Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's navigation of a surprise assignment while working his first NFL game stirred memories this week for a former broadcasting tandem.
Rewind to August 2013, when the 49ers were hosting the Broncos at Candlestick Park to open the preseason.
Denver's preseason games were at the time called by John Lynch and Verne Lundquist, who was unable to attend that particular contest. Being that Lynch was slated to call regular-season games on FOX with "new guy" Kevin Burkhardt, Lynch inquired about having Burkhardt fill in for Lundquist to give the duo a sort of practice run.
Burkhardt remembers stepping into the booth to call his first televised NFL game and noticing the preseason crew had neither a statistician nor a spotter, who acts as a helpful pair of eyes and behind-the-scenes voice for the broadcast team.
Calling a game without those two positions is, to be frank, less than ideal.
"It was like, 'Man, John, it'd be nice to have some support up here. This is kind of interesting,' " Burkhardt recalled over the phone with a laugh. "It was totally bare-bones. So the Niners were nice enough to send up Kwesi."
A fresh-eyed, lanky Adofo-Mensah showed up in the broadcast booth that day ready to do whatever was asked.
"I go, 'Hey, buddy, how are you doing?' He goes, 'Hey, I'm Kwesi, I'm here to help you guys,' " Lynch told Vikings.com. "I'm like, 'For what?' He said, 'Doing stats.' I'm like, 'OK, do you do this?' He goes, 'No, but I'll figure it out.' "
In an interview with Vikings.com's Eric Smith, Adofo-Mensah also brought up that day in Denver nearly a decade ago.
"They needed somebody to help spot, and I still to this day don't know what that means," Adofo-Mensah laughed. "But they sent me over and said, 'Well, you're a math guy, you go help spot.' I'm like, 'OK, sure. I don't know if my master's degree prepares me to spot.' "
But Adofo-Mensah did what he does best: He asked questions, he learned quickly and he took action.
"He told us he didn't have any experience doing this, and I just remember having that conversation, like, 'Any way you can help. This is kind of what we're looking for,' " Burkhardt said. "He was so nice about it, and hopefully we were nice to him. I think we were. He was like, 'Yeah, I'll just try to figure it out.' "
It's exactly that mindset that has allowed Adofo-Mensah to go from Wall Street, to the 49ers Manager of Football Research and Development in 2013 (and working for Lynch from 2017-19 during his time with San Francisco), and eventually to where he is now: the Vikings new general manager.
View photos of new Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during his first day as a Viking at the TCO Performance Center on Jan. 26.
And that first day in the booth, tracking stats and confirming tackles for Burkhardt, set the ball in motion for Adofo-Mensah's unique and impressive career path.
"We ended up having this great time, and I got to know him, and years later, when I came in the building [in San Francisco as the 49ers general manager], there was a connection," Lynch said. "He's got a tremendous smile, so you don't forget that. He's just a really good person, and obviously everything else I already talked about."
Adofo-Mensah's calm but driven disposition made an impact on Burkhardt that afternoon, as well.
"That day was overwhelming for me because I was just trying to survive it," Burkhardt quipped. "And he just had a great way about him. Even when we got done, I remember saying, 'Man, [he] was awesome.' He was just coming in and helping us out. Who he was and his demeanor and attitude, I just thought that was so awesome. I was so thankful because I was just trying to not screw it up.
"Here it was, my first time doing NFL on television, first time working with John and, I guess, Kwesi's first game working for an NFL team," Burkhardt added. "And now he's running a team, John's running a team and I've been [broadcasting NFL games] for 10 years. Gosh, it's really funny. It's wild. I'm happy for him."
View photos of new Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during his introductory press conference with the media on Jan. 27 at the TCO Performance Center.
Lynch's first interaction with Adofo-Mensah will forever stick with him, but it's what he's done since then that truly strikes Lynch.
"That was kind of the start with Kwes', but once you start working with him, you just see … research and development, analytics, there's a lot of old hats in this league that are resistant to change, but when guys like Kwesi are really crafty, you know, not crafty, but when they're that smart and that good, people start seeing," Lynch said. "[He had] the ability to establish relationships and, basically being a servant and saying, 'How can I help you?' to our coaches, and man, those people had so much appreciation for Kwesi by the time he left.
"I keep saying it, but he made [the 49ers] better, and I'm sure he did the same in Cleveland," Lynch added. "And I know he will in Minnesota."