EAGAN, Minn. — It's not unusual for young people with dreams to put pictures of athletes on their walls.
But it is uncommon to become a teammate with one of those role models.
Brian Asamoah II lived that experience last season when he was selected by the Vikings in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft and joined a locker room that included Eric Kendricks.
Asamoah soaked up everything he could from the linebacker last season before salary cap constraints prompted Kendricks' release earlier this year. Kendricks quickly signed with the Los Angeles Chargers, returning to the city where he starred at UCLA and creating a job opening at inside linebacker.
"Eric Kendricks, I can speak very highly of him. A great role model, great leader," Asamoah said Tuesday. "He was a captain of our team, and that was somebody I kind of looked up to.
"I told him this one time. He was on my wall when I was in high school, so just having him take me under his wing, I sat next to him in meetings, hung out with him outside of football, it was just great," Asamoah added. "I loved him. I loved every part of him, so I guess this year for me, I have Jordan Hicks, as well, a guy that's a veteran in this league. Someone who has understood several defenses, been around different places, understands the schematics, the nuances of different defenses as well. Like I said, I'm just here to learn and apply myself and get 1 percent better each day."
Asamoah's wall in Columbus, Ohio, included Kendricks, Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis and others.
"Guys that are really good that I once aspired to be," Asamoah said.
View photos of Vikings players arriving for offseason workouts at the TCO Performance Center.
While replacing everything Kendricks provided for the team for eight seasons since his selection in the 2015 second round is no short order, Asamoah is a strong candidate for the opportunity and likely to be paired with Hicks in Minnesota's system under new Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores.
"I'm going to go out there and attack every single day, and with the opportunity that comes with it, I'm going to try to take full range of that and we'll see where it goes from there," Asamoah said.
Hicks joined Minnesota as a free agent in 2022 and cited the opportunity to play with Kendricks as a major draw.
"[Kendricks is] a special player, a special friend, but I think B.A. had the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to learn from somebody like that," Hicks said. "Eric did a great job of taking him under his wing, trying to pour into him constantly, teach him things, sit next to him in meetings, so B.A. understands the standard. He didn't need anybody to teach him that, but he's seen that communication, the detail it takes and the understanding of schemes to be able to really excel at this level."
Hicks called Asamoah "one of the most explosive players I've been around at linebacker."
"He's as fast as any linebacker I've been around, as explosive and strong and naturally gifted, wants to be great, has all the skill set," Hicks said. "So it's what it's about as a young guy. It's constantly refining your game and chipping away at the things you know you need to get better at, and it's no different for a young guy or old guy.
"I'm doing the same things still at 30 years old, but as a young guy, there's so much potential and opportunity out there for you," Hicks said. "Me being right next to him, I take ownership in his process, as well. Showing him the ropes and continuing to build that process. It's exciting to watch him grow. It's exciting to watch him play. He's a beast."
Like Kendricks, Hicks was selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. After four seasons in Philadelphia, he played three in Arizona. When the Cardinals released him a year ago before free agency, the Vikings quickly signed him.
He responded by starting all 17 games and recording 129 tackles. Hicks added 3.0 sacks, four quarterback hits, an interception and a forced fumble.
View photos of Vikings front office staff preparing for the 2023 NFL Draft in the Thomson Reuters Draft Room at the TCO Performance Center.
Asamoah made his way into a defensive package, playing six snaps on defense in Week 5 against Chicago. He picked up more snaps with the unit later in the season. His most memorable play was forcing and recovering a fumble against the Giants in Week 16.
As Hicks is preparing for his ninth NFL season, he has reached "old head" status, to borrow a term from Asamoah.
"He's going to get mad, but I always tell them if you're over nine years in the league, you're an old head, a vet-vet," Asamoah laughed. "They don't like it, but they are a vet-vet."
It's a compliment, not a slight, for someone who seeks opportunities to spend time with older players. He noted Kendricks, returning safety Harrison Smith and former Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson, who joined the Steelers during free agency after two seasons with Minnesota.
Asamoah sometimes rode to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center with Peterson last year and appreciated dinner invitations at Peterson's home.
"My entire life, I've been around guys that are older than me, much more mature than me so I can learn," Asamoah said. "Just having those guys who were able to pass down the game itself, it's huge because they are very unselfish with what they've learned in the league and are able to pass it down to guys like me who are willing to be receptive and apply it on a football field.
"Having those guys has been great," Asamoah added. "I thank God every day for having those people in my corner that are so unselfish to share that knowledge with me."