With the No. 180 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings became the first team in league history to draft a player with no college experience out of a European league.
Moritz Boehringer, a German wide receiver, formerly for the Swäbisch Hall Unicorns, will join the Vikings without having played a down of college football. The 22-year-old was selected by the team in the sixth round, and he may have a certain NFL Network analyst — along with his freak athleticism — to thank for it.
As detailed by MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas in a fantastic profile and explained by Boehringer himself on NFL Network Saturday, Minnesota has been the wideout’s favorite team since he first picked up the sport four years ago. He said he was introduced to American football by watching YouTube highlight videos of Adrian Peterson, his favorite player (and now, as fate would have it, current teammate), and decided to start playing with a handful of friends.
Being 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds, Boehringer’s size and speed accelerated him up the ranks, eventually leading him to join the Unicorns with whom he racked up 20.9 yards per reception and 16 touchdowns in 2015. Boehringer caught the attention of a NFL UK unit looking to lay the foundation for an international pipeline.
At a workout day at Florida Atlantic, Boehringer went from a nobody to a potential NFL draft pick after turning in a 39-inch vertical, 4.43 40-yard dash, and a three-cone drill time of 6.65 seconds — the same time as former Ohio State speedster Braxton Miller. NFL clubs started setting up private meetings with the German and in less than a month, Boehringer began appearing in the late rounds on team’s mock draft boards.
The Vikings pick of Boehringer was simply the cherry on top of what has been a fairly remarkable ride for the raw talent, and their selection does not appear to be a product of happenstance.
During Boehringer’s time on-set with the NFL Network crew before his selection, analyst Mike Mayock noted the young player’s affinity for Minnesota and offered to call both Coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman on Boehringer’s behalf. He spoke directly into the camera and lobbied for Zimmer, a friend of his, to spend the pick on this kid. Zimmer then called Mayock as the show went to break.
Now, whether or not the phone call had any actual effect on the Vikings’s selection is up for debate, though a tweet from Minnesota proves at least that Mike Zimmer heard Mayock out.
Boehringer was emotional after the announcement was made, telling the NFL Network hosts in an interview, “I don’t need a chair right now … can’t describe how I feel, just overwhelming, happy to be drafted.” He also added that being granted the chance to play with Peterson is “the coolest thing.” Before going on, the excited new Vikings prospect made sure to give Mayock a hug for his support.
The German Football League 2015 Rookie of the Year will now be tasked with securing a spot on the squad, which will likely prove more difficult given his inexperience with both the NFL’s expansive playbooks and complicated in-game adjustments. But as Boehringer has proved so far, all he needs is a chance and an audience. Now, the player who once said, “My ultimate goal is to be the Dirk Nowitzki of football,” will have finally have his chance.