MANKATO, Minn. —Datone Jones and Will Sutton are no strangers to the NFC North, but they were pleasantly surprised with the welcome to Minnesota that they've received from Vikings fans.
Jones played for the Packers the past four seasons after he was selected by Green Bay in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Sutton was a third-round selection by Chicago in 2014 and played three seasons with the Bears before joining the Vikings as a free agent.
The defensive linemen arrived at Minnesota State University, Mankato with other vets on Wednesday for Verizon Vikings Training Camp and were greeted by a sea of fans outside Julia Sears Residence Hall.
Jones smiled as he became more accustomed to signing Purple and Gold memorabilia.
"When you go to a rival team, growing up, you'd never join sides with the rival team, but this is my family now," Jones said. "I'm excited to be amongst this group, play with these guys and help push this team to championship capabilities."
Sutton said the arrival scene was quite the contrast from his experiences with the Bears.
"We didn't interact with the fans when we reported," Sutton said. "It's pretty cool pulling up and having the fans over here waiting. It's pretty amazing.
"Everyone is telling me good luck and [that they] hope I make the team," Sutton added. "I'm happy to be here and ready to get going."
The next step for Jones and Sutton is trying to make the team that is chock-full of talented defensive linemen. Despite their amount of experience, Jones and Sutton arrived with the mindset that nothing would be given.
"It's been a lot of hard work put in," Jones said. "So I'm just more excited to come in and display my abilities and all of the hard work that I've been putting in over the summer, showcase to my teammates and prove to them that I've been working hard to make this team."
Jones did, however, manage to capitalize on the convenient location of the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles to enjoy a little free time earlier this month.
"It was amazing," Jones said. "I grew up watching the ESPYs, and to actually be able to get a ticket and walk the red carpet and see some of the best athletes across all professional sports and even the future kids, the ones in high school and college, ready to come up, to say, 'Wow, I'm here. Now I've got a taste of the show, but what am I going to do to imprint my name on the ESPYs and take one home one day?'
"It was a great feeling," Jones added. "My wife and my daughter were just having fun. That's what it's all about, and when you're able to get a chance to do things like that, you've got to take advantage of it."
Although Jones has enjoyed being a professional football player for four seasons, he allowed himself to become a little "star-struck" during the annual awards show.
View images of the second-wave of players that reported to training camp on Wednesday morning.
"I think [Olympic swimming medalist] Michael Phelps is one of the guys that had me star-struck," Jones said. "I call myself 'The Black Fish.' I love being in the water.
"I love swimming, jumping off diving boards, flipping, doing all of that crazy stuff," Jones added. "To see a guy that has accomplished so much in his profession, especially one of the toughest in the world, that's like, 'Wow, how am I going to accomplish [the equivalent of] some of the things he's done on the gridiron?' "
Jones said he and Sutton have known each other since high school and are excited to make the transition to the Vikings together.
"That's a great friend of mine. He's also a great teammate," Jones said. "We've got to do whatever we can to help each other and stay comfortable so we can help this team get to that playoff level."