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'Introducing': Chronicling Kevin O'Connell's Core Belief of Connecting

Kevin O'Connell's first three weeks as the new Vikings head coach have been a whirlwind.

O'Connell is exactly 22 days into that role — his first head coaching job at any level — but the most chaotic days may have been at the very beginning.

In the span of five days, from a Sunday (Feb. 13) to a Thursday (Feb. 17), O'Connell was tasked with the following:

- Helping the Rams win Super Bowl LVI

- Transitioning for a move to Minnesota

- Building his coaching staff

- Attending a victorious Super Bowl parade

- Getting introduced as the 10th head coach in Vikings history

- Making the rounds inside Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center

"It's been a lot, but it's been fantastic," O'Connell said as the 36-year-old hosted Vikings Entertainment Network in his Southern California home office two days after the Super Bowl. "I wouldn't have wanted to do it any other way.

"My mind is where I'm just so excited. I've turned the page; I understand the opportunity that's in front of myself and the coaches I'm gonna bring in to really be a part of building something special there," O'Connell said on Feb. 15. "We want some clear-cut things we want to get accomplished, from building a culture and building a team and really getting these players connected with us as a coaching staff and get going immediately."

He had just finished the job in L.A. with all he had and ended with a Lombardi Trophy, but he also began moving forward the Minnesota Vikings.

"The way that game ended, knowing we were champions, was really special," O'Connell said. "But it's hard to put into words the type of excitement that I have for the opportunity that's ahead, like I said, to be the next head football coach of the Minnesota Vikings."

As O'Connell transitioned from a champion as an offensive coordinator to first-time head coach, he made sure to savor as many moments as possible along the way.

"My kids and my wife were able to come to the game and experience it," O'Connell said. "My son was able to come on the field after the game with me – we've got some great photos of that – and we'll remember those memories for a lifetime."

Now, O'Connell hopes to make similar memories in Minnesota, where he'll be tasked with injecting energy, enthusiasm and a modern offensive philosophy into a franchise that hasn't been above .500 since the end of the 2019 season.

O'Connell told Vikings Entertainment Network that a strong partnership with new Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will be key.

That connection has been evident since the beginning, when the two hit it off during the interview process, and continued when they were able to work together inside TCO Performance Center in Eagan.

View photos of new Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during his first day as a Viking at the TCO Performance Center on Jan. 26.

Back in mid-February, before he traveled to Minnesota, O'Connell raved about the chance to work with Adofo-Mensah.

"We've had a lot of phone calls. We've not necessarily been able to connect too many times face-to-face. We've had some Zoom calls, we've had some phone calls, that have been really, really special early on," O'Connell said. "I've really relied on him. … Obviously, coming out of the interview process, he understood the vision from a coaching staff standpoint; he understood the vision of kind of how I want to build things there, right alongside him.

"I really look at it as a partnership that was created from the first conversations we had in the interview process, all the way up until now," O'Connell continued. "It's really been a special thing for me because our relationship, obviously, pre-dates that – going back to San Francisco when we were both there as, I was a young coach, and he was just getting off to a great start in his role there.

"But we kind of were able to look back at those times while also being really, really thankful for the opportunity to get to do this together, working side-by-side every day," O'Connell added. "We share so many common beliefs and core values of what we want this team to really be like and what we want it to feel like to be a part of this organization and be in our building every single day. [It] makes it that much more special to get this opportunity, knowing I get to go about it with somebody like him."

The duo worked together in San Francisco during the 2016 season when O'Connell was on the coaching staff working on special projects and Adofo-Mensah was the manager of football research & development.

The connection was displayed to media members when Adofo-Mensah officially welcomed O'Connell and his family to Minnesota and turned to his left to shake hands with O'Connell.

A photo captured an endearing look on Adofo-Mensah's face, the kind that gets looped into the "find someone who looks at you the way that…" meme.

The new GM had fun with the moment the following day when O'Connell introduced himself to staff members and fielded questions. Adofo-Mensah quipped that his fiancée had teased that he doesn't even look at her that way.

View photos of new Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell during his first day at the TCO Performance Center on Feb. 17.

O'Connell's first day involved making the rounds, reaching out to get to know people throughout TCO Performance Center who ranged from young employees to Vikings Legends who are etched in history team and displayed in the building.

The head coach made sure to thank Hall of Famers John Randle and Randall McDaniel, as well as Vikings Ring of Honor member Scott Studwell, for attending the intro press conference.

There was also a shout out for Hall of Fame Head Coach Bud Grant, who spent a few minutes chatting with O'Connell and his family before the presser.

"The pleasure is all mine," O'Connell said when the two met. "I saw your office upstairs; I hope to see you in it."

Grant, with gusto, said: "It's a big day."

And when Grant gave fist bumps to O'Connell's three children, the new Vikings head coach made sure to highlight the significance of being able to meet the coach responsible for 158 of Minnesota's 503 regular-season victories.

"This is Bud Grant," O'Connell explained. "The greatest coach in Vikings history right here."

It was clear early on that O'Connell is all about connectedness and collaboration, two points he emphasized on Feb. 18, a day after being introduced to media as the newest Vikings head coach.

View photos of new Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell during his introductory press conference with the media on Feb. 17 at the TCO Performance Center.

In a 30-minute meeting with staff, O'Connell emphasized how it will take everyone inside the building to create a winning culture and atmosphere.

"From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you. Not only for the ovation for when I was up here, but hopefully you're with us every step of the way," O'Connell said. "It's going to be a huge process to get this culture the way we want [it] in the building. I think we're going to do things in a unique way. We're going to challenge each other, we're going to challenge these players to grow.

"But I think it's really important that you guys hear it from me. I want to be connected with you guys," O'Connell continued. "[There is] that collaboration and connection with Kwesi and his staff, but I think it goes further than that. We can't share a beautiful facility like this without you guys knowing — if you see me in the hallway, see our players in the hallway — we want to feel connected where, in a way, if we go out and play and it's third-and-7, you guys feel it. You feel the emotion of what we're trying to get done.

"You feel that when the game is on the line," O'Connell added, "you are right out there with us."

It will be the players, of course, who are included in the most important connection that O'Connell establishes.

Because the Vikings have a new head coach, Minnesota can begin its Organized Team Activities on April 4, two weeks before teams with returning head coaches.

Back in Southern California on Feb. 15, there were two framed football jerseys.

One was O'Connell's green No. 7 home jersey from his time with the Jets, a gift from his wife.

The second was a burgundy No. 8 Washington jersey personalized by Kirk Cousins to thank O'Connell for being his position coach in 2017.

"He was incredibly successful that year, played football at a really high level and it was something he gave to me, saying, 'Thank you for taking my game to the next level,' " O'Connell explained. "It actually says on there, 'Hopefully our paths cross in the future.' So maybe Kirk was predicting the future a little bit there, but I have a lot of respect for Kirk as a player, person and leader, and I'm really excited about the opportunity to get a chance to coach him again."

O'Connell described his vision for the vibe be between the locker room and the coaching staff.

"It's going to be a connected team from the ability of our coaching staff to connect with the players. I want to build an environment and a culture where the players feel like they're connected to us, connected to one another," O'Connell said. "I want these guys to come to work every day excited about being part of our team and our culture.

"Then lastly, you want them to feel like they are in the best possible situation to improve. That could be a 10-year veteran, that could be a rookie trying to make our team," he continued. "You want every single guy to feel like they're in a position to improve on a daily basis and commit to the overall team goal of winning football games."

He outlined as a core value of wanting to build collaboration throughout between the front office, coaching staff and players built on consistent communication channels (player-to-player, coach-to-player and player-to-coach).

"I feel very strongly about our schemes and … the type of football we're going to go play, but in my opinion, it's about the people. I've learned that, first and foremost, from the team that I'm now leaving to come to Minnesota," O'Connell said. "That's what separated us in the end, was to compete with our people and win games with our people. Because the football will be right, we'll be in a good position to compete from that standpoint, but the winning edge for us will be our people and how connected [we are] in our process as an organization to accomplish the things we want to accomplish."

VEN cameras were also able to capture O'Connell's first video call with star receiver Justin Jefferson.

"I've been trying to get ahold of you, man," O'Connell said with a smile as Jefferson answered.

"Hey, man, I'm a busy man. Just like you," Jefferson quipped.

The two chatted about wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., one of Jefferson's closest friends and a player who was key to the Rams run to the Super Bowl.

"He was telling me that I'm going to love you and how we're going to connect real well," Jefferson said.

O'Connell then peeked into the future, telling the two-time Pro Bowler who amassed 3,000-plus receiving yards in his first two seasons, "I hope you're ready, because you've got to do it all."

"I'm ready, Coach," Jefferson responded. "Whatever you need me to do, I'm good."

O'Connell, as big on connections as anyone, then challenged Jefferson to become of the key leaders on the Vikings going forward.

"I want you to think about this in the next phase for you," O'Connell said. "How you want to be a leader on this team, because I look at you as an ascending leader.

"You're not in your first or second year anymore," O'Connell added. "It's time for you to take ownership of this team, just like Adam [Thielen] has, Dalvin [Cook] and Kirk, all of those guys. You're right up there. I want you to feel that from day one when you come back in this building. You with me?"

The third-year receiver said he's ready.

"Yes, sir," Jefferson said. "I'm going to holler at you, Coach. Be easy."

With that, O'Connell was off to continue his hectic schedule, all while laying the groundwork for success in Purple.

"The football is going to be right," O'Connell said. "But the winning edge for us is going to be our people."