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Danielle Hunter's Hat Trick Part of Historic Day; Jersey Headed to Hall of Fame

MINNEAPOLIS – Danielle Hunter needed one-half sack to set an NFL record.

For good measure, he got 3.0.

After back-to-back pass deflections by Shamar Stephen and Harrison Smith to start the game, Hunter smelled blood in the water on third-and-10.

Rookie quarterback David Blough took the snap but never had a chance. With Hunter and Everson Griffen set to work around the edges, Hunter ended up with a 1-on-1 against Lions tight end Jesse James.

Needless to say, Hunter won that battle and took down Blough for a loss of 6.

"That's a matchup the Vikings will take all day," broadcast analyst Chris Spielman said during the replay.

Hunter leapt into the air and "kicked the door down"; he was joined in his signature celebration by Griffen and linebacker Eric Kendricks.

"That's what it's all about. He gets a sack, I get a sack. That's how I feel, anyway," Kendricks said after the game. "It was pretty cool. I like his celebration, too; it's pretty crafty."

With the early takedown of Blough, Hunter – who celebrated his 25th birthday in October – became the youngest player in NFL history to record 50 career sacks.

He finished the day with 52.5 to his name.

Following the game, Hunter quietly returned to the field in street clothes and sat down on an empty Vikings bench. He slipped headphones into his ears, grinned and accepted a FaceTime call with Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders.

After all – when you ball, you get the call.

The phone call marked the second of its nature for Hunter, who first received the honor last season after racking up 3.5 sacks against – coincidentally – the Lions.

After wrapping the conversation Sunday, he was asked by a producer if he'd like a You Ball, You Get the Call T-shirt despite already having one at home.

"Sure – I'll take two," he said nonchalantly, catching the black T in his hand.

Although he came close to reaching the 50-sacks mark at Seattle on Monday night, Hunter is ultimately glad that the accomplishment happened at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"At other places, I was like, 'Man, it could happen here, but it would be better if it was at home,' " he said during an interview with Vikings Entertainment Network. "It just means a lot to come out here and do it in front of the people who helped me be the player I am today."

He pointed to Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson and assistant D-line coach Rob Rodriguez and said the duo has "played a big role" in his development.

Patterson, who has developed Hunter since the first day he arrived in Minnesota, reveled in his student's big day.

"He came to me, he gave me the biggest hug, and he told me congratulations," Hunter told Vikings Entertainment Network. "It was a big moment. The hug was about, maybe, a minute long. He was happy for me, and all my teammates came up and congratulated me. They were happy, too."

Immediately after the Vikings win, Hunter's gear was gathered by longtime equipment manager Dennis Ryan, who will ship it directly to Canton, Ohio.

It's a little surreal to the soft-spoken defender that his jersey and gloves will soon be displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"It's an honor. That's something special," Hunter said. "In the Hall of Fame, people get remembered forever.

"To be able to have my jersey sent there, it's just, I'm at a loss for words," he added. "It just means a lot."

Hunter stayed true to his nature during media availability with reporters, accepting accolades but quickly giving credit to teammates.

"It is an honor," he said of the benchmark. "[But] I definitely did not do it by myself. Teammates and the coaches, if it wasn't for them, I would not have been where I am today. If it was an individual effort, I would have been nowhere close to it."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer commented during his postgame press conference about Hunter's performance.

"He's a terrific athlete. Great kid. Hard worker," Zimmer said. "I still think he's got a lot of room to grow. He's got some things that he can really improve on, and if it goes to that point where he does those, he'll be really, really good."

Asked about where his "ceiling" can be after meeting such a significant milestone in his fifth season, Hunter said he doesn't look too far ahead.

"I only think about the now moment," he explained. "I think about what I need to do now to help my team in order to win games and in order to put my teammates in better positions to make plays."

Hunter's effort certainly helped Minnesota's defense in nearly shutting out the Lions.

In a game where Blough was sacked five times, Hunter's other two takedowns created losses of 12 and 14 yards. All three were on third downs, including one that preceded a missed 45-yard field goal.

And while he won't brag about himself, his teammates will do so for him.

"Man, Danielle's a [freaking] beast," Kendricks said. "I'm proud of that guy. Obviously, he's very humble, that's why I decided to embellish on that. But he just comes in and works hard. He knows his skill set, he knows what he's good at. Always a team player. Always cares about the next guy. And it shows.

"It's no question why he's having the success he's having, period," Kendricks added.

He and Hunter were drafted 45th and 88th overall, respectively, by the Vikings in 2015.

Kendricks still remembers training with Hunter at the NFL Scouting Combine and said it's "crazy" to think about their journey together in the five years since.

"He thought he was going to be an outside linebacker, so he was coming to me [at the combine and] asking me how to drop and stuff like that – and we ended up getting drafted by the same team," Kendricks said. "It's super cool to see his development and his skill set improve every year."

Defensive tackle Linval Joseph said he knew Hunter was a special player "from day one" and is proud of how far his younger teammate has come.

"I knew that he was going to be who he is, you know? You can tell when guys come in and listen and do everything right and work hard," Joseph said. "Every day he works to become great, and I respect him for that.

"Young. Fast. Smart. He's in the right place at the right time, and he has a motor. That's what separates him from a lot of guys in the league," Joseph later added. "He can make the plays at any angle. As long as he stays healthy, I think he can break a lot of records."