When K.J. Osborn moved to Minnesota last year, he felt pretty alone.
The Vikings had tabbed K.J. in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced an all-virtual offseason, which meant the receiver didn't relocate to the Twin Cities until August.
"We couldn't even go to our teammates' houses at that time," he recalled. "So I'm just a kid in Minnesota, from Michigan, and I didn't know what was going on, I didn't know anybody."
K.J. also found himself emotionally navigating increased societal tensions following the murder of George Floyd.
"There was so much going on, and I would just be at home [by myself]," he said.
K.J. tried to get into TV shows but "isn't really a big TV guy." He pivoted to purchasing a piano and downloading an app to learn the instrument. Still, he struggled with the boredom and isolation.
He decided he'd get a dog during the offseason … or, almost during the offseason.
"I actually was supposed to get him after [the regular-season finale] when we played the Lions," K.J. explained. "I went to the breeder and said, 'OK, I'm gonna come back next week to get him' – and then I just took him home that day. Ever since then, he's been my guy."
His "guy" is Larry, an 11-month-old English bulldog who will turn 1 on Nov. 11.
The wrinkled, tan-and-white pup has no doubt changed K.J.'s life for the better.
"Whether I have a good or bad day, Larry's always happy for me when I come home," K.J. said. "He's waiting for me at the door, jumping on me, happy, ready to go outside, ready to play. He just gives me that company."
You wouldn't know it if you saw the duo together, but Larry is K.J.'s first-ever pet.
"I never had a fish or a snake or a bird," he laughed. "My family didn't have pets growing up, so this is my first pet ever. I tried to do it the right way – I did a lot of research. My plan was to do a lot of research, get his bed, get everything, go get him and then bring him home.
"I was just so excited when I saw him," K.J. added. "It was him and his sister, and I almost bought both. I just grabbed him, and we went straight from the breeder to the store and got his bed and pads and everything, and I just kind of learned on the fly. I think I'm being a good dad."
View photos of Vikings WR K.J. Osborn and his English bulldog, Larry, in this edition of Purple Pups.
Watch the way Larry acts around K.J., and there's no question. The two are the perfect pair, whether playing tug-of-war with a rope toy, walking through a park near K.J.'s apartment building or "just chillin," Larry's head resting comfortably on his dad's knee.
A timid, 6-week-old puppy – "the size of my foot," K.J. remembered – has now grown into nearly 60 pounds of muscle.
But don't let his sometimes-grumpy expression and burly bod fool you. Larry is still just Larry.
"I get a bunch of comments on his name, all the time. Every time they ask me [his name] and I say, 'Larry,' they giggle," K.J. said. "But it really fits him! It fits his personality, it fits how he looks. I'm really glad I named him Larry.
"I've thought about creating an Instagram account for him, but I never did. People just kind of live through my social media to get to him," added K.J., who has dedicated an Instagram Highlight to Larry. "I get a lot of questions about him, though – 'Can you post Larry?' 'We need more Larry content.' So I'll try to give the people what they want."
Asked to compare the bulldog to one of his Vikings teammates, K.J. gave it some serious thought before answering.
He first admitted he sees a lot of himself in Larry before settling on a personality in the defensive backs room.
"Larry, he's lazy, but then he likes to get going … I feel like that's me. When I get on the field, I'm going, going, going. But I was telling Adam [Thielen] and Justin [Jefferson] when I get home, I'm lazy. I just want to chill and relax," K.J. said. "But thinking about my other teammates, I would say … Off the top of my head, I would say maybe Cam Dantzler. On the field, he's going; at practice, he's going; he's goofy, he can be silly and funny; but if you see his demeanor sometimes, he's just lollygagging along. He's just chillin'. So I would say Cam."
K.J. loves the English bulldog breed but did offer a reminder for anyone considering a pup like Larry: bulldogs often face unique health challenges.
Over the past year, K.J. has had to put Larry on the Injury Report after undoing eye surgery, as well as having a hernia repaired.
"He's been a warrior, but it's a lot of … responsibility. He gives me that. That's something that I would say, just be aware of the health issues," K.J. said. "But other than that, he's fun. He's my best friend. He jumps around, but when he's tired he's just gonna lay down and chill. I love him."