Another Spider has joined an NFL roster.
After going undrafted in the 2023 NFL Draft back in April, the Minnesota Vikings signed former University of Richmond running back Aaron Dykes ‘23, on Aug. 17.
“I mean, it’s been a dream since I was a kid,” Dykes said. “I mean, it was something that I’ve always wanted to do when I started playing football.”
Dykes, alongside two of his teammates, hosted a Pro Day March 23 on V. Earl Dickinson Field following his five seasons as a Spider, but ultimately did not get signed by a team after the NFL Draft in April.
“I didn’t get any calls and I was waiting for rookie minicamps,” Dykes said. “I never got any rookie minicamp invites. And so that was frustrating, I mean, you think so much about yourself and then it feels like a dream started to slip away a little bit.”
Eventually, Dykes secured a workout with the Cleveland Browns and then around a month ago, the Vikings called for a workout, he said.
“And thankfully, [the Vikings] needed some depth and help at the running back room and they called me [on Aug. 16],” Dykes said. “And I’ve been here since [Aug. 16]…and from that point on, I’ve been in practice and meetings and everything else. It’s just been, like I said, it’s just been going constantly.”
Soon after Dykes signed with the team, he made his NFL preseason debut Aug. 19 against the Tennessee Titans.
Interestingly enough, Dykes is from Knoxville, Tennessee, and his sister is a retired Titans cheerleader, so he said it was funny how it all worked out as he suited up to play against his home team.
“We were lining up kickoff and I just remember sitting there looking up and I’m like, ‘I’m really here right now,’” Dykes said. “And it was a great moment. It was just a moment of like, not being satisfied, but at the same time just being present in the moment and understanding what it meant to me and then also people around me who support me.”
Like at UR, Dykes played several positions while on the field for his first preseason game. Dykes returned five kickoffs for 112 yards, caught one pass for 11 yards, rushed three times for 19 yards and even added one tackle defensively. During Dykes’ first kickoff return, he ran for 38 yards.
“38 yard kickoff return to begin Aaron Dykes’ career with the Vikings,” Spider Football tweeted about Dykes’ game. “Only the beginning.”
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Dykes’ running back coach during his graduate year season and current UR coach, Justin Poindexter, said Dykes was not your average, multi-carry running back but rather an all-around player.
“[Dykes’] got the ability to catch the football, line up in different places, and the biggest thing, too, I think, is his ability to return kicks,” Poindexter said. “I think that’s something that not too many people in the country do, so [Dykes] being able to return kicks at a high level is also a really valuable skill.”
Poindexter said that as a coach, it’s a blessing and something to be grateful for when one of his players is afforded the opportunity to play professionally.
“[Dykes’] a hard-working young man and at the end of the day, everything that he’s put on the field that has gotten him to that point is strictly based on his performance,” Poindexter said. “It’s on his effort, it’s in the extra time he’s putting in in the weight room and all of the little things…”
Over five seasons at UR, Dykes rushed 470 times for 1980 yards, scored 16 rushing touchdowns, had 77 receptions for 750 yards and caught eight touchdowns in 42 games played. Dykes also returned 73 kickoffs for a total of 1,802 yards and three touchdowns and even had three tackles during his career.
Dykes sits second all-time on UR’s all purpose yards list with a total of 4,521 yards and sixth all-time on UR’s active kick return list with 1,802 yards. In his last season with the Spiders, Dykes played a role in getting the program to its first FCS playoff berth since 2016.
“I enjoyed playing ball at [UR] the past five years,” Dykes said. “I mean, it was an amazing place, I mean, the guys were great. We continuously got better every year.”
When he signed with the Vikings, Dykes became the second Spider to recently join an NFL program. Kobie Turner, ‘22, a former teammate of Dykes, was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams back in April.
Dykes said he reached out to Turner when he was drafted, and Turner did the same when Dykes signed with the Vikings. Turner told Dykes to keep going and that it was time to show what he could do, Dykes said.
As of now, Dykes’ future with the Vikings is uncertain, as he said he is still fighting for a spot on the final 53-man roster. According to Dykes, cuts will take place Aug. 29.
Dykes will have another chance to showcase his skills, however, when the Vikings take on the Arizona Cardinals at 1 p.m. Aug. 26.
“It’s always been a dream to play running back in the NFL,” Dykes said. “I mean, it was definitely a dream come true but I mean, at this point, I’m in a place where I’m willing to do whatever it is to help the Vikings win football games and just try and be able to be a part of that final 53 that make the cut or even on the practice squad, whatever it is to help make the team win games this year.”
Contact sports editor Jimmy James at email@example.com.
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