Vikings bring talent with Louisiana ties into preseason opener vs. Saints

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Irv Smith Jr,
Irv Smith Jr, (#1) starred at tight end for Brother Martin (File Photo: Stephen Lew).

The Minnesota Vikings come to town Friday to face the New Orleans Saints as both teams open their exhibition schedules. The Purple and Gold are bringing some players with Louisiana ties.

Former Brother Martin tight end Irv Smith Jr. returns home as a rookie. The second round draft choice out of the University of Alabama had 58 catches for 838 yards and 10 touchdownss during his days in Tuscaloosa. How’s this for an added bonus? Many family members and friends will be on hand to help Smith celebrate Friday, which happens to be his 21st birthday.

Irv Smith Sr. was a first round draft pick out of Notre Dame by the Saints in 1993, one of two top round New Orleans choices that year following Hall of Fame tackle Willie Roaf. The elder Smith was a tight end like his son, spending 1993-’97 with the Black and Gold.

Smith Jr. is a playmaker in the passing game but has already displayed some versatility to the Vikings staff. Minnesota starter Kyle Rudolph has a minor injury while backup David Morgan is on the physically unable to perform list. So expect No. 84 to do a lot of heavy lifting Friday evening. The last time that Smith played in the Superdome was January 1, 2018 when the Crimson Tide beat Clemson.

Defensive end Danielle Hunter (No. 99) is an established pro who comes off his best season. The LSU product has 40 career sacks, and 14.5 of them came in 2018. His performance last season earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl.

IN 23 starts at LSU during his three years there, Hunter shined as a physical specimen Minnesota eventually grabbed with a third round pick in the ’15 NFL Draft.

Hunter’s carreer sack total is already good for 11th in franchise history. His teammate and fellow end Everson Griffen is fourth in Vikings history with 66.5 sacks while Hall of Fame tackle John Randle sits atop the team charts with 144.

Nigerian born defensive Ade Aruna (No. 68) is another eye-popping athlete taken by the Vikings in the sixth round of the ’18 draft out of Tulane. He had 12 sacks in 44 contests for the Green Wave but the 25-year old tore his ACL last August in the preseason versus Jacksonville.

Tashawn Bower (No. 90) was an undrafted free agent out of LSU in 2017. We will not see this defensive lineman on the field Friday because Bower is on the non-football injury list after tearing his Achilles tendon this past offseason.

On the Saints side of the field, former Vikings Latavius Murray and Marcus Sherels witll face their former team for the first time since leaving the Twin Cities this offseason in free agency.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

CCS/Fox Sports/ESPN/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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