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Thursday, April 26, 2012
Smith joins familiar company in Minn.

By Matt Fortuna

Is it too early to call Notre Dame the minor league affiliate of the Vikings?

Minnesota added its fourth Irish player, trading up to take safety Harrison Smith with the 29th pick of the NFL draft.

Smith now joins former Notre Dame teammates Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and John Sullivan in Minnesota. The former captain becomes the Irish's highest defensive player drafted since 1997, when the Jaguars took Renaldo Wynn 21st overall. He is also Notre Dame's highest defensive back selection since 1994, when the Bills took Jeff Burris 27th.

"Harrison Smith is one of the best leaders I've ever had on any of my teams," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. "He is an intelligent and instinctual player on the field and a true student of the game off the field. He'll be a great fit for Minnesota's defense and I can't wait to watch his long and successful pro career."

That 1994 draft was the last time Notre Dame had multiple first-round picks, as Burris followed Bryant Young (No. 7, 49ers) and Aaron Taylor (No. 16, Packers). The 18-year stretch came to an end Thursday, as Smith was taken 16 spots after Michael Floyd was drafted by the Cardinals.

Smith finished his career second in Notre Dame history with 28 career pass breakups, and he is ninth on the school's tackles list, with 309 for his career.