Jim Souhan
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The klieg lights attached to the minicams were blinding. Sweat budded from K.J. Osborn's forehead, one of his answers sounding as dramatic as the catch he had just made.

"This is what happens in the light," Osborn said. "But we do a lot in the dark."

He had just sliced through the Lions defense for a 28-yard touchdown reception with 45 seconds remaining that lifted the Vikings to a 28-24 victory at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Now Osborn, the third-year Vikings receiver, was talking about being a veer-formation running back in high school in Ypsilanti, Mich., and growing up watching Lions games, and how his job is to wait and work, and work and wait, until he finds himself running free toward the end zone, that moment in the light justifying all that time in the shadows.

The Vikings had fallen behind 14-0. They had lost running back Dalvin Cook to a shoulder injury. They had produced zero sacks. Star receiver Justin Jefferson had managed only three catches for 14 yards.

Now they were driving trailing by three, with no timeouts, and Osborn was lining up to the right next to Adam Thielen, both of them breaking inside at the snap.

Thielen stayed shallow. Osborn reversed field and cut toward the corner of the end zone. Former Viking Mike Hughes followed far behind. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins hit Osborn in stride, the ease of his touchdown belying the difficulty of the day, and Hughes turned to stare at his teammates questioningly.

"It looked like he was about to blitz," Osborn said. "So I `stemmed' him, kept my leverage, lost him, threw my hand up, Kirk threw a great ball, as always, and the rest is history."

Osborn's history suggests that former Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman had something to do with this victory. He chose Osborn in the fifth round of the 2020 draft.

Osborn played his first three collegiate seasons at Buffalo before transferring to the University of Miami, where he caught 50 passes for 547 yards and five touchdowns. Last year, he caught 50 passes for 655 yards and seven touchdowns, including the game-winner at Carolina.

Being a third receiver who plays with two stars in Thielen and Jefferson means that Osborn will face favorable coverages. It also means he is a clear third option. He will find himself open and unobserved more than most receivers would like.

"I play with two amazing wide receivers," Osborn said. "Adam, he had his 50th touchdown reception today — amazing. And Justin is the best in the league. I know they're going to get a lot of double coverage and that's going to leave me one-on-one or wide open."

Earlier, Cousins had missed Osborn on what could have been an easy touchdown. When you're Osborn, you don't know if you're going to get another chance.

"Kirk does an unbelievable job in preparation, and he inspires me to be as prepared as he is," Osborn said. "So that in tense situations in these tight, critical moments, he's able to trust me and come to me."

Osborn competes with two excellent receivers for targets. He may be Thielen's future replacement, but that, too, requires the kind of patience NFL receivers are not presumed to possess.

"He puts in that work every single day," Jefferson said. "Every. Single. Day. He has that determination, to try to be better than he was yesterday. Him coming out here and making these plays, that's expected for him."

Teammates described Osborn as quiet and dutiful. Cousins said Osborn's work in two-minute drills, especially in practice, had earned him playing time and attention. In a two-minute drill, Cousins and the offensive coaches don't have time to worry about reputations and egos. The first player open gets the ball.

Osborn is often that player, and his submerged ego does not reflect a lack of ambition.

He's reading a book titled "Chop Wood, Carry Water: How to Fall in Love With the Process of Becoming Great."

The process took almost 60 minutes on Sunday.