Christian Darrisaw said Friday it was “pretty dope” that Kirk Cousins sent out a tweet welcoming him to the Vikings. If Darrisaw pans out, he can expect many more flattering messages from the quarterback.
The Vikings made Darrisaw the No. 23 pick in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL draft. The left tackle out of Virginia Tech will try to win the starting job as a rookie, meaning he would protect Cousins’ blind side.
“I just take pride in keeping the quarterback clean,” Darrisaw said in his introductory news conference. “I had the mindset (in college), the quarterback’s not going to get touched my way.”
The Vikings went into the draft putting a high priority on picking up a left tackle to replace Riley Reiff, who was released March 10 in a salary-related move. Darrisaw is confident he can move immediately into the lineup.
“Just come in ready to work,” he said of what that would take. “Just get that playbook day one and go out there and be coachable. Whatever the coaches ask you to do, just go out there and do it, and everything will fall into place.”
Darrisaw was in Cleveland for the first round of the draft, and flew to the Twin Cities on Friday morning. He got a tour of the TCO Performance Center in Eagan and then was introduced to the media and given jersey number 71.
The 6-foot-5, 322-pound Darrisaw wore 77 in college but that number is retired for the late Korey Stringer. Darrisaw requested 71, which Reiff had worn, because it was “kind of like the next closest thing” to 77.
“It’s been surreal … seeing the facility, and going to the locker room and seeing my jersey and seeing my name on it with my number,” Darrisaw said. “It’s a dream come true. I’m just ready to get to work.”
Darrisaw will return to the Twin Cities the week after next. The Vikings usually have rookie minicamp the weekend after the draft but this year they’re holding it two weekends after.
Darrisaw is in line for a four-year, $13.35 million contract with a $7.07 million signing bonus and a 2021 salary-cap number of $2.43 million. The Vikings traded down from No. 14 on Thursday and got two extra third-round picks from the New York Jets. They also saved $460,000 on the 2021 cap since the No. 14 pick, guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, is in line for a four-year, $15.88 million deal with an immediate cap number of $2.89 million.
Darrisaw, a Petersburg, Va., native, was a three-year starter with the Hokies after not being highly recruited out of Riverdale Baptist School in Upper Marlboro, Md. Virginia Tech, the only major school to initially recruit him, sent him to Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia for the fall of 2017, and he really began to blossom there.
“You take a kid’s cellphone right now, they’ll go wild,” the low-key Darrisaw said of spending that fall in a military atmosphere. “Not having that cellphone for four months, you definitely got to kind of adjust. … That really helped me the most, just interacting with other people.”
Darrisaw arrived at Virginia Tech in January 2018, and started immediately. Hokies coach Justin Fuente admired his toughness, once calling him “an absolute warrior” for how he played through injuries.
“This is a guy that shows up to work with a very serious demeanor every single day and puts out,” Fuente said. “I mean, he is tough, he doesn’t take sick days. He shows up and goes to work.”
Darrisaw battled ankle and knee injuries in college but only missed two games. Darrisaw, who gave up his final year of eligibility, had sports hernia surgery in January but Fuente said his health is fine now.
“He’s made huge strides from a physical standpoint,” Fuente said. “I still think he has more left in the tank. … I think Christian has another level of strength that he can get to and will get to in the next year or so.”
The Vikings like his size and strength. Head coach Mike Zimmer said he was very impressed watching film of Darrisaw, who didn’t give up any sacks in 10 games in 2020.
“We love watching him double-team guys into the end zone and doing a great job in pass protection,” Zimmer said.