Vikings 1st since '99 to draft Air Force player

EAGAN, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings on Saturday used the last of their 12 draft picks on Air Force long-snapper Austin Cutting.

According to Pro Football Focus, Cutting was 97.9 percent accurate on his long snaps over the past three seasons, making the Vikings eager to use a draft pick on him before another team had the opportunity.

However, given his commitment to the United States armed forces, there are some questions about when Cutting can suit up for the purple.

Cutting, an acquisitions officer in the Air Force, said he is obligated to fulfill 24 months of service upon graduation before he can apply to have the remainder of his commitment served in the reserves.

The long-snapper taken in the seventh round -- 250th overall -- is the first Air Force player drafted since defensive lineman Bryce Fisher was taken by the Buffalo Bills in 1999, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The last player from any service academy drafted was Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds in 2016. There's precedent the Vikings can follow as it pertains to getting a waiver that would allow their new long-snapper to adjust how he fulfills his military duties. Four years ago, when the Patriots drafted long-snapper Joe Cardona, the Navy allowed him to defer his commitment and serve as a reservist while he began his NFL career.

The policy differs with each branch of the military but is something the Vikings are monitoring.

"We've been in constant communication with the Air Force Academy," general manager Rick Spielman said. "What I can tell you is I know Austin's very excited and obligated to serve his commitment. I know talking with the people at the academy, we're working through right now ways that he can serve his commitment but also be able to serve his capacity here as a football player. That's a work in progress, that's something that we've discussed over the past week or so. I give a lot of credit to [Special-teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf] and [assistant coach] Ryan Ficken. Those guys went out and did a lot of personal workouts with all these specialists and the long-snappers and felt when they came back that he was the long-snapper out there."

The Vikings will bring in their draftees and a host of college free agents for rookie minicamp next weekend. Cutting said he will "absolutely" make it to the Twin Cities to compete in the three-day camp with his new teammates.

Though long-snappers don't often find themselves as drafted prospects, Cutting's success at Air Force drew a handful of teams looking to land him in the draft or as a college free agent.

"We were in touch with about half the teams, about, I would say 14 to 15, right around there," Cutting said. "There were three to four that were coming after me pretty hard, and of those four Minnesota was one. We've been dealing with that and this is how it played out and I'm happy."