For Cory Svihla, donning horns on his helmet and hustling through drills at Winter Park last week alongside the Vikings' coveted draft picks made the last two years of grinding it out completely worth it.
The Foley, Minn., native's last two years have consisted of endless workouts at Lifetime Fitness, doing everything he could to keep in football shape after the three-time All-MIAC linebacker graduated from Bethel in 2011, with a die-hard hope of continuing to play the game somewhere, somehow.
Svhila, 25, had been to multiple pro days, numerous combines and even an All-Star game between then and now.
Yes, he'd gotten some calls from the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League, but no contract offers. That made the opportunity to attend the Vikings Rookie Mini-Camp for the first time last weekend all the sweeter.
"Even just getting invited to Vikings camp was a dream for me," he said. "It was quite an experience the last two years, but I'd do it all over again. There have been ups and downs, and someone in my situation could have easily given up after not getting a whole lot of attention."
The 25-year-old runs the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds and has a 31-inch vertical, according to his 2012 promo video. Working as a fitness professional at Lifetime Fitness for 18 months after school kept him ready for a return to the gridiron.
How does one go from Division III football -- and being away from the game for two years -- to snagging the Minnesota Vikings' eye?
Sometimes it's who you know.
"I trained with a couple Vikings guys here and there," said Svhila, who now works in business development for Steffen Thomas LLC. "They recommended me, said I had a valid shot, and I got a call."
The Vikings already signed several linebackers before camp, so Svihla isn't expecting the Vikings' number to flash up on his phone again. But that doesn't mean he can't dream.
"It's the hope (to hear from the Vikings), but they have an unbelievable player in (linebacker) Gerald Hodges, who they drafted in the fourth round," Svihla said. "He's an unbelievable player and it was fun to play next to him."
Svihla, who has been an assistant coach at both The Blake School and Mounds View, made a point to thank his own coaches for their role in his development.
"My position coach Mike Fregeau, along with other coaches, brought me to where I am today and made me the person I am," Svihla said. "Them and Jesus Christ -- that's where my thanks go to."
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