six players that vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman, director of college scouting Scott Studwell and the Vikings scouts considered players that should have been drafted.

They were tackle Drew Radovich of Southern California, cornerback Marcus Walker of Oklahoma, wide receiver Darius Reynaud of West Virginia, defensive end Martail Burnett of Utah, linebacker Erin Henderson of Maryland and safety Marcus Griffin of Texas.

As it turned out, the Vikings' budget allowed them to sign all six. The team signed a total of 16 undrafted free agents.

Every one of those six will be given a good chance to make the team. The Vikings might have more sleepers among these undrafted players than any other year. Honor for Swain

Over the years nobody has contributed more to the University of Minnesota than Tom Swain, both in academics and athletics.

For that reason, Swain was honored Tuesday night when he was presented with the University's Outstanding Achievement Award, a top award given by the school.

One of the great things Swain's family and friends established and funded six years ago, on Swain's 80th birthday, was two fellowships per year at the Humphrey Institute for mid-career professionals seeking a Master Of Public Affairs degree. Twelve people have completed the program on those scholarships.

There is a scholarship given to a student-athlete each year in Swain's name in appreciation of all he has done to help Gophers athletics.

Swain is on a committee that works with athletic director Joel Maturi and is a trouble- shooter for the administration and the athletic department, helping out when problems occur.

Swain also has played a key part in helping other local leaders bring professional sports to this area. He was instrumental in bringing about the building of the new Gophers football stadium.

I started my career as a cub reporter covering the Gophers at the same time Swain was employed in the athletic department.

I have seen a lot of community leaders in my time, but this man is one of the most amazing ones. He continues to be available anytime the local community needs something done. If anybody ever deserved that award, Swain does.

Wheeler still deciding

Gophers hockey forward Blake Wheeler, who has been offered a contract by the Phoenix Coyotes, saidhe hasn't made a decision about returning for his senior year, but chances are he will work out a deal with the NHL team.

"It was kind of a preliminary offer," Wheeler said. "To be completely honest, I've been kind of sheltered from the negotiations. I know that right after the season they talked and they were going to talk a little bit more once I'm done with classes. So I guess I'll be a little bit more in the loop here within the next month.

"I guess it's kind of hard to tell right now, but I think there's probably a pretty good chance that I probably won't be coming back. But, once again, that decision won't be made until I'm done with classes, which is within the next week."

Guentzel to St. John's?

Former Gophers assistant hockey coach Mike Guentzel has interviewed for the St. John's coaching job and said he believes he has a good chance of landing it if he wants it.

"They were interested in me and stuff, and they're going through their process of interviewing this week," Guentzel said. "I think they're going to make a selection by the end of this week."

Is he interested in the St. John's job?

"I am interested depending on certain circumstances, involving location and the family situation and financial -- I mean those are all factors involved -- I can't just say unequivocally yes, because it's going to come down to certain factors."


Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said all his assistant coaches will return for the 2008-2009 season. ... Corey Brewer and Chris Richard, the two top draft choices last year, will start summer workouts soon, with other players to follow later. Wittman said the club will start bringing in draft candidates June l.

Rich Gannon, MVP in the NFL in 2002 on a Oakland team that reached the Super Bowl before being beaten by Tampa Bay, will be at Winter Park today, working with Vikings quarterbacks as he has done in the past. ... The Vikings didn't sign any of the free agents who worked out last weekend but weren't under contract.

The Gophers basketball team expects all members of the team with eligibility remaining to return next year, with nobody talking about transferring. Only academic problems would eliminate anybody from the roster.

Derek Chang, winner of the Georgia state high school golf tournament from Alpharetta, an Atlanta suburb, will be a member of the Gophers men's golf team this fall. ... Gophers golf coach Brad James said he expects Victor Almstrom and Clayton Rask to do well when they compete in the NCAA Central Regional at Ohio State on May 15-17. ... Playing on the European tour is ex-Gopher Antti Ahokas. Another former Gopher, Justin Smith, is playing on the Nationwide Tour.

Dusty Rychart, who walked on to the Gophers basketball team, won a starting position and eventually made a lot of money playing pro basketball in Australia, finished his second season with the Brisbane Bullets and averaged 16.2 points and 9.3 rebounds.

However, the sponsor of that team had financial problems, and Rychart said on his website that he is stopping in Hawaii before heading back to Minnesota and deciding on the next move in his basketball career.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com