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Ex-NDSU back gets second chance at NFL

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FARGO, N.D. -- Former North Dakota State running back Tyler Roehl was elated when he saw the Minnesota Vikings selected Stanford's Toby Gerhart in the second round of last weekend's NFL Draft.

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Gerhart is a hard-nosed runner with deceptive speed and a never say-die work ethic.

If the Vikings brass like Gerhart, Roehl is confident they are bound to like him.

"They can gauge me with the tailback they drafted in the second round," said Roehl, a former Seattle Seahawk who will participate in the Vikings three-day rookie minicamp beginning today. "I think we're pretty comparable."

Roehl said that he's healthy and ready to compete for a job on the Vikings roster. He said he will play fullback, run the ball occasionally and get in on special teams. He'll do whatever it takes to earn a job.

But it won't be easy.

Roehl hasn't played football or practiced since a torn ACL in his left knee prematurely ended his rookie season in Seattle last summer.

He also endured a minor setback last Christmas when doctors had to remove his meniscus because it wasn't healing properly.

Then there is the depth chart.

Naufahu Tahi was re-signed in the offseason to be Minnesota's starting fullback. The Vikings are switching seventh-round draft pick Ryan D'Imperio of Rutgers from linebacker to fullback.

Roehl remains undaunted.

He said he gained 10 pounds from his time at NDSU and now weighs 245. Roehl also says he can still come close to running the 4.53-second 40-yard dash he ran leading up to last year's draft.

"I don't think the pressure is on me," said Roehl, a former standout at West Fargo High School. "I just have to go out there and do what I can do. The pressure is on the guys who have been drafted. I just want to go out there, have fun and prove to them and to myself that I can still play."

A bruising running back, Roehl rushed for 2,512 yards and 34 touchdowns in his final two seasons with the Bison.

He burst on to the national scene as a junior with a school record 263 yards and one touchdown in a 27-21 win against Minnesota at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

"You have to be mentally and physically prepared," Roehl said. "But I don't think it will hit me that I'm back on the field until I'm out there in a helmet and pads."

Heath Hotzler is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo, N.D., which, like The Daily Republic, is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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