Draft slide big motivator for Vikings safety Kearse

Minnesota Vikings safety Jayron Kearse is eager to get on the field after falling to the seventh round of the NFL Draft.

Mark J. Rebilas/Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Originally projected as an early-round pick, former Clemson safety Jayron Kearse was expecting a phone call during the NFL Draft.

After waiting until the seventh round to get it, he’s got something to say.

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"My take on where I ended up going, to me personally, was a sign of disrespect, people not respecting my game, not respecting my abilities," Kearse said.

While most players talk about being grateful or humbled after being picked late, that they’re simply happy to have been drafted, or proud to be a member of a new team, Kearse isn’t backing down.

"It is definitely going to add another element to my game, on top of the type of player I already was," he said.

Weighing in at a hulking 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Kearse drew praise early on for his size, speed and range, traits that eventually became criticisms as the draft approached.

A recurring criticism of Kearse is that he’s unmotivated, that he doesn’t seem focused or intense enough on the field.

"A total of 31 teams passed on me. The Vikings are the lucky ones," Kearse told South Carolina’s Independent Mail. "I’m going to make everyone else pay."

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Problem solved.

Buffalo Bills receiver and fellow Clemson alum Sammy Watkins took to Twitter to defend Kearse, while fellow Tigers DB T.J. Green spoke up in an interview with a Clemson fan site.

"I mean, he’s hurt about it and I’m hurt about it," Green told TigerNet.com. "A player that talented should never fall that far in the draft."

His former teammates were given little reason to doubt him back at Clemson.

Kearse started producing immediately for the Tigers, starting in just three games but leading the team with four interceptions as a freshman. He was named a second-team All-American as a junior after racking up 62 tackles and one interception.

For his part, general manager Rick Spielman is eager to put Kearse in the hands of head coach and defensive guru Mike Zimmer.


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"I know Zimmer really likes to work with those tall, long guys back on the backend as a safety and feels that he also has a lot of tools and athletic skills to work with," Spielman said.

The Vikings added former Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin in free agency to play alongside Harrison Smith, but at 30 years old Griffin isn’t a long-term solution at the position.

Spielman isn’t quite ready to comment on the situation.

"Right now we just want to get the best possible 90-man roster that we can get together, and then once we get them in and once we get the coaches working with them and actually see them in practice running our schemes, that will all work itself out," he said.

Kearse, however, isn’t shying away from the conversation.

"I am definitely confident in my abilities, so I know I can go out there and compete with whoever on the other side of that safety position and I can go out there and earn that position," he said.

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