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Meet Cornelius Edison, the Vikings' new center (for now)

Minnesota Vikings center Cornelius Edison (67) walks to the the field during the teams training camp at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minn., on Tuesday, Aug 7, 2018. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

EAGAN, Minn. — Even diehard Vikings fans would have trouble picking Cornelius Edison out of a lineup.

A member of the Vikings' practice squad last season, the 25-year-old center has played in just six NFL games, all on special teams for the Chicago Bears in 2016.

That said, when the Vikings' first-team offensive line trots onto the field for the preseason opener against the Broncos at 8 p.m. Saturday in Denver, Edison will be the guy snapping the ball to high-priced quarterback Kirk Cousins.

With starting center Pat Elflein still sidelined on the physically-unable-to-perform list and backup center Nick Easton nursing a neck injury, the job belongs to Edison for now.

"I haven't really thought about that too much," Edison said with a sheepish grin. "Just going out there every day and trying to get better."

Not much of a talker, Edison comes from humble beginnings, growing up in University Place, Wash.

Armed with a biblical name — "My parents were in church when I started kicking," Edison explained. "They were talking about Cornelius in the (Book of Acts), so that's where they got my name" — he starred for Curtis Senior High School before moving on to Portland State as an under-recruited offensive lineman.

That served as a launching pad for Edison, as he started getting noticed as a versatile player up front, winning the FCS division's Rimington Trophy (nation's top center) as a senior. Some had him projected as a late-round pick heading into the 2015 NFL Draft before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the pre-draft process.

Edison did not hear from an NFL team until the Bears called more than six months after the draft, offering him a spot on their practice squad in November. He was released after parts of two seasons, then landed on the Vikings' practice squad last season.

Since then, Edison counts his battles against star Vikings nose tackle Linval Joseph among the biggest learning experiences of his developing career.

"He's going to get after it and go until that whistle blows," Joseph said of Edison. "You need a guy like that on the offensive line. You've got to have a guy that's going to have heart and bring it every day."

The Vikings need that and more since two weeks into training camp he has gone from third-stringer to backup to starter.

"He's done a really good job," Cousins said. "He's another guy who even though he maybe hasn't played a lot of football in this league, has been around the block long enough to know what it should look like. I've really enjoyed working with him."

"He has stepped in and done really, really well," offensive coordinator John DeFilippo added. "I'm proud of him. He plays with great leverage. He has strong hands. He stays low to the ground. He's smart. He hasn't messed up a snap yet in terms of the cadence. He's done a fantastic job of stepping in there, and we're happy with where he's at."

Eventually, Elflein will return from injury, and Edison knows he will be back on the sideline.

"I try to take advantage of every opportunity I have whether it's practice or game," he said. "I treat it all the same and work as hard as I can."

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