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Thomas Rush developed into a standout defensive end during his final two seasons with the Gophers, but he knew that if his NFL aspirations were to come true, he'd need to be as versatile as possible.

With that in mind, he asked for special teams duty, something usually reserved for reserves instead of starters. Gophers special teams coordinator Rob Wenger agreed to put him on the punt team.

Rush took that do-anything approach to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January, playing both defensive end and on special teams to showcase his versatility.

"I want to get on an [NFL] roster and just make it as hard as possible to cut me," he said from the Gophers' pro day on Wednesday at their indoor practice facility.

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck sees Rush as the type of player who can stick in the NFL for the long haul.

"People ask me, 'Who would surprise you if they stay in the league 10 years?' " Fleck said. "It wouldn't shock me if 10 years from now, Thomas Rush is still in the NFL. … He can do so much. He can play linebacker and play defensive end. He's gonna do a lot of things, especially on special teams."

Rush ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 19 times.

"It was great to get out here, open up and work as hard as I could and leave it out there," he said. "… It doesn't last forever, so just enjoy every day. This is one of the big ones."

Purple on display

The Vikings were well-represented at pro day, with coach Kevin O'Connell, General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, offensive coordinator Wes Phillips and defensive coordinator Brian Flores among a large contingent of staffers in attendance.

"Since I've been here, we haven't had that close relationship [until now]," Fleck said. "You have the head football coach and the Vikings GM here. And they're just normal guys. That want to be able to see what you're doing."

Fleck said the Gophers will visit the Vikings' practice facility this spring.

Howden has hops

Former Gophers safety Jordan Howden participated in the NFL scouting combine earlier this month, but he wasn't satisfied with his vertical jump of 33½ inches and tried again Wednesday. Howden went 39½ this time.

"Coming from the combine, I just didn't like those numbers," Howden said. "I got another chance, and I'm happy with getting a 39.5."

Following Kieft's lead

Axel Ruschmeyer might be considered a candidate to be an undrafted free agent, but the former Gophers guard sees the example of perseverance that ex-Gophers tight end Ko Kieft showed when he became a sixth-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year.

"Ko is a football guy, through and through — a hard-nosed hillbilly from Iowa. He cracks people with his skull, and he's got red hair to boot," Ruschmeyer said. "He's exactly the kind of guy you want to model your game after, especially as an 'O' lineman."