MANKATO, Minn. — No one needs to remind Jabari Price he lasted until the seventh round, when he was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in May.
Price was Minnesota’s final of 10 picks in the draft and was taken 225th overall out 256 players. The scenario drives the feisty cornerback every day.
"There’s not a day that I wake up that I don’t forget I was the last pick," Price said Thursday. "Once you step on the field all of that goes out the window. I really don’t care. I could have went in the first, I could have went in the seventh, it’s important for me to leave it all out there on the field and study and earn the trust of this coaching staff, try to make plays."
But Price is motivated by his situation. Perhaps the attitude fits what the Vikings are trying to get out of the small cornerback who is fighting for a roster spot in training camp and possibly his NFL life.
The determination and competitiveness has become Price’s calling card in his short time with Minnesota and has helped him catch the eye of the coaches.
"He’s covering guys pretty good," coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday. "He’s tough. He’s not scared. You know a lot of times young guys come in and they play a little tentative. He’s not tentative at all. He’s got a little bit of stuff inside (as Zimmer points to his chest). He’s working on techniques. (Defensive backs coach) Jerry Gray has done a great job with him as far as teaching techniques of what we’re trying to do. He’s got good size, he’s competitive and he can run real well."
Zimmer mentioned Price’s name Thursday when asked about some of the under-the-radar players who have caught the attention of the coaching staff. Price wasn’t even the first cornerback drafted by Minnesota this year. That distinction belongs to Kendall James, who was selected in the sixth round. Cornerback turned safety Antone Exum was also a sixth-round pick.
It’s Price, however, who’s making the most of his time in training camp.
Veteran cornerback Captain Munnerlyn started camp on the physically unable to perform list, giving coaches the chance to see some of the team’s younger players, particularly who could fit inside as the slot cornerback in the nickel.
"Initially it was attrition, but for a guy that really hadn’t, maybe the one day in OTAs doing it, he’s doing a pretty nice job, really," Zimmer said. "Honestly, he’s done a nice job in everything. When he’s outside he does a good job. When he plays in the nickel he does a good job. That’s good to see.
"Anytime you can hit on a seventh-round corner, that’s huge. So, we don’t know if we hit yet, but he’s doing a good job."
Price is out to prove the Vikings did "hit" on a seventh-round cornerback. He said he’s motivated by being a seventh-rounder.
"This staff definitely saw something in me that they gave me a chance that no one else did," Price said. "So, it’s important for me to go out there and put it all out there on the line for them and this team, make this team a better place and try to find a role on all four phases of special teams, whether its defense, whether its nickel, whatever it is, I got to find a role."
Price isn’t a big cornerback, nor did he stand out with his athleticism in the pre-draft process. He was measured at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash at the combine in 4.45 seconds and did 16 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, in neither category ranking among the best at his position.
Like Zimmer pointing to his heart, Price’s fortitude couldn’t be measured.
"He’s got some toughness to him," Zimmer said. "He’ll compete each and every time. He’s got some fight to him and he’s a good athlete. He can get in and out of cuts and he can run. So, the mental part he’s still trying to work on, but he’s doing a great job so far."
Price could fill a role on special teams and play cornerback, and could find himself as the top backup to Munnerlyn inside in the nickel defense.
Munnerlyn was signed for his experience playing inside and he’s been working with Price on the techniques of the position. Munnerlyn was essentially coaching Price while on the PUP list and confined to the sidelines.
"He’s got the defense down," Munnerlyn said. "He’s just got to keep going up from there. He’s doing all the right things right now. We’ll see when the first preseason game comes around and he gets some action and see how he plays."
Price is taking the coaching from Munnerlyn, Gray and Zimmer.
"Coach Zimmer, he’s not only the head coach, he’s also a DB coach and he’s on us every second of the day," Price said. "In order to survive in this league, I’m going to need the fundamentals and techniques that he’s preaching every day. I can’t just rely on the things I did in college. As I saw Day 1, that will get me beat. So I’m just learning from my mistakes and basically just listening to the older guys and following their lead."
Being inside is nothing new to Price. He played the spot during his junior year at North Carolina before going outside exclusively last season, and Price said he’s in his "comfort zone" whether inside or outside.
He also enjoys playing physical, another trait which could serve him well in Zimmer’s defense.
"You can’t play this defense being nice," Price said. "You can’t play defense being nice. There’s only one way to play this game and that’s physical, smart and fast. I’m definitely trying to adjust my playing style with that and make the most of it."
And prove a seventh-round pick was well worth it for the Vikings.