EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —When Vikings nose tackle Linval Joseph broke into the league in 2010, there were a handful of players at his position that he deeply admired.
One of them will be on the opposite sideline Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Texans nose tackle Vince Wilfork is a two-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Pro Bowler.
Wilfork, who is in his 13th season in the league, has racked up 361 career tackles and 16.0 sacks in 178 career regular-season games, and his impact in Houston's 3-4 front goes far beyond stats. He is in his second season with the Texans after spending the first 11 years of his career in New England.
"He's very smart and has been doing this for a long time," Joseph said. "He's a hell of a player.
"I'm still impressed he's still in the league and can play at a high level," he added. "I see the numbers … he's still good. He's still got my respect."
Both Vikings players and coaches alike raved about Wilfork's durability, strength and quickness, even at the age of 35.
Vikings left guard Alex Boone praised Wilfork's quickness in the trenches.
"The thing about him … he's very smart and a lot of people don't know that," Boone said. "I'm sure he'll probably wipe that off but you can tell when he's thinking about things and seeing the motions and seeing what guys are doing and looking at your stance or your hands or how your feet are.
"He's one of those guys who I feel like is reading you while you're reading him," he added. "Guys like that are not to be underestimated. He's older, he's savvy, smart. You've got to bring a lot with him."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer quipped that Wilfork and 38-year-old Vikings cornerback Terence Newman must be relying on the same tactics to play at a high level late in their careers.
"Him and Newman must have the same red wine," Zimmer said of Wilfork. "They're both good. He's big and physical, still athletic. Tough guy to move."
Wilfork is listed at 325 pounds on the Texans roster. Ask around Minnesota's locker room and not many people believe that number, a testament to Wilfork's brute strength on the field.
"He really looks good, and they list him at 325 ," said Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner. "I don't think he has been 325 since he was in the eighth grade.
"He is big, and it takes a lot to move him. You're not going to move him," he added.
Boone smiled and offered up a "no comment" when asked about Wilfork's listed weight.
What the Vikings can agree on is that Wilfork has had an incredible career, even grabbing three interceptions during his time in the league.
Joseph said he was a little envious of that stat.
"Never got a pick," Joseph said with a laugh. "I'm still waiting for that."
Joseph has developed into a monstrous nose tackle himself. And he can claim a Super Bowl ring of his own, one that came when Joseph's Giants beat Wilfork and the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
But the man in the middle of the Vikings stout defense, known to teammates as 'Big Goon,' won't be worried about Wilfork or past games Sunday at noon (CT).
Joseph, who has 26 tackles and 3.0 sacks so far in 2016, simply just wants to do his job and keep Minnesota's unblemished record going.
"I'm pretty happy with my play," Joseph said. "But it's not about my play, it's all about the team.
"We're winning, we're 4-0 so I can't be happier than where we are right now," he added. "I love this group of guys."