Devante Downs has a message for all the doubters.
“I’m going to make the Vikings look like geniuses for drafting me.”
The Mountlake Terrace High School product was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in Saturday’s seventh and final round of the NFL draft, and he’s determined to prove the injury that derailed his senior season at the University of California won’t hinder his ability to play at the professional level.
Downs, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound inside linebacker who graduated from Mountlake Terrace in 2014, was selected with the 225th pick of the draft, which was the seventh selection in the seventh round. He was keeping things casual back home in Mountlake Terrace when he received the call from the Vikings informing him he’d been drafted.
“I was at a grocery store doing some grocery shopping,” said Downs, who spoke to Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, head coach Mike Zimmer and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer. “I let my parents know and they were really excited. Then I just had a big smile on my face.
“A lot of people reached out to me to congratulate me, and I’m really thankful for that, it means a lot,” Downs added about the reaction from the Mountlake Terrace community. “All the people who supported me in this journey, from my high school coaches to my youth coaches, everyone who I came into contact with reached out to me, which was cool.”
Downs had an outstanding four-year career at Cal. He appeared in 40 games for the Golden Bears, recording 212 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks and five interceptions. He led Cal with 84 tackles as a junior in 2016.
Downs was in the midst of a monster senior season last fall, being named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week twice in the first three weeks. Unfortunately, Downs suffered a knee injury in the Bears’ seventh game against Washington State and missed the rest of the season. Despite the missed time he was named Cal’s Defensive MVP and was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection. He finished with 65 tackles, 3.0 sacks and two interceptions in his seven games.
“It was just a fluke accident, I don’t want to go into detail about it,” Downs said about the injury.
“I’d say it affected my draft stock, but I never got too down on myself,” Downs added. “I came into the draft with an open mind, and luckily it worked out for me.”
It was the second time Downs had a senior season marred by injury. Downs suffered a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his knee just prior to his senior season at Mountlake Terrace, ending his high school career prematurely.
Downs said he wasn’t surprised he was picked by Minnesota, as he had been in contact with the Vikings before the draft. He said he hasn’t yet been told what type of role Minnesota envisions for him.
Next up for Downs is Minnesota’s rookie minicamp, which takes place this weekend. Downs, who was limited to doing the bench press during Cal’s pro day in the run-up to the draft, didn’t rule out the possibility of participating in rookie minicamp.
“I’m getting there,” Downs said about his recovery. “I’ll wait until the trainers for the Vikings tell me I’m ready to go. I’ll lean on them for advice and suggestions and go from there.
“If they tell me I’m good to go (for rookie minicamp), then I’m good to go.”