Former Long Island Lutheran High star Shamar Stephen, who went on to play defensive tackle at the University of Connecticut, saw his dream of being drafted by the NFL come true Saturday. Stephen, who lives in Brookville, was a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings. "Definitely a long way, but well worth it," Stephen said after being selected with the 220th overall pick. "I thought I was going to go a little earlier than this, but I'm glad I'm a Viking."
Stephen was a four-year starter at Connecticut, and was the team MVP last season after producing 60 tackles and three sacks. He joins a Vikings team whose first-year coach, Mike Zimmer, was a long-time NFL defensive coordinator who has coached several top-flight defensive linemen during his career. Stephen hopes to become another.
"I know about coach Zimmer's scheme, he is definitely a defensive-minded coach," said the 6-5, 315-pound Stephen. "He definitely brings a lot of ability from my position, especially being a two- gap defensive tackle who can shed blocks."
Stephen was one of only 30 prospects to visit with the Vikings before the draft.
"The Vikings were one of my biggest visits, with it being my first," he said. Being a top 30 player, I was definitely appreciative of the coaching staff and what they did for me. I'm focused on playing, and they gave me the opportunity."
It was at the Senior Bowl when Stephen caught the Vikings' attention. "It was a great experience being able to compete against a lot of other players from around the country and just being able to compete I think that was the best part, being able to compete against everybody and putting my ability out there and show that I can play," he said of the Senior Bowl experience. "It started at the Senior Bowl. They brought me in and thought I was a great prospect. I'm happy they chose me."