When Kirk Cousins was a middle schooler, he wished upon shooting stars to one day become an NFL quarterback.
On Tuesday, he was again at the podium at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, readying himself for the next chapter. The 2023 season will be his 12th in the NFL and sixth in Minnesota.
It will follow a 2022 campaign in which he led an NFL record-tying eight fourth-quarter comebacks on the way to a 13-4 record and NFC North title.
Netflix's documentary Quarterback filmed Cousins, Patrick Mahomes and Marcus Mariota last season, providing an inside look at their lives. The quarterbacks are shown being hit by opposing defenders on the field and then recovering off-field, all while preparing for the weekly NFL grind.
Cousins acknowledged that he cannot always tell the truth about his pain when talking to the media. But Netflix publicized the intense collisions he endured last season.
"Well, it's not something you want to advertise," Cousins said, speaking to media for the first time since the series launched July 12. "So I'm going to stand up here and lie through my teeth and (say) I feel great every week to you guys. That's just the way it's got to be. So the documentary obviously may tell a different story."
Cousins was hit 131 times more than any quarterback last season. He also threw for 4,547 yards and 29 touchdowns. Netflix documented Cousins treating his weekly injuries accrued by standing in the pocket staring down fierce NFL defenders.
"I think people kind of appreciate a lot of things about him after watching that … series that maybe they didn't know beforehand," Vikings safety Harrison Smith said. "Especially his toughness and the things he does in that regard… He never is fake about who he is. He just goes about his business."
There is a football perception that running quarterbacks like the Bears Justin Fields and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson are in harm's way more often due to the number of times they carry the ball as runners.
NFL Films provided visual evidence and resounding audio of Cousins being hit as he stood in the pocket while delivering explosive downfield completions.
"Kirk is an exceptional player. I'm glad everybody can see what he puts into the game," Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said. "Because I don't think … the common person really understands what he puts in and what he puts his body through."
For example, Quarterback showed Cousins grimacing through pain during Week 10 at Buffalo. As Cousins walked to the sideline head coach Kevin O'Connell asked if Cousins was OK.
"No," Cousins shouted. "I'm hurt."
The Vikings won that game 33-30 in overtime, sparked by wide receiver Justin Jefferson's ESPY-winning 32-yard catch on fourth down which Cousins delivered from the pocket.
"The pockets can be pretty violent, too," Cousins said. "Just because you're in the pocket doesn't mean you're safe. Many times no-flinch, staring-down-the-barrel is just as violent. So I think that gave a little bit of that understanding."
Fans everywhere also learned more about Cousins as a person. In episode one, his wife Julie coined "Dad Style" referring to how Cousins dresses. This week on Good Morning Football, co-host Peter Schrager said Cousins has "won over America."
The Netflix series also shared some tense moments between O'Connell and Cousins. But entering Year 2, Cousins said familiarity will help the offense navigate specific in-game calls and protections.
"I think (the offense) will evolve the more time (we spend) together," Cousins said. "Being able to reference that old stuff, I think the same is true in the quarterback room with Chris O'Hara and Nick Mullens to say we've all been together. Now let's go back to what happened last November, December, January. And we can draw on that and have all had that shared experience.
"I think that really helps," he added. "And that's what I had with Klint Kubiak, with Sean Mannion. We had those years together where you could really keep moving forward at a fast pace because everybody had been together for so long."
With continuity back on his side, Cousins decided to go all-out in the preparation before and during this season. For the first time in his career, Cousins hired a full-time "body coach" to work with him independently from the team.
Cousins said he decided to do "everything he can" to maximize the rest of his NFL career.
"I just feel that this is something serious enough. My health, staying on the field, being around a long time, it's not worth cutting corners," Cousins said. "Let's go all in and let's over-commit to this if we have to. If I'm guilty of that, then I can live with that."