Apollo sprinted low to the ground, ears laid back and curled tail acting as a rudder of sorts for the svelte German Shepherd.
Strength and excitement rippled through the 2-year-old pup as he eyed his target, slowed just for a second and leapt into the air, closing his jaws around a bright-green ball.
"I taught him that," joked a smiling Justin Jefferson.
There's no denying it – Apollo boasts some catch abilities not unlike his dog dad, the second-year Vikings receiver who broke multiple records as a rookie last season.
And while Apollo's athleticism and coordination is impressive, he doesn't quite have the celebration dance down yet.
"I've been trying to teach him [The Griddy], but his 1-2 is a little shaky," Justin quipped.
Also on the to-do list is outfitting Apollo to support the Vikings and, specifically, No. 18.
Asked if he's gotten the pup any Vikings swag, Justin said, "Not yet. I've gotta get him some. I've gotta get him a little jersey or something. That's coming soon."
As a youngster growing up in Louisiana, Justin and his family had a pit bull-boxer mix named Ziggy. He's been a longtime lover of pups, and he always had his sights set on a German Shepherd.
They're regal. Powerful. Protective (as Apollo demonstrated upon initial wariness of the Vikings Entertainment Network video camera). Loyal. Loving.
"They're very smart. They can do a lot of tricks and do cool things. I always see police dogs, and they remind me of Apollo," Justin said.
As a junior at LSU, Justin had the opportunity to achieve his childhood goal and added Apollo to the family.
"It was a no-brainer. I had to," he said. "I got him and took care of him as a little puppy … so it's been interesting to see [him grow up]."
Like any four-legged friend, Apollo has gotten himself into mischief from time to time. There's one experience that most stands out in Justin's mind, though.
He recalled one night back in Baton Rouge, when he and his brother, Jordan, left the apartment for a quick errand. Justin considered grabbing the keys but knew they'd be back in such a short amount of time that he deemed it unnecessary.
Except when Justin and Jordan returned, the door they'd left unlocked had been locked.
"Apollo locked me and my brother out of the apartment," Justin said, shaking his head over the memory. "I guess he just climbed up against the door and reached at the lock, and he must have turned it.
"We had to sleep in the car that night because we couldn't go to the office to get a key to open the door," he added.
View photos of Vikings WR Justin Jefferson and his german shepherd, Apollo, in this edition of Purple Pups.
Justin and Apollo of course made up, though, and the two share a special bond.
That connection grew even deeper when the COVID-19 pandemic forced shutdowns in 2020 and Justin navigated an all-virtual offseason as an NFL rookie. During uncertain times, Apollo offered invaluable companionship.
"It was time for me to focus on him even more than I [previously] had time to. We definitely had more time to really get to know each other," Justin said.
"He's hyper. Very hyper. He loves to play around," Justin laughed. "But he loves to be under somebody. He's kind of lovey, too."
The receiver compared Apollo's demeanor to that of Vikings teammate Adam Thielen.
"Because he's so hyper and so talkative, so energetic all day throughout the day. This is Adam, right here," Justin quipped.
Apollo is well-trained, knowing cues for the basics such as "sit" and "down" but also enjoying a bit of hide-and-seek with his favorite toy.
"If I hide his ball somewhere, I'll tell him, 'Go look for the ball,' and he'll search everywhere until he finds it," Justin explained.
He bought the green ball just a few months ago, but it quickly became Apollo's go-to.
"It's his prized possession," Justin said. "If this ball is lost, he will break down."
Justin wound up and sent the ball arcing across the soccer field, then smiled as Apollo raced to retrieve the toy and return it.
"Dogs just show so much love and so much affection. They love to be loved and to have fun and play around with you. He keeps me company," Justin said.
"He means the world to me," Justin later added, reaching down to rub Apollo's head. "[I love having] days like this, just having fun and throwing the ball together. He's my friend – that's my bud. That's my dude. That's my man."