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The Twin Cities media immediately dubbed him Disco Darrin. Grant said Nelson should be assured that polkas, not C&W, were big in Minnesota. Rashad sent him a telegram that read, "Dear Darrin: Please reserve your judgment on Minnesota until you get here. Don't worry about discos. Worry about the Super Bowl. Looking forward to seeing you."
Nelson now says he was kidding about the discos. "I just like the California weather," he says. "I'm not a surfer, but I've lived there my whole life and I like to be outside, playing softball or going for a swim. But the main reason was my family. It's so far for them to come to watch me."
Nelson is an easygoing, intelligent young man (he graduated with a 3.0 as an urban development and environmental planning major) who has a squeaky, high voice, smiles a lot and isn't stuck on himself. He just happens to be honest. He didn't want to go to Minnesota, and his agent, 29-year-old Tony Agnone, who's assistant to the dean of the University of Baltimore Law School, wrote the Vikings telling them just that. Agnone felt Nelson would be gone by the 10th pick, and only Minnesota among his undesirables ( Detroit and Green Bay were others) drafted higher. "In retrospect, I should've written the others so it wouldn't look that bad," agonizes Agnone.
After some foot-dragging, Nelson signed on July 30, two days after camp began. There was speculation he had a deal worth $800,000 over three years, including signing bonus, salary and incentives. Lynn said $520,000 over three was more like it. Agnone hinted $800,000 wasn't as farfetched as Lynn claims it is, but refused to get more specific.
All the publicity about the penny-wise Vikings' paying princely sums to a rookie didn't sit well with three-year veteran Brown, who last year ranked third in the NFL in pass receptions, with 83, and ninth in the NFC in rushing, with 1,063 yards. On the day after Nelson's signing press conference, Brown missed both drills at practice at Mankato State College and never sufficiently explained his absences. He does admit that he was getting advice from his accountant that day, though. Brown was actually more upset by the reports that Nelson got a three-year guaranteed deal while most of the other Viking veterans, himself included, have a series of one-year contracts. But Lynn and Agnone both say that Nelson has signed three separate one-year contracts, too.
Though some observers were surprised when the Vikes picked another pass-catching back, Brown and Nelson shouldn't get in each other's way. Brown is the fullback, who runs and does most of his receiving on releases out of the backfield. Nelson is the movable back, who'll often line up as a wide receiver and perhaps discourage double-teaming on Rashad or White. "It's obvious what Darrin gives us with that quickness," Kramer said after Saturday's game. "He ran a little option pattern tonight, and I threw it behind him because he's so fast. But I'll adjust to it. On this turf he's going to be something else."
Nelson liked the Crockpot, and he'll like it more in November and December when those cold winds will be blowing through Metropolitan Stadium. But other opinions varied widely. "On the eighth day, God created the Vikings," said Greg Coleman, whose first punt on Saturday night sailed 70 yards, "and on the ninth day, He created the dome. It took him a long time, but I'm patient." Linebackers aren't. "Domes may be great for the skill people," said Studwell, "but not for people like me. Football should be played outdoors." Said Brown, "I wouldn't mind playing the first half of the season outdoors and moving into the dome for the second half."
For his part, Grant was taking a predictably moderate stance. "There was a lot of criticism in New Orleans when they built the Superdome," he said, "but still and all it's the biggest thing that happened down there to make that a big league town. Someday they'll erect a statue in front of the place to the man responsible for the Superdome. We had to do something here, and this was the best move to accommodate everyone."
Though there were no tears shed the day before the game, there was a lot of nostalgia about the good ol' Met.
"I honestly can say the cold weather never bothered me," Studwell said, "even when it was 20 below. The Met wasn't exactly ideal for football, but I'm going to miss that place and that unique feeling of playing outdoors."