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Neal: McCarthy mania sweeps through Vikings draft party

First, Vikings fans at the NFL draft party at U.S. Bank Stadium jeered Caleb Williams when he was selected with the first overall pick by Chicago.

Then they booed when Drake Maye went to New England at No. 3.

When Michael Penix Jr. was taken by Atlanta at No. 8, they yelped in astonishment.

The roars came moments later, when that Vikings helmet popped up on the videoboard following a trade that put them on the clock at No. 10.

When that pick became J.J. McCarthy, pandemonium.

The 2024 NFL draft made history as six quarterbacks were taken among the first 12 picks and the first 14 picks were all offensive players.

After enduring the full gamut of emotions, Vikings fans rejoiced as they witnessed history at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"Look at what I got," Quinn Jurgens of Eden Prairie said while reaching into a bag. He pulled out a white Vikings No. 9 jersey, matching McCarthy's number at Michigan.

"Just in case," he said.

A prescient move, as the Vikings achieved their primary goal of landing one of the top quarterbacks in the draft.

When McCarthy needed to make plays for the Wolverines, he put the ball in tight windows and was nimble when he needed to be.

McCarthy brings a lot to the Vikings. He wasn't a shotgun or pistol quarterback. He lined up under center, turned his back to the defense with play action and made things happen. Other pluses: He's from the Chicago area and grew up playing hockey until his freshman year in high school.

Who better to lead the Vikings into a new era than a hockey-playing quarterback from the Midwest?

Fans flocked to U.S, Bank Stadium on Thursday with quarterbacks on their mind. Vikings officials said nearly 7,000 tickets were distributed for their draft party. And the playing surface was nearly full of purple-clad supporters. There was one John Elway jersey in the crowd. Poor guy.

While many fans coveted Maye, there were many who had no problem with landing McCarthy. As the draft began, a man sitting behind me pledged to remove his clothing if McCarthy was selected.

Now Vikings fans can watch J.J. throw to J.J. Star wide receiver Justin Jefferson proved last year that he can catch passes from anyone. The question is, how soon can McCarthy become the starter?

Former Vikings QB Tommy Kramer approved of the selection when he wrote on X: "Even though Jim McMahon wore my number for one year, I just talked to him and we are more than happy to pass No. 9 on to J.J. McCarthy. The future looks bright, Vikings fans."

Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah wasn't done. He swung a second trade to move up from No. 23 to 17 and selected top edge rushing prospect Dallas Turner, who was a casualty of the draft's obsession over offensive players. Vikings fans were surprised by the move but had enough in the tank to re-ignite with more cheers when the Turner pick was announced.

The Vikings masterfully maneuvered through a draft that could prove to be an historic one in franchise history. They have their quarterback of the future. They have an edge rusher to replace the departed Danielle Hunter. And the seat under Adofo-Mensah is not as hot.

Fans left the stadium chanting "Skol!" after an eventful evening.

And I'm happy to report that the fan sitting behind me kept his clothes on.