EAGAN, Minn. – Kirk Cousins is proud to carry on the legacy of a well-respected and oft-remembered Vikings Legend.
Cousins on Friday was named the 2023 Korey Stringer Media Good Guy by the Minnesota Chapter of Pro Football Writers of America.
Named in honor of Stringer, the Vikings former right tackle who tragically passed away in 2001, the award recognizes a player each season who is especially cooperative, straightforward and authentic with the reporters who cover him.
Cousins of course never got the opportunity to meet Stringer but has heard a great deal about his positive impact.
"Korey, as [Vikings Legends Relations Director] Tom West explained to me, was sort of 'The Man' in the locker room," Cousins reflected. "[Tom] said if you could combine C.J. Ham and Brian O'Neill, two of the best guys on our team, into one person, that was Korey."
As Minnesota's starting quarterback, Cousins spoke weekly with media before suffering a torn Achilles at Green Bay in Week 8. A player on Injured Reserve is not required by any NFL rules to engage with media, but Cousins has continued to be present at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center and often interacts conversationally with reporters. Additionally, Cousins voluntarily held a 20-minute press conference on Nov. 17 to thoroughly answer questions regarding his injury and recovery.
"It's a little unprecedented to have someone who went on IR halfway through the year still win it. I think that speaks to your ability to and willingness to engage with us, be accessible, a little extra here and there after a press conference, even to talk after the injury," Dave Campbell of The Associated Press told Cousins. "We don't always get that insight from some players, understandably. It's been great covering you for six years."
Cousins received a video message from Stringer's wife Kelci before being presented with the award by Campbell.
"Hello, Vikings family," Kelci said. "It is with great honor and excitement to present the Korey Stringer Good Guy Award to none other than quarterback Kirk Cousins. This award means so much to me and my family, and I assure you it would have meant the world to Korey, as it epitomizes the legacy that he intended to leave. From being a professional, and a reliable and accountable teammate by giving 110 percent on every drive, to acknowledging and respecting every single person within the organization, which makes the Vikings such a great family.
"So Kirk, I encourage you to continue the good work and to leave each person you come in contact with in a better place, with a smile on their face," Kelci added. "Many congratulations to you, and happy holidays."
Cousins appreciated the chance to hear from Kelci, albeit virtually.
"It's right to have an award like this named after [Korey] and to continue his legacy. I'm grateful to be part of it," he said. "I remember where I was when Korey passed, and it took a very painful outcome, but he changed football, too, in a good way in terms of how players are treated and waking up to a lot of needs for players' health.
"He had a big impact on the game, and his legacy with this award, as well, is pretty cool," Cousins added.
Cousins is the first quarterback to receive the award since Daunte Culpepper, who was named the Korey Stringer Good Guy in 2003 and 2004.
He noted those who have won the award twice, including former cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who earned the honor in back-to-back seasons (2015-16).
"I was told Captain Munnerlyn never saw a microphone he didn't like, so I'm going for the three-peat," quipped Cousins, who has expressed an interest in remaining in Minnesota via an extension of the contract that is due to end in March. "That's what my goal is, so I've got to be really, really available next year, and then the year after that, I've got to be even more available."
Cousins expressed "a lot of trust" with the local beat reporters.
"For whatever reason, I don't have a great reason for it, maybe it was the Netflix [Quarterback] doc or whatever, but I came out of my shell a little more this year, was a little more comfortable. Maybe it was being in Year 12 and not being as guarded," Cousins said. "I didn't see anything wrong with being that way, so I plan to keep it up moving forward. I think it was a good model."
Cousins' name will be added to displays in the TCO Performance Center press conference room and players' lounge. He also received a plaque.
"It means a lot. It's something that, when I get done playing, the wins and things matter, certainly, but being the right person is what my dad raised me to be, what I want my boys to be, so ultimately if you win a bunch but people say he doesn't belong anywhere near this award, I would say I failed," Cousins said. "It means probably more than you guys think or know, but thank you, and I'm coming for the back-to-back and the three-peat. Expect me to be the most available, nicest guy ever. If not, you can hold me to it.
"You guys have a job to do, and if we can help you do it, why not?" He said with a smile. "Thanks guys. I appreciate you. Hopefully there's more years together."
Below is the full list of Korey Stringer Media Good Guy recipients:
2001 TE Byron Chamberlain
2002 C Matt Birk
2003 QB Daunte Culpepper
2004 QB Daunte Culpepper
2005 WR Koren Robinson
2006 CB Antoine Winfield
2007 LB Ben Leber
2008 WR Bobby Wade
2009 TE Visanthe Shiancoe
2010 LB Ben Leber
2011 WR Percy Harvin
2012 LB Chad Greenway
2013 DT Kevin Williams
2014 DE Brian Robison
2015 CB Captain Munnerlyn
2016 CB Captain Munnerlyn
2017 WR Adam Thielen
2018 RB Latavius Murray
2019 S Anthony Harris
2020 RB Dalvin Cook
2021 WR Justin Jefferson
2022 CB Patrick Peterson
2023 QB Kirk Cousins