By Lindsey Young, For Vikings.com
The small patch of grass between the feet of Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph is about all that separates the Vikings defensive tackles.
They line up shoulder by shoulder and hip by hip, teaming up on the interior of the defensive line.
View exclusive images shot by the team photographer from the Sept. 14 game against San Francisco.
When Floyd and Joseph step off the field, they are brothers — not blood related, but they may as well be.
At 26 years old, Joseph already owns a Super Bowl ring. He came to Minnesota from the New York Giants. Although he was part of a talented roster and won it all in 2011, the tackle still desired a deeper connection with teammates than he found in New York. That all changed when Joseph joined the Vikings during free agency and formed a bond with Floyd, 24, who was preparing for his second pro season.
Anyone who meets them would never guess their friendship only dates to 2014. That year, the relationship took on a big brother/little brother dynamic, with Joseph leading Floyd along and teaching him how things were done in the NFL.
"Last year, it was like that," said Floyd of Joseph, who is two years older. "This year, we're more of just brothers. We both know what we need to do out there [on the field]."
Joseph calls Floyd "a good kid," smiling and saying he bonded with Floyd almost immediately. The two share a pure passion for the game of football, first and foremost, that they recognized in each other shortly after Joseph signed in March 2014.
Defensive end Justin Trattou played with Floyd at the University of Florida and with Joseph with the Giants before they all wound up together in Minnesota. When Trattou heard Joseph was joining the Vikings, he told him about Floyd. The nose tackle sought out Floyd at OTAs last summer, and the two hit it off.
"I think it's great; two of my best friends," Trattou said. "Me and Sharrif go all the way back to college, and me and Linval go back to my rookie year with the Giants. When I saw he signed here, I knew it was going to be a great fit for him, Linval and Sharrif on the inside. Personality-wise and talent-wise, it was going to be awesome — and the whole world is seeing that it seems to be true."
Joseph was selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Giants, but he wishes he would have had an older teammate willing to mentor him as he transitioned into the pros.
"The Giants were more of a veteran team, and I can't say that they reached out and tried to help me," Joseph said. "It was more of a 'you look and you follow' type of mentality."
Consequently, Joseph made it his goal to offer other young guys more guidance than he received. He identifies the importance of connecting with players early on; the chemistry between he and Floyd on the line is an added bonus.
"Once you come into the league young and have a lot of money, it's hard," Joseph said. "I just don't want to see them come in and waste their money and make poor decisions. I'm just trying to show [Sharrif] and give him examples of what I did myself in that process."
Floyd explained that the strong bond he and Joseph share off the field transfers directly to game days — their communication outside of football lends itself to being on the same page while they're playing and attacking the running game. If Floyd has questions, he turns to his teammate — whether that be about practice or a specific play, he has Joseph.
They also share much more than that: connections to Florida, a priority on family, a love for watching movies and enjoyment of a joint vacation they took to visit St. Croix, Joseph's birthplace in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Floyd experienced a whole new culture.
"My first time being on the island, and it was amazing, just being out there fishing," Floyd said.
The younger tackle said the experience was unforgettable; he and Joseph have been working on plans for a return trip in the future.
Until then, they'll spend time together in the kitchen, where they feed their mutual interest in cooking – and food in general.
"Lots of BBQs," Joseph said.
When asked who the better cook is, Floyd didn't hesitate to hand his friend and mentor the honors.
"Linval is definitely the better cook," Floyd admitted. "I learned a few things from him, but I have my specialties too. We sometimes bump elbows when it comes time to cook. We're both big, you know, so we enjoy eating. That just took our friendship to another level."
For now, they will continue with their work here in Minnesota, coming together with a common goal for the Vikings—to be the top defensive unit in the NFL. Ask either of them, and there's no other option.
"Every day we come out here and work together and try to be the best we can be," Joseph said. "If [Sharrif]'s down one day, we pick him up. If I'm down one day, they pick me up. We just want to build team unity in this organization, and that's what we're doing our best to do."
Unity proves a priority to Joseph, and the effect is long-reaching. Because of the impact Joseph has had—as a teammate, a mentor and a friend—on Floyd, the younger defensive tackle now aims to influence incoming players in a similar fashion.
"There were a lot of things that I needed for [Linval] to tell me," Floyd said. "Now, it's bringing along these young guys that Coach (Mike Zimmer) brought in this year and teaching them the ropes. Teaching them the things that I learned and passing the torch down."
On the line, they're a pair of tackles threatening offenses across the league. In the locker room, they're just a couple of buddies hoping to leave a legacy … one game at a time.