The NFL Draft is a moment that many NFL hopefuls have waited their entire lives for. After years of hard work, newly signed rookies are rewarded with their first contracts. One Minnesota Vikings rookie felt the need to give back to the community he came up through and put his first payday to good use.
Fifth-rounder K.J. Osborn, who was drafted out of Miami, donated a portion of his signing bonus to purchase 600 bottles of hand sanitizer, which he gave away on Wednesday to families in his hometown of Ypsilanti, Mich., to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just want people to stay safe, and hopefully we’re on the back end of this thing,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “I’m just very excited that I can do this for my community.
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Osborn’s Journey to the NFL and Building His Platform
Osborn left Ypsilanti, Mich., a city of roughly 20,000 located 35 miles from downtown Detroit, in 2014 to attend Florida’s IMG Academy, a private boarding school that’s become a football prospect factory in recent years. Despite leaving home to chase his dreams, Osborn had every intention of going back to help his community, according to Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press:
“‘How can I help by using my platform?” Osborn said. ‘Especially me being a rookie, we decided to start in my own backyard with people that helped get me here. That’s how it formed.’
As a junior at Lincoln [High School], he set school track records in the 100 and 200 meters. He made 21 receptions for 379 yards and seven touchdowns at IMG Academy as a senior.
‘I never want to burn my bridges or anything like that,” Osborn said. ‘Lincoln is where I started everything. I was a ball boy when I was in sixth grade for the varsity team. I traveled to all the home and away games. The relationship has always been there, so it’s only right for me to give back to show my loyalty.'”
“After some questions were raised about Osborn’s speed, the 203-pound receiver quieted criticism at the NFL Scouting Combine with a respectable time of 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He also ranked fifth-fastest among receivers in the 3-cone drill, clocking in at 7 seconds flat.‘Everybody wanted to see me run, so I wanted to go out there and prove that,’ Osborn said. ‘I worked really hard just to be able to show that on the biggest stage, and I was able to do it, so I also have got to give the biggest shout-out to my trainer, Mo Wells. I feel like he’s the best in the business, so I was able to do that.’Osborn showed his strength, as well; his 18 reps of 225 at the bench press ranked sixth in his position group.”
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman drafted Osborn in the fifth round of the draft and found the 23-year-old to be a fit as a special teams player right away.
“[He’s] a slot-type receiver. I know when our coaches evaluated him, they thought he could continue to improve as a receiver, but his value is going to come as a potential punt returner for us,” Spielman said via video conference. “We think he has a legitimate [shot at] winning the punt return and the kick return job with his explosive speed and power.”
Homecoming For the Rolling Stone
After leaving Ypsilanti in the spring of 2014 and living in New York and Florida for the past five years, nearly 50 cars filled with former teachers, families and fans greeted Osborn as he handed out dozens of bottles of hand sanitizer at his former high school. Greg Wickliffe of the Ann Arbor News wrote.
“It’s great; it’s huge,” Osborn told Wickliffe. “It’s something I wanted to do since I was a kid. I’ve been blessed to be in a position I’m in to be able to come back here to my roots and give back to the community. It’s the first of many so I’m really happy.”
Osborn’s next destination will be the TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minn., where he’ll contend for a spot on the Vikings’ final roster this summer. Continuing to work on his master’s degree in criminal justice, Osborn told the Ann Arbor News he’s hoping to inspire the next generation of Ypsilanti.
“I didn’t do anything special, just hard work,” he said. “I walked these same halls these kids walked, so I have a tremendous amount of pride being from Ypsilanti and I just want to show kids to let me be motivation. If I can do it, they can do it too.”
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