EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Willkommen to the NFL, Moritz Boehringer.
The Minnesota Vikings made the 22-year-old German wide receiver the first player in league history to be drafted straight from Europe, taking the speedy Boehringer in the sixth round Saturday with the 180th overall selection.
The 6-foot-4, 229-pound Boehringer put on a head-turning performance in March at Florida Atlantic's pro workout day, running the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds. Only three wide receivers at the league's scouting combine in February ran faster than the native of Aalen, Germany.
Boehringer didn't pick up the sport until about five years ago when he was inspired by YouTube videos he discovered of Adrian Peterson highlights with the Vikings. The former soccer player joined a junior youth team, the Crailsheim Titans, for his first season of competitive football in 2013.
"I just started learning the game by playing, so the first year was really difficult," Boehringer said on a conference call with Minnesota reporters. "I really had no idea what I was doing."
He was a quick learner, though.
Boehringer debuted in the top-level German Football League in 2015 and totaled 16 touchdown receptions with an average of 20.9 yards per catch in 21 games for the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns, winning the rookie of the year award.
Boehringer spent time in Minnesota last September on vacation, taking in the TCU-Gophers game. This weekend, he'll be back in the state for rookie minicamp. Sometime in the coming months, he'll get to meet Peterson.
"I heard he has a very strong handshake," Boehringer said. "I will be prepared for that."
He's the second player who did not play American college football to be selected in the NFL draft. Eric Swann was the first in 1991, taken by the Arizona Cardinals in 1991 with the sixth overall pick. Swann couldn't qualify academically at North Carolina State, refused to attend a junior college and instead played for a semi-pro team in Massachusetts.
The NFL's increased marketing of the game in Europe has started a trickle of prospects from overseas. Dallas signed British defensive end Efe Obada as an undrafted free agent last year after he played in just five games in 2014 with the London Warriors. Obada spent time on the practice squad and was waived earlier this month before being signed to Kansas City's roster.
In February, 27-year-old Frenchman Anthony Dable', a 6-5, 215-pound wide receiver who, like Boehringer, also played in the GFL last season, was signed by the New York Giants after one workout. Dable' was a free agent who didn't have to go through the draft process because of his age.
Before Boehringer, the Vikings went with more conventional picks.
They took six picks into Saturday for the final four rounds, and they started by targeting a critical position in front of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and acquiring left tackle Willie Beavers with the 121st overall selection in the fourth round
In the fifth round, at No. 160, the Vikings drafted Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers.
This was the second straight year the Vikings used the fourth round to take a tackle, after picking Pittsburgh's T.J. Clemmings in 2015. Clemmings started the entire season as a rookie at right tackle. Matt Kalil, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, didn't miss a game at left tackle. The Vikings returned right tackle Phil Loadholt from an Achilles tendon injury that kept him out for all of 2015, and they signed veteran Andre Smith as a free agent.
Kalil, Loadholt and Smith are all playing on expiring contracts, though, and Clemmings had his share of struggles. The other tackles on the roster, Carter Bykowski, Austin Shepherd and Jeremiah Sirles, are 25 and under with limited NFL experience.
Beavers started every game at left tackle last season as a fifth-year senior for Western Michigan, earning a first team All-Mid-American Conference selection. The Broncos finished 8-5 after the program's first postseason victory, over Middle Tennessee in the Bahamas Bowl. The 6-foot-4, 324-pound Beavers first cracked the lineup at the end of his freshman year and never lost his spot, starting 40 straight games.
Beavers initially signed with Illinois out of high school in Southfield, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, but the program overcommitted with that class in 2011 and Beavers was essentially cut.
"That was the dream of mine, playing in the Big Ten, and when they told me that it was hurtful," Beavers said, adding: "God got me through it."
Western Michigan doesn't typically face many premier pass rushers in the MAC, so Beavers will have to use his well-regarded agility to his advantage in the challenging tradition to the NFL. He played some guard at the Senior Bowl.
"Wherever they put me on the offensive line, I'll be good," Beavers said.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.