Nick Urban’s phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook in the hours after the NFL draft ended on April 26. An offensive tackle from Division II Winona State, Urban had a good Pro Day working out for scouts at the University of Minnesota and had hoped to sign with a team in the hours after the draft.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get drafted but at the same time I was hoping to get a free-agent contract,” he said.
That didn’t happen. Instead, Urban’s agent, Chris Murray, ended up getting his client an invitation to the Vikings rookie minicamp last weekend on a tryout basis. That turned out to be all Urban needed. One of about 30 players who were given the chance to tryout, Urban was impressive enough that on Monday he signed a contract with the Vikings.
So how did he celebrate?
Murray, found out a few hours later when his wife got home from shopping at the Target in Plymouth and told her husband that the person serving as the checkout clerk was … none other than Nick Urban.
“They were nice enough to take me on, knowing my situation and I owed them a lot,” Urban said of his bosses at Target, who gave him flexible, part-time hours so he could train for his shot at the NFL. “My parents raised me that way. They were nice enough to help out [at Target] and people that are nice enough to help you you don’t just leave high and dry.”
Urban realized he was a long shot to stick with the Vikings, but one reason he welcomed the opportunity to accept their invitation was because he knew they needed offensive linemen. Urban is versatile enough to play both tackle and guard positions. He was used at left tackle his final two seasons at Winona State and played left and right tackle in the first three practice sessions at Winter Park. The Vikings then got him a little time at left guard on Sunday during one-on-one pass rushing drills.
Urban, who is 6-4 1/2, 310 pounds, was confident after the first day of practice on Friday that things had gone well. He told himself, “Now you have to take that confidence and build on it.” That’s exactly what he was able to do. “I got into the playbook that night and got that stuff down,” he said. “Saturday came and went and I thought I had two more good practices. That’s also when the coaches get a little more critical of you. They put me with the No. 1 group on Saturday and I started thinking, ‘Nick, if you keep playing like this you have a chance to come back here.’”
It was after Sunday’s final practice that the Vikings informed Urban they wanted to sign him.
“It was exciting but at the same time I had a looming physical which usually is never that big of deal but is one more obstacle between you and everything you’ve worked for,” he said. “I’d say it was relaxed, controlled enthusiasm. I was talking to someone and said, ‘I’m excited but everyone is so much more [excited] for me, for my opportunity.’ This just gives me something else to renew my energy, to go back to working out and doing all the running that you do. … But there is more to prove and bigger things to prove to people.”
Urban spent recent weeks working out at Velocity Sports Performance in Champlin and said he will continue to do so until he returns to Winter Park in a couple of weeks when rookies are allowed back into the offseason program. The Vikings are scheduled to begin Organized Team Activities on May 19.
Urban will have his hands full before that date attempting to convert his family and friends in his hometown of Brookfield, Wis., (a suburb of Milwaukee) from Packers backers into Vikings fans. Urban admits he grew up rooting for the Pack and went to games at Lambeau Field and even old County Stadium in Milwaukee with his stepfather.
“I was a Packers fan and still want to say I am, but not as much as of today,” he said, laughing. “Today, I’m a Vikings fan and now it will be that way. … I grew up loving the Packers and even in college there was the boarder rivarly there. I do have friends that are Vikings fans so everyone is happy right now.”
Urban, meanwhile, won’t be behind a cash register at Target for much longer. “I told them after Saturday I’d be done,” he said.