MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Xavier Rhodes arrived at Florida State as a skilled offensive player, a running back and wide receiver from the football-rich Miami area.
He was quickly switched to cornerback, and he didn’t like it.
“At that moment, I thought I wasn’t going to be here,” Rhodes said. “It was a blessing that it happened. I was upset at first, but now I see the coaches saw something in me at corner. I trusted them. I believed. Now I’m here.”
Rhodes signed a five-year contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday , keeping him under the team’s control through the 2022 season and making him one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league. According to NFL Media, the deal is worth a maximum of $70 million with $41 million in guaranteed money.
Rhodes is making a little more than $8 million this season, his fifth in the league.
“I was speechless,” Rhodes said after practice. “It was a lifelong dream for me. As a kid, watching guys sign big deals, you always wanted that to be you.”
Rhodes was picked for his first Pro Bowl in 2016, tallying a career-high five interceptions while regularly assigned to cover the opponent’s best wide receiver and frustrating them often .
“In my opinion, as far as covering guys all the way, man to man, following them everywhere, I don’t think there’s anyone better,” safety Harrison Smith said.
A first-round draft choice in 2013, the 25th overall selection, Rhodes has flourished under the tutelage of coach Mike Zimmer, long lauded for his work with defensive backs. Zimmer made Rhodes’ development a priority when he was hired in 2014, though Rhodes didn’t always appreciate the extra attention.
He thought, “Man, he needs to lay off, get off my back.”
But the tough love turned out for the best.
“He was on me each and every play. He always believed in me. He always told me, ‘I’m going to work you hard to be the best corner in the league,'” Rhodes said. “He trusted in me. To this day, I really thank him.”
Rhodes has been a key part in a sound defense that has been dominant at times. He credited teammate Terence Newman for working with him on the mental part of the game.
The Vikings signed defensive end Everson Griffen to a four-year contract extension worth up to $58 million before the team arrived for training camp on Wednesday. Smith signed a five-year, $51 million contract extension last summer.
“Xavier was a high priority coming into the offseason,” general manager Rick Spielman said. “We wanted to make sure we got him locked up to be a Minnesota Viking through most of his career, hopefully ending his career with us.
“One thing I know, reading the tweets , Xavier knows where the money bags emoji thing is. He knows where that button is. Hopefully, it’s the interception button he’s going to be pushing going forward.”
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