EAGAN, Minn. — Danielle Hunter is an absolute driving force — and quite the sportsman — for the Vikings.
Through 11 weeks of the 2023 NFL season, Hunter is leading the NFL with 16 tackles for loss and ranks second with 12 sacks.
He's also among the league's leaders when it comes to sportsmanship.
The NFL and the Vikings on Tuesday announced Hunter as the team's nominee for the 2023 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.
Alongside tremendous impact every week, Hunter consistently plays the game cleanly, setting an example for younger teammates as a first-time captain.
In his first 113 regular-season games, Hunter has only had eight penalties accepted against him, and two of those were as a rookie, including one while on special teams. Since 2016, there hasn't been more than a 5-yard penalty accepted against Hunter.
2015: Facemask on Jay Cutler vs. Bears, 15 yards
2015: Illegal block above the waist vs. Chiefs on punt return team, 10 yards
2016: Illegal use of hands vs. Colts, 5 yards
2017: Neutral zone infraction vs. Bears, 2 yards
2018: Defensive holding at Packers, 5 yards
2019: Defensive holding vs. Lions, 5 yards
2022: Offsides vs. Cardinals, 5 yards
2023: Illegal use of hands vs. Saints, 5 yards
Note: Hunter missed all of 2020 because of a neck injury. He played seven games without drawing a penalty in 2021 before suffering a torn pec.
This list includes a 2023 rep during which Hunter's helmet was ripped off against the Saints. He didn't get irate or berate an official. Hunter instead sacked Jameis Winston on the very next play.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores:
"He moves onto the next play. That's what good players do. You make a good play and move on to the next one. You celebrate it, have fun, but you move on to the next play. Bad play, same thing. You don't focus on it and waste energy on something that you don't really have control over. You move on to the next play, and that's what he does, play after play after play. He shows up for us every week."
Vikings Assistant Head Coach Mike Pettine:
"He's a guy you can tell loves football. He's passionate about it. That's important, and sometimes that's a distinction that you don't always know for sure, 'Does this guy love football or does he love what football can do for him?' He's a guy you can tell, he loves football and loves being part of the group. He's such a nice guy. At times, I'm almost like, 'Hey, you're too nice.' There are times when we want to set him up with a rush and he'll be like, 'No, let him take it.' We're like, 'No, you take it,' so if you're going to criticize him at all, it's just like, 'Hey, you're too nice,' in a game where you need to play with an edge. But when he needs to play with an edge, it does show up."
Despite his selflessness, Hunter has totaled 82 career sacks and 99 tackles for loss during his career yet plays the game with an impressive humility and team-first approach.
Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr:
"He just goes out and does things the right way, and he does it his way. He does it quietly. But he has a lot of fun doing it, too. I think it's just kind of the way he is. He doesn't say much; he just goes out and does it and always does it at a high level.
"I think it's maybe how he was raised, just his personality. I think that all plays into it. I think the most important thing is that he's comfortable being himself, and he's comfortable not following the crowd. He's comfortable carving his own path, and he's been successful with that."
Vikings Safety Harrison Smith on Hunter playing clean football:
"I would say it starts with his mental approach. He's obviously very successful without getting those penalties. That's not by accident. That's a conscious effort. It's hard to do when it's live, so he has great self-discipline – even when things are heightened. I'm sure that's something that he works on, whether he knows it or not."