NFL Draft: Vikings’ Day 3 draftees have faced adversity

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Reading about Travis Bond or watching the North Carolina offensive lineman on video, one thing immediately stands out: Bond’s immense size.

Bond is built like a truck at 6-foot-6 and 329 pounds. He once weighed 372 pounds while playing for the Tar Heels. So, naturally, when Bond came into direct contact with a truck, it was more like a vehicular collision.

Shortly after being drafted in the seventh round of Saturday’s NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings, Bond recalled a situation when he was hit by a truck in February 2012 while riding a scooter on the way to a study hall class.

“Oh wow, that was a bit of a shock that night,” Bond said. “Not a fun thing to do, believe me. Being hit by that truck pretty much turned my life around when it came to riding a scooter, I gave that up easily.”

Bond suffered a broken wrist in the accident. The truck? It wasn’t the same, either, after running into the big offensive lineman.

“When I got up and looked at it I was a bit shocked,” Bond said of the truck. “When I looked there was a dent on the front side on the driver’s side, there was a dent on the side of his truck. I was hurt in the process and his truck had a boo-boo.”

Bond didn’t even realize initially his wrist was broken. He said he had X-rays taken the night of the accident that didn’t show any issues. He went on with his usual schedule and realized a few weeks later while he was lifting weights. While pushing up 405 pounds, he said his wrist “just felt funny.”

“When I got the MRI, my two bones were separated,” Bond said.

Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman can appreciate Bond’s size, and toughness.

“I’m sure that the truck took just as much damage,” Spielman said. “I know he is a very tough kid, and I don’t think it affected him that much. That kid, when you watch him play, matches the criteria that we are looking for, and what (offensive line coach) Jeff Davidson is looking for on that offensive line. He definitely fit that.”

Bond still made study hall on the night of the accident.

“Some girl came up to me when I got hit, she ran up to me and was just like, ‘Are you okay, are you alright?’,” Bond said. “I was just like, ‘Yeah I’m okay’. She was just like, ‘I feel so helpless’. I said, ‘No you’re okay, it’s fine'”

I just laughed about it and went to study hall and explained to my tutor why I was late. My friends were laughing at me because I joke a lot and they thought I was playing but I was like, ‘Dude, go look at my scooter’. Me and the scooter got the worst part of the deal.”

An understanding of knees: The Vikings are used to dealing with knee injuries and have seen players, like MVP running back Adrian Peterson and Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Greenway come out just as strong on the other side of anterior cruciate ligament tears.

Now they’ll see how they can help a player with three ligament tears.

Seeing a potential starting middle linebacker still on the board in the seventh round, Minnesota selected Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti.

Mauti is trying to return from a torn ACL in his left knee that ended his senior season with two games left. Mauti missed the 2009 season with a torn ACL in his right knee. He missed all but four games in 2011 with a torn ACL in his left knee and then re-tore the ligament almost a year later.

“Absolutely that gives me confidence (seeing how the Vikings have helped players return from ACL injuries),” Mauti said. “I spoke a little bit with the doctors at the combine and they were confident in the way the MRIs looked. I had a great surgeon and Dr. (James) Bradley with the Steelers did my surgery. So they understand where I am at, and I think it is going to be a great relationship as far as when I’ll be ready. I think I will be ready by preseason camp so that is my goal and where I plan on being.”

Mauti is about six months out from surgery and won’t be ready to compete right away. The Vikings believe he’ll be ready by training camp.

“We were very strict on him at the Combine,” Spielman said. “I asked (head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman) 8,000 times because he’s a heck of a football player and has a great attitude, great leadership, ‘Is this guy healthy?’ What he’ll do is, he’ll come in. We feel we’re going to start rehabbing him. He should be ready to go by training camp. But he was just too good of a football player, too good of a character, too good of a leader to pass up. He’s very intense and he’ll definitely be great competition at that Mike linebacker position.”

Mauti understands the knee injuries caused his slide to the seventh round.

“I really tried to go into this draft without expectations just because I understand my situation medically,” Mauti said of the wait. “It got more and more difficult as time went on. But I couldn’t be happier to get picked by such a great organization. I have always had respect for the Vikings and what they have been able to do, so I am just happy to be a part of it.”

Teammates again: A year after selecting three sets of former college teammates in the draft, Minnesota did the same thing this year.

The Vikings selected two Penn State linebackers in Mauti and Gerald Hodges. They added cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive lineman Everett Dawkins from Florida State, and then UCLA punter Jeff Locke and offensive lineman Jeff Baca.

Spielman maintains the circumstances are just a coincidence.

“Still just a coincidence,” Spielman said. “There’s a lot of good players at those schools apparently.”

Last year, Minnesota selected Notre Dame teammates Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton, USC’s Matt Kalil and Rhett Ellison and receivers Jarius Wright and Greg Childs from Arkansas, who had even played on the same high school team.

The familiarity could help the transition to the NFL.

“I couldn’t be happier to be playing with Gerald next season and the season previously,” Mauti said. “He’s a great support structure and he’s a familiar face to go through the new process with. I couldn’t be happier in this situation. We have a great opportunity in front of us.”

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