Ex-Vikings lineman Keith Millard helped mold draftee Ade Aruna

May 5, 2018 GMT

EAGAN, Minn. — When the Vikings selected defensive end Ade Aruna in the sixth round of the NFL draft last week, Keith Millard was elated.

Millard, a two-time all-pro defensive lineman for the Vikings from 1985-90, worked Aruna out for three weeks in January to help prepare him for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and NFL scouting combine.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Aruna, who played at Tulane, will take the field for the first time for the Vikings on Friday, May 4, the first day of a three-day rookie minicamp.

“They’re going to love him,” said Millard, whose 18 sacks in 1989 remains the third-most for the Vikings in a season. “He’s got work to do and he’s green, but he’s athletic and he’s definitely going to be one of those guys who does anything you ask and puts the work in. I told Ade, ‘You’re going to love that defense.’ It’s the perfect situation for him to work with (defensive line coach) Andre Patterson.”

Aruna, a native of Nigeria, came to the United States in 2010 to play basketball; he didn’t play football until his senior year of high school. He had 11 sacks in his final three seasons at Tulane.

After last season, Aruna’s agent, Steve Caric, called Millard, a former longtime NFL assistant, to work with Aruna on the field and in the film room. The sessions were held at California Strength, a facility in San Ramon owned by Dave Spitz, a weightlifting specialist who also was involved in workouts with Aruna.

Millard, who has worked with Caric the past five years, taught Aruna an array of moves. He provided tips on pad level and about making the first move while not waiting to see what an offensive lineman does.

“Coach Keith was everything I wanted in a coach,” Aruna said. “When it comes to the defensive line and pass rushing, he taught me almost everything I never knew before. … It was a great opportunity to get with somebody like him to learn what it is to play defensive line and pass-rush specialties.”

At the combine in February, Aruna used some pointers from Millard and showed off his athleticism. Among defensive ends, Aruna had the top vertical jump (38.5 inches), best standing broad jump (10.8 inches), second-best time in the 40-yard dash (4.6 seconds) and second-best in the 10-yard split (1.6 seconds).

“He’s got some work, no doubt, to learn the pro game,” Millard said. “He’s still got to clean up his technique and get his fundamentals down, but as far as the canvas to paint, it’s all there. He’s got great size and length, and he’s obviously very athletic.”