EAGAN, Minn. – Ten minutes before the start of practice, David Parry and Linval Joseph stood together on the field in full pads.
Joseph gave instruction from beneath his helmet and tinted eye shield. He demonstrated hand placements to the younger defensive tackle, who in turn mirrored the movements.
A few hours later, Parry walked off after a hot and muggy afternoon practice and spoke about the mentorship he's been grateful to receive from Joseph since signing with the Vikings as a free agent this spring. The 26-year-old couldn't think of a better opportunity to grow and develop as a player.
"Linval's one of the best nose tackles in the league, so anything that he says, I take that in, I try to take from it what I can," Parry said.
"He has some physical gifts that I'm not necessarily blessed with," Parry quipped of his 6-foot-4, 329-pound teammate. "But at the same time, he teaches me a lot of concepts that apply to my game. So I've been really appreciative of that opportunity."
Joseph is entering his eighth season in the NFL; he has a Super Bowl ring – won with the Giants — and has played in the past two Pro Bowls. He certainly has no obligation to spend time with the younger players, but he's more than happy to take them under his wing.
Especially, Joseph emphasized, with a "good listener" like Parry.
"He wants to make this team, of course, so he's always picking my [brain]. I sit next to him in meetings, and he's always asking questions," Joseph said. "I'm always talking to him about every single play that's on the film because he actually wants to learn. When somebody wants to learn, I give him my time. He's been listening, he's been doing what I've been telling him to do, and it's started showing up in practice, it's started showing up in games."
Parry played 29 snaps against the Broncos, which was 48 percent of Minnesota's defensive snaps in its first preseason game, in addition to five on special teams.
After missing most of the 2017 season due to injury, Parry didn't take the game for granted.
"It was awesome," Parry said. "I hadn't played in about a year … so just to be back out there playing was emotional. I was very happy to be out there."
Parry's biggest play of the evening came late in the second quarter. The Broncos lined up at their own 34 on third-and-1, De'Angelo Henderson took the handoff, and Parry immediately stopped the running back at the line of scrimmage.
Defensive line coach Andre Patterson called Parry's first outing in Purple "outstanding" and emphasized that he applied the new technique and instruction he's learned from coaching staff, Joseph and other veteran teammates. Patterson explained that rookies tend to revert back to old habits when in their first game, but Parry, a fifth-round draft pick in 2015, didn't become overwhelmed by the game-day atmosphere.
"Because he's a veteran and he's played in this league, it wasn't too big for him," Patterson said. "So he could go out there and still work on the things that he's been learning since he's been here."
Patterson had his eye on Parry in Indianapolis, where he played his first two NFL seasons with the Colts.
"He was very physical at the point of the attack, he was hard to move off the ball, and he played with physicality," Patterson said. "Those were the things that stuck out to me."
When Patterson had the chance to have Parry under his guidance, the well-respected coach jumped at the chance to help him improve. Patterson immediately got to work with Parry on his hand placement at the line.
"The faster and the more precise he can get his hands on somebody, the easier it is for him to control the blocker," Patterson explained.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 313 pounds, Parry stands stockier than the Vikings other defensive tackles but can use his build to his advantage.
"Because he's got a lower center of gravity, it makes it easier for him to get underneath [the offensive lineman] and be able to move [the opponent] quicker," Patterson said. "I've been on him constantly, and so has L.J., about being fast with his hands more than worrying about his feet – making sure that his hands are precise in where he puts them on the offensive player."
Parry considers himself lucky to work with Patterson, who has helped develop players such as Greg Ellis, Hall of Famer John Randle and current Vikings Pro Bowler Everson Griffen.
Parry pointed to Patterson's attention to detail.
"He coaches you up on film," Parry said. "Just doing your job isn't always good enough. If your job gets done and your technique's lacking, he's still going to teach you on your technique, and that's going to get you better."
Ask Parry, and he'll tell you he wants to be the best player he possibly can be.
Parry fell in love with football at an early age, in part after watching his brother, George, play the game. Ten years older than David, George played fullback at Harvard University with a tenacity and toughness that David admired.
"I idolized my older brother when I was growing up," Parry said. "I think I looked up to [his style of play] and tried to apply it to my game, and I always have."
Parry recalled watching Stephen Paea play for the Bears and wanting to model his game after the New Zealand native. His favorite player of all time, however, wasn't on the line or even on defense.
"My favorite player was Randy Moss as a kid," Parry said of the wide receiver recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I was actually a Vikings fan for a bit, but then they broke my heart a few too many times, and I joined the rest of my family in being a Niners fan. But Randy Moss was my guy when I was a kid."
Consider Parry a Vikings fan again, however.
He's thrilled to be part of the NFC North division and is grateful for a shot at making Minnesota's roster.
According to Patterson, the next step for Parry is learning the new technique backwards and forwards so that it "becomes a part of David." Patterson likened it to someone memorizing his or her cell phone number and sharing it with a friend – "this technique has to become like that, that they just do it without even thinking about it."
"The biggest thing is just to continue to improve and get better, week after week after week," Patterson said. "If he does that, his style of play will prove to everybody that he belongs here.
"That's what it comes down to – every week he continues to get better, every week the things that he learns start to become a part of him," Patterson continued. "And then once that happens, you just go out and play. You don't think about it anymore."