Alexandria's John Vogeler set his sights on trying to play football at a professional level after his career at Bemidji State University came to an end this past fall. This week, he will take a step toward trying to obtain that goal.
Vogeler, a defensive back, got a call from the Minnesota Vikings on April 28, the day after the end of the NFL draft, officially inviting him to compete at their rookie minicamp this week.
"It was truly a blessing," Vogeler said. "Coming from (a Division II football program), it's definitely a greater challenge when you have to compete to get into these camps with all these other guys. I was super pumped and super excited for the opportunity to go out there, and especially with the Vikings. It should be fun."
These camps are an opportunity for NFL coaches to see their draft picks on the field together for the first time. For players like Vogeler who go undrafted but get an invite to the camps, they are a potential foot in the door.
It's a long way from making an NFL regular-season roster, but it's an opportunity for under-the-radar guys to at least be seen by NFL coaches. The chance to compete against players from big-time college programs is one that Vogeler is excited about.
"It's going to be a huge opportunity," he said. "The one thing I'm looking forward to, like everybody else, is to showcase my strengths and see what you can put on the field, but then just to see where you stand coming from Division II. Just to see where you stack up against these big Division I guys. It's exciting to see if you're actually there and can compete at this level or to see how far you are off and what you need to improve on."
Vogeler and the rest of the players are scheduled to arrive at the Vikings' TCO Performance Center in Eagan on Thursday afternoon. The camp runs through Sunday.
Vogeler has been preparing with the idea that he might get an invite to a rookie camp. He hired an agent after college and is living and working out in the Twin Cities area, while working a job at John Henry Foster out of Eagan.
"I've been training at Elite Next Level in the cities, where Adam Thielen trains," Vogeler said. "I've been doing position work, strength, speed, mobility stuff."
Leading up to the NFL draft, Vogeler took part in a pro day at the University of Minnesota where he worked out in front of pro scouts in late March.
He ran a 40-yard dash time of 4.60. Those 40 times are heavily scrutinized for defensive backs, and that time was a bit slower than Vogeler was hoping for. At a second pro day for the Canadian Football League, he lowered those 40 times to 4.49 and 4.53.
"After my (NFL) pro day, I didn't run the best 40 time," he said. "I'm more of a high 4.4s, low 4.5s 40 guy."
Vogeler is hoping to show that he has the speed and knack for the football that he displayed during his time in the secondary at Bemidji State. He ended his career with the Beavers as their all-time leader in interceptions returned for touchdowns with four.
As a senior, he had four picks, including one that went for a touchdown, to go with 44 tackles (29 solo), three pass break-ups and seven passes defended.
"My mentality going in is to give it everything I have and let the chips fall where they may," Vogeler said. "Lace them up at least one more time for sure and compete against the best and then live with the results."
Vogeler is excited to go up against a lot of talented players, but he is equally as excited to get honest feedback from coaches at this level, no matter what that feedback is.
"Just to see if I'm there," he said. "What do I need to work on? Any negatives I can turn into strengths. Getting that feedback and then from there, process it and keep going to see if I can find a home professionally in the next two years."
Vogeler graduated from Bemidji State with a degree in sports management and a minor in mass communications. After football, he eventually wants to be an athletic director, but no matter what happens this weekend, he is committed to seeing if he can find a home playing football professionally in the near future.
"My focus is football here in the next two years," he said. "If nothing happens this round with like the XFL, CFL, NFL, I'm going to talk with my agent and we'll figure a game plan if I should continue. With going into this rookie camp invite, we'll be able to get feedback from the coaches to see if I'm there, if I'm not there, and if I can get there."