Q: Some people thought you turning 30 would lead to a decrease in production, but you posted your third-highest rushing total in a season and now have an increased amount of perspective. How has that combination of still being able to play at a high level and that perspective helped you?
A: It’s helped me a lot. I always tell people 30 is the new 20, but being in the league for a long time and just being able to share with the younger guys how things go and what this organization expects from its players. I think that’s the easy thing, but when it comes to taking care of the body, doing the right things to keep your body in shape, keeping your body healthy, the small things, the cold tubs, the treatments, the massages, things like that to be able to have that longevity, it’s been fun for me to sit back and give this advice to the younger guys to help them have long careers as well.
Q: What was it like to get that warm welcome back from Vikings fans this season? Did you have an “I’m back” moment?
A: It felt good when I came out for the first home game, and you just hear the crowd screaming, yelling and chanting your name. I think that was a moment I was able to realize I’m back, I’m here, I’m in the tunnel and about to go out and take a snap. That’s when I realized it, and it felt good.
Q: Would you call this team a special team? You’ve been here nine seasons, what would you say it’s like to be part of this particular team?
A: It’s like a big family. There’s a new coaching staff, so you have a totally different mindset, a totally different feel. The structure is different. You have a good core group of veteran guys that have been around for a long time. You think about
Q: The Pro Bowl is kind of a perennial goal for you, but this year, you made it while helping the Vikings to the playoffs. What’s it like to have that honor and still have other goals within reach?
A: It’s always humbling for me to be recognized in different ways. I realize how blessed I am and we are as a team and just continue to take it in stride one day at a time.
Q: Vikings-Packers decided the NFC North crown. What does that rivalry mean to you?
A: It means a lot because these guys have been front runners in the North division. Any time you play those guys, it’s intense. We’re scratching and clawing and trying to leave that field with a W by any means necessary.
Q: Is going through that tunnel a little different than at other stadiums?
A: It is. You know what these guys bring to the table. You know who is on the other side of the field. You’ve got Aaron Rodgers, let me just call it how it is. He’s one of the best players in the National Football League today. You’ve got to come out, cross your Ts and dot your Is in all phases, so when you come out of that tunnel, you’re in the mindset to get it done.
Q: What do you think you can add to your legacy with being able to have a few more postseason games by playing for a team with a shot to make a lasting impact in postseasons to come?
A: Going down in history as the first Vikings team to make it to the Super Bowl and win. That’s how I feel like we can make it happen. Of course, together, but that definitely kind of puts a stamp on your legacy and things you have done for your organization and the state of Minnesota.
Q: How has Mike Zimmer set the tone? He’s spoken about how much he appreciates you and what you’ve done for the team. This identity he wants to forge, toughness, win in the fourth quarter, determination, get off the mat. What do you respect about his philosophy, and how have you seen that embodied and helped embody that?
A: His demeanor, you look at the guy, he looks tough and talks tough as well, but when he speaks, you know he’s genuine. He wants the best out of his players, and the only thing he cares about is winning any way we can. That’s his main objective, and just being a players’ coach, guys are attracted to that as well. With that, you get guys that are willing to go that extra mile for the coach. As a leader on this team, you want to instill those things he has: the toughness, the grit, the focus, being a smart team as well. When you go out during the week, during the preparation, you just lead by example and the young guys will follow.
Q: It could be said that two of the team’s best games have been loses this season, at Denver and at Arizona. How do you think those are going to help this team as you face tough games?
A: I think more so for the younger guys because the veteran guys have been around games like that for a minute. The younger guys, even in those losses, were able to sit back and see what caused those losses, whether it was turnovers or mental errors, mistakes, big plays given up by the defense or special teams. Dang, if I would have played my position right, I would have tackled this guy for a 10-yard gain instead of a 50-yard touchdown, and that right there is the difference in the game, so they are able to kind of look back and see those small things make a world of difference in the game. “I really didn’t play too bad. I’ve just got to make sure I eliminate this, and this game could have turned out totally different.”
Q: A couple of switches and injuries on the offensive line, you’ve had four guys in new places this season and a new fullback. How did you get that chemistry going?
Q: You’ve had a lot of success going to Joe’s right or left this season. What has he done, an 11-year guy, kind of unheralded over the years, but he punches a time clock doesn’t he?
A: Yeah, he does. I know Sully has been teaching him a lot, but he’s been around for a long time. He knows what it takes, and if there’s one thing you have to do as an offensive lineman, it’s play tough, hard-nosed football and he does a great job of doing that. He does a great job of directing those young guys on the offensive line.
Q: Every opponent’s defense starts with you in mind. Guys are geared up all week, they’re preparing to come after you with everything they’ve got, right? What’s it like to face what everyone thinks is their best every week?
A: It’s a challenge. I love it. I feed off that, knowing that these guys are coming in and their number one objective, 99 percent of the time, is to slow down the run game and stop me. It just makes me work harder. I take pride in being able to go out and dominate. I enjoy it.
Q: What do you want to see from this team as it enters the postseason? What do you need to do to make a run like you guys made in ’09?
A: Just continue to mature. We have a lot of young guys that haven’t been in this position before, so to see guys continue to mature, to do the little things we know we can do. That Denver game and at Arizona, those small things that can cause you to lose a game. Now is getting crunch time, so it’s really being mature and eliminating those things, just keep putting our best foot forward, playing for one another, and the sky is the limit if we continue to do that.
Q: You’ve often shown your heart for giving back and impacting the lives of others. Being great at football gives you an even broader platform to reach out to others. You’ve met a lot of young people who are struggling with health or economic struggles and they’ve been uplifted by meeting you. What’s it like to continue to get those experiences?
A: I think it’s my number one objective in life, to inspire people and give back. When I look at people and see there’s a sense of no hope in their eyes, I want to do what I can to change that, to make them believe there’s hope and give them some of my experiences and who I always fall back on, and that’s God, who gave his Son for us. I’ve seen a lot of people respond in a positive way. It’s always exciting and humbling as well to be able to encounter people, whether they’re struggling as an adult or a 4-year-old kid who is looking at me and person. I’m nonchalant and I don’t really — I get it, I understand what people look at me as, but I’m their hero. I sit back, and I’m like, ‘Wow,’ because of how I am as a I’m just from Palestine, Texas, a little kid who grew up and didn’t have anything, so I think that’s why a lot of people are able to relate to me. When I’m able to spend time with people, and I see how passionate they are, just to be in my presence, I have to use that platform for God’s work and to be able to inspire and help them get through a rough situation that they’re dealing with.