After the NFL draft was over Saturday, Cole Tucker got the call that he’d been waiting for his whole life.
The DeKalb grad and former Northern Illinois University wide receiver got a camp invite from the Minnesota Vikings, and will report to the team for rookie mini-camp from May 12-15.
“I got nothing to lose at this point,” Tucker said. “I’ll go there, play as well as I can and hopefully they keep me around for the summer and invite me to their fall camp. That’s pretty much the whole game right there.”— Cole Tucker, DeKalb grad and former NIU wide receiver
“I was excited,” Tucker said. “It’s an opportunity to get my foot in the door. I get to go show someone what I can do. It’s an exciting time.”
He had 155 catches for 2,030 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career at NIU, which began in 2017. He was the Daily Chronicle’s 2016 Athlete of the Year. The year before he was the Chronicle’s football player of the year.
Tucker finished his NIU career with at least one catch in the last 21 games he played. As his final season was winding down at NIU, he battled through an injury, but did get on the field for senior day. The Huskies won MAC titles in 2018 and 2021 under two different head coaches with Tucker on the roster.
He said throughout high school and college he’s felt like he’s had something to prove, and being a non-contract invitee to camp continues that underdog role.
“I’ve been working for this my whole life,” Tucker said Monday. “I’ve had great coaching throughout DeKalb and NIU. I was never really a highly recruited guy, always a little bit of an underdog. So going in, I’ve just got to show them what I can do. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m going to make the most of it.”
After the season ended, Tucker said he became a Canadian citizen to increase his chances of making the CFL and continuing his playing career. His mother, Cindy, was born in Canada, allowing him to pursue the option and gain dual citizenship.
“I always think it was something we could have done, but we just didn’t until it was like, ‘This can help me play football at the next level,’ ” Tucker said at NIU’s pro day. “It’s obviously cool being a citizen of both countries. I have a lot of history up there, my mom is from there, my grandma still lives up there. I’m happy to go play up there if I have to. NFL, CFL, I’m happy to play wherever.”
His first shot will be in the NFL. He said the experience of waiting to hear about his chance was stressful. He knew he wasn’t a Day 1 or 2 pick, but he spent Saturday “locked in on my phone” waiting to see if he was drafted or signed.
Now he’ll try to catch on with the Vikings. He said he’ll do some light workouts over the next week and a half leading into camp.
“I got nothing to lose at this point,” Tucker said. “I’ll go there, play as well as I can, and hopefully they keep me around for the summer and invite me to their fall camp. That’s pretty much the whole game right there.”