What a week it has been for former South Dakota State Offensive Lineman Tiano Pupugatoa. On Monday he signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent, then the next day he was already participating in his first NFL training camp. He says he still has a lot of improvement though if he wants to be considered for the final 53 man roster. But when growing up playing football in Wisconsin, a kids dream is to play for one certain team.
"I grew up cheering for the Packers," said Pupugatoa.
But last weekend it was the purple and gold that gave the All-American guard the call to fulfill his life long dream.
"As soon as I went to the rookie mini camp for the Vikings, my dad is like it doesn't matter where you go to me whatever happens I'm throwing out all the Packers gear I have and am grabbing new gear from the shop," said Pupugatoa.
Tiano was a diamond in the rough for South Dakota State. His protection of Taryn Christion guided the Jackrabbits to nearly 500 yards on offense per game last season. Now he'll be protecting one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league in Kirk Cousins.
"I treat him the same, if you're my quarterback we use to put it in the saying 'you're like a mom to us'. No one hits our mom, so I put everything I got on the line to protect my quarterback." said Pupugatoa.
He feels like despite coming from an FCS program, South Dakota State has prepared him for what the NFL has to offer.
"My position coach was a great guy, super smart, and he went into depth on everything. So it's nice taking the knowledge and technique that I had in college and kind of evolving it to what the Vikings technique is," said Pupugatoa.
But Tiano's journey to the NFL won't come easy, he is one of 38 rookies working to make the final 53-man roster.
"It's a good chance for us to slow the pace down, teach, give them an opportunity to refresh what we did in the spring. I thought you know we finished up good in the spring obviously, said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
"It's just a dream come true for me, because I've been training since rookie camp got out, just hoping for a shot because nothing is guaranteed you never know, but I finally got it," said Pupugatoa.
Thursday was the last day of rookie camp here at TCO. The veterans and full team report Friday for the first full team practice. KSFY Sports will be here Friday and Saturday with all of the updates.