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Danielle Hunter on TD Fumble Return: 'I Just Scooped and Scored'

Danielle Hunter's second season in the NFL got off to a splashy start.

After Marcus Mariota handed off to running back DeMarco Murray on a first-and-10 situation, Murray dropped the ball near his own 25-yard line. Without breaking stride, Hunter eyed the pigskin, scooped it up and sprinted to the end zone for a Vikings touchdown.

"I was just going through my reads – the fullback, and the quarterback, and I saw that none of them had the ball. The ball was over there," Hunter said. "I was thinking in the team situation we were in, there was no time to dive on the ball.

"I just scooped and scored," he added.

The play wasn't surprising to Adrian Peterson, who spent the summer in Texas working out at his gym with Hunter. Hunter's work ethic and dedication to his training told Peterson that the defensive end was "destined" for a big season in 2016.

Peterson didn't keep Hunter a secret.

"I remember sending a couple texts to Rick and Coach Zimmer and saying, 'Hey, when Hunter comes back, you guys are going to see a different beast,' " Peterson said. "He's already a beast, but I know what we do [at the gym] and with how hard he was grinding, he would come on the field, and it was going to reflect.

"You can just look at him and tell he's different," Peterson added. "He has great speed and quickness, he's strong as a bull. He's a smart player."

Hunter snagged one of two scores by Minnesota's defense in its season opener at Tennessee Sunday afternoon.

Hunter said a third-quarter pick-six by linebacker Eric Kendricks started the momentum swinging in the Vikings favor, and it was a spark for the defense.

"We were talking about that earlier, how he wanted a pick-six," Hunter said, laughing.

Shortly after his fumble return, Hunter broke through to sack Mariota deep in his own territory. The play led to a third-and-long and subsequent punt by the Titans. Hunter's sack gave the Vikings their second of the day, after Linval Joseph took Mariota down for a nine-yard loss in the third quarter.

"Danielle played awesome," Everson Griffen said of his 21-year-old teammate. "He got the fumble recovery […] and then the play-action pass, he long-armed and came underneath and got the sack. He had an awesome game today."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said after the game that he's "liked everything" he's seen from Hunter, who played 14 games as a rookie in 2015.

"He's a tremendous athlete; he works real hard," Zimmer said. "He's smart; he's tough; he's got great length. You saw him after he picked the ball up, what kind of athlete he is and how he can run.

"You know, it's part of his maturation to keep using these tools that he has," Zimmer continued. "He's working on them, and [defensive line coach Andre Patterson] has done a great job with him and really with all our guys on the defensive line."

Hunter added a special teams stop in addition to two defensive tackles against the Titans, both of which limited Murray to a 2-yard play. The Vikings held Murray to just 42 yards on 13 carries for the day.

Hunter's efforts combined with an overall big day by the defensive unit. After a scoreless first two quarters, Minnesota surged ahead to a 25-16 defeat of Tennessee to start its season with the victory. 

"It shows kind of the resiliency of this football team," Zimmer said. "They've been through a lot in the last 10 days and in the last couple of years, and we have some good fighters in this crew."

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