Danielle Hunter is quietly but quickly taking the NFL by storm.
In Week 9 against Washington, he became the first player to notch 48 sacks by his 25th birthday, which he celebrated five days later.
Hunter's 49.5 sacks entering Sunday's game against Detroit rank as the third-most by a player in his first five seasons with the Vikings, trailing only Jared Allen (74) and Keith Millard (51). And now, he stands poised to be the youngest player in league history to record 50 QB takedowns.
True to form, Hunter humbly credits those around him for helping him reach milestone after milestone thus far. He's grateful to those who believed in him.
"Because when I came in, I'm pretty sure not many people expected me to do what I'm doing right now. But I couldn't control that," Hunter said. "The only way I can control what people think is by going out on the field and applying what I've learned. You have to have that want-to; you can't give in and listen to what people say about you.
"People say good things or bad things about you no matter what – even if you're going up in the ranks," he added. "It's all about staying persistent and being a professional every year. I think that's the main thing – just trying to get better and better, and don't get complacent. Once you do, that's when you start to level-off and then go down."
As he approaches a benchmark that hasn't before been reached, I sat down with the defensive end and asked him to go through a list of his favorite career sacks thus far.
First Solo Sack | Jay Cutler | Nov. 1, 2015
Situation: Third-and-3 | 4:27 Q1 | Beat RT Kyle Long and cut up the middle to take down Cutler
Game result: Vikings defeated the Bears 23-20 with walk-off field goal
"It was a good feeling. … I just went out there, ended up folding under, and I ended up getting the sack.
"It's kind of one of those things where you expect it to be either Griff' (Everson Griffen), B-Rob (Brian Robison) or Tom [Johnson] with the sack, and then I ended up getting it."
'TNF' Takedown | Carson Palmer | Dec. 10, 2015
Situation: Third-and-8 | 4:25 Q2 | Barely hindered around left side on way to Palmer
Game result: Vikings fell 23-20 to the Cardinals
"This was on a night game. Nothing too special. I just beat this guy (Bobby Massie) – he plays for the Bears now, so I go against him all the time. That was just coming off the ball and just having the will to beat him. That was a pretty fun game."
First Multi-sack Game | Jay Cutler | Dec. 20, 2015
Situation: Third-and-14 | 10:46 Q2 | Cut back inside and got to Cutler, who escaped Brian Robison's grasp
Game result: Vikings defeated the Bears 38-17
"This was my first multi-sack game. I had one over here – I think B-Rob missed, and then I was there to clean up. B-Rob was hot, but it's whatever (laughs)."
Easiest Career Sack | Eli Manning | Dec. 27, 2015
Situation: Third-and-10 | 4:32 Q1 | Enabled by quick get-off to get around Giants RT Marshall Newhouse to drop Manning for loss of 6
Game result: Vikings defeated the Giants 49-17 to clinch playoff berth
"I remember this one, I beat him off the jump, beat him clean. He wasn't even looking at me. I beat him clean, and then Eli just went [down]. Easiest sack I've ever gotten."
First Sack at U.S. Bank Stadium | Aaron Rodgers | Sept. 18, 2016
Situation: Third-and-7 | 0:44 Q1 | Out-muscled Packers RT Bryan Bulaga; Vikings LB Eric Kendricks got through the middle and disrupted Rodgers; Hunter came over the back for first career sack of Rodgers and forced a fumble recovered by Kendricks
Game result: Vikings defeated the Packers 17-14
"This was a memorable one. … I remember that one. That was actually the first sack in that stadium. That's why they've got the picture on the wall over there. … I was wondering why the photo was so significant. I think [Vikings Communications Manager Sam Newton] told me one day, [and] I was like, 'Cool.' That was pretty awesome."
Safety Down (NFC) South | Cam Newton | Sept. 25, 2016
Situation: Second-and-9 | 1:51 Q1 | Got past the Panthers left tackle and left guard to sniff out Newton in the Carolina end zone to put Minnesota on the board with a safety
Game result: Vikings defeated the Panthers 22-10
"That was one of my top five sacks – probably between my No. 1 and No. 2. I remember that clearly. I was going against Michael Oher, and I remember being star-struck by two people. Cam Newton, he was my idol in high school, so the game started, this was my first time going against the Panthers, and I was like, 'Man, that's Cam Newton.' And I'm like, 'Damn, this is Michael Oher, the guy [portrayed in] The Blindside.' I was at right end, and I guess I beat [Oher], and then there was another guy, the guard [Andrew Norwell], and I beat him, and Cam was right there, and I sacked him for a safety. That was pretty cool. And then Coach [Patterson] was like, 'Man, that safety that you got, that was big-time.' He was happy about that."
Rewarded with a Wrangle | Brock Osweiler | Oct. 9, 2016
Situation: Third-and-2 | 12:43 Q4 | Got around a block by Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz and last-ditch effort by RB Lamar Miller to come around back of Osweiler and muscle him down for a loss of 12
Game result: Vikings defeated the Texans 31-13
"I worked hard to get this one. I remember, this was my only sack of the game. I had gotten so close every time, and I just finally got to him. Some sacks, it will take the whole game to get one, and once you get there, it's like – whew – it's kind of like a reward."
Finish with a Flare | Carson Palmer | Nov. 20, 2016
Situation: Fourth-and-6 | 0:44 Q4 | Cut inside past guard and wrestled with Cardinals RG Tyler Boggs before getting through and taking down Palmer for loss of 15; recorded 2.0 sacks in a game for first time
Game result: Vikings defeated the Cardinals 30-24
"It was the end of the game. They had to make a play … We all rushed, and we all got hung up for a second, and then you go to your second move and all that – I went to my second move and ended up beating my guy. [Palmer] held onto the ball. He had to hold onto the ball because if he would have thrown it away, the game would have been done. He basically just had to take the sack. Our DBs were covering good."
'TNF' Showdown | Dak Prescott | Dec. 1, 2016
Situation: Third-and-4 | :15 Q2 | Took down Prescott for loss of 3 to stop Dallas' drive headed into halftime of a game that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer missed due to emergency eye surgery
Game result: Vikings fell 17-15 to the Cowboys
"[Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer] was the head coach. … It was a close game. I remember I had two sacks this game, too. I was going against [RT Doug Free] – he was a veteran. It was pretty funny – I did my technique, and Coach [Patterson] was happy, but we ended up losing the game, so it didn't really matter to me. A sack really means something to me when we win the game."
First 10-Sack Season | Blake Bortles | Dec. 11, 2016
Situation: Second-and-10 | 0:58 Q4 | Easily beat Jaguars RT Jermey Parnell around the edge for a big take-down of Bortles
Game result: Vikings defeated Jaguars 25-16
"I remember this sack right here against the Jaguars; this was my first time getting double-digits [for a season]. This was the sack right here, Number 10. I got him, and then I did the [celebration] crawl. I was like, 'Yeah. Double digits for the first time.' And then it just kept going up from there."
Ending the Drought | Matthew Stafford | Oct. 1, 2017
Situation: First-and-10 | 15:00 Q1 | Out-muscled Lions RT Ricky Wagner to get to Stafford for a loss of 5
Game result: Vikings fell 14-7 to the Lions before going on an eight-game win streak
"This was the first play of the game. What do they call it, 'a sack lunch'? … "This was my first time getting a sack all season. It was, like, four games in, and I was like, 'Man, what am I doing?' I was starting to think, 'Do I suck or something?' There's these things like dry spells, or droughts, we call them; defensive linemen can go games without sacks, and everybody has them. Everybody has a drought. It could be in the middle of the season, in the beginning of the season – mine happened to be the beginning of the season. … This is when I started being more shifty with my rushing. It was the second sack of that game. That was pretty cool."
Forcing a Field Goal at FedEx | Kirk Cousins | Nov. 12, 2017
Situation: Third-and-10 | 1:47 Q4 | Angled toward the sideline before cutting back inside and easily getting up the middle to Cousins for a loss of 14 that forced Washington to settle for a field goal
Game result: Vikings defeat Washington 38-30
"All I can remember is that I've always gotten a sack against the Redskins. Every time we play them.
"Honestly, I guess it's kind of the system. … We study their guys well, and we know what can work against them. Ever since I've been here, every game we've played them, we've had a sack against them. That was against Kirk [at the end] of the game."
Ramming the Door Down | Jared Goff | Nov. 19, 2017
Situation: Third-and-10 | 2:31 Q1 | Hunter reached over the top of Rams RT Rob Havenstein to sack Goff for a loss of 9 before bringing out this "kick-the-door-down" celebration for the first time
Game result: Vikings defeat the Rams 24-7
"This is when I ran over the tackle. That was intense. I was like, 'Oh, man.' I couldn't go around him, I couldn't go [to the] inside of him, so I just had to go through him.
"This is when I first did the little door thing. I almost kicked Griff' in the face because he was going to go in front of me."
LY: I've heard you got the celebration idea from former Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon?
"Yeah, he did it coming out of the tunnel, so I said, 'Ooh – I'm stealing this.' "
Breaking Down the Bengals | Andy Dalton | Dec. 17, 2017
Situation: Third-and-1 | 5:21 Q2 | Screamed around the edge untouched to wrap up Dalton for loss of 9
Game result: Vikings defeat the Bengals 34-7 to clinch NFC North title
"I knew it was going to be a play-action. Play-action sometimes can be the easiest sacks, because if you can read through it, you just go run through where the quarterback's going to be. I almost missed him for a second.
"You can know it's a play-action by what the tackle does. If he goes flat down the line, then you know. On pass plays, they can't go downfield."
Gazelle-ing Garoppolo | Jimmy Garoppolo | Sept. 9, 2018
Situation: First-and-10 | 1:24 Q3 | Gets around the outside of 49ers RT Garry Gilliam to take down Garoppolo from behind for a loss of 5
Game result: Vikings defeat the 49ers 24-16
"I like this one because sometimes I tend to do a leap. I don't know how I do it. Sometimes I leap, and I'm like, 'Wow.' I don't even realize I do it. L.J. (Linval Joseph) is always the one to point that out to me, whenever I leap. He calls it 'gazelle-ing.' He says I 'gazelle' the quarterback."
Out-witting Whitworth | Jared Goff | Sept. 27, 2018
Situation: Second-and-11 | 12:29 Q3 | Got around the outside edge of Rams LT Andrew Whitworth and pinned Goff for a loss of 9 to set up third-and-long
Game result: Vikings fall 38-31 to the Rams after offensive shootout
"This is the game that Whitworth, he was playing with me, so I was like, 'Man, I'm going to get him out of my head and just try to run around him.' It happened to work. … I remember this season they were saying how good [Goff] was and all that. But whatever."
Sacking the Scrambler | Carson Wentz | Oct. 7. 2018
Situation: First-and-10 | 5:18 Q3 | Hunted down an on-the-move Wentz and managed to drop the powerful passer for a loss of 8
Game result: Vikings defeat Eagles 23-21
"Wentz is pretty hard to get down because he's always trying to throw the ball. You get to him, and he'll try to throw the ball while going down. I remember this one, I got to him and tried to swat at the ball, because I knew he was going to try to throw it while going down. He always does that. Whenever he's going down, he tries to do Superman stuff."
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work | Josh Rosen | Oct. 14, 2018
Situation: First-and-10 | 9:31 Q2 | Muscled past left tackle D.J. Humphries to get to Rosen for the first of two sacks that game
Game result: Vikings defeat Cardinals 27-17
"[Anthony] Barr helped me out on that play, because sometimes inside pressure keeps the quarterback from stepping up, so he sees [Barr], he tries to go away from him, and he steps into me. It all works hand-in-hand."
Career Day Against Detroit | Matthew Stafford | Nov. 4, 2018
Situation: Third-and-13 | 5:27 Q2 | Able to corral Stafford, who had been slowed up by DT Sheldon Richardson, for the second sack in three plays
Game result: Vikings defeated Lions 24-9 after sacking Stafford 10 times
Note: Hunter ended the day with career-high 3.5 sacks
"It's a screen. Sheldon got in his face and helped me out, and then I got that sack. I remember this game – it was a fun one. Everybody was getting sacks. Everybody was happy after this game. This is when I got [a postgame call from Deion Sanders]; you know, 'When you ball, you get the call'? And I got [NFC] Defensive Player of the Week. It was pretty fun."
Sacking a Slippery One | Russell Wilson | Dec. 10, 2018
Situation: Third-and-9 | 14:53 Q2 | Drove back Seahawks RT Germain Ifedi
Game result: Vikings lost 21-7 to the Seahawks
"You always have to be careful with your rushes [with Russell Wilson]. He'll always try to make plays at the end of the game, so you have to be careful with your rushes with him.
"You have to be careful because he'll take off. Sometimes you've gotta set your tackle up to make it seem like you're going to go around the outside but then come downhill."
40 in 4 | Ryan Tannehill | Dec. 16, 2018
Situation: Second-and-19 | 11:39 Q2 | Cut back inside and up the middle to reach Tannehill for a loss of 8, just one play after he was sacked by Barr
Game result: Vikings defeated Dolphins 41-17
Note: Hunter recorded 2.0 sacks to reach 40 in his first four seasons, more than any other Viking in that time span except for Jared Allen
"I went on the inside right here. Coach Dre actually told me to do this. I told him, 'He's setting from my outside, outside,' and he's like, 'The next rush, go on the inside.' So I did exactly that, and then I got him.
"I didn't even realize that [stat about 40 sacks in four seasons]."
Starting Out Strong | Matt Ryan | Sept. 8, 2019
Situation: Third-and-16 | 1:54 Q2 | Bolted off line of scrimmage to get around rookie Falcons RT Kaleb McGary to take down Ryan for loss of 11
Game result: Vikings defeated Falcons 28-12 in season opener
"It's the beginning of the season when you get that first sack out of the way. Coach [Patterson] says the first sack is always the hardest sack to get … because you've just been away from the game for so long, and preseason is just seeing where everybody's at. But when you're in the season, you get everybody's best."
Leaping at Lambeau | Aaron Rodgers | Sept. 15, 2019
Situation: Third-and-7 | 6:26 Q3 | Easily wins a 1-on-1 matchup with Packers TE Jimmy Graham, runs and leaps to sack Rodgers for a 10-yard loss
Game result: Vikings fell 21-16 to the Packers
"Here it is. The leap. I got off the ball, beat the tight end. When we watched this in the room, everybody was laughing. L.J. was dying, and Stacy [Keely] was crying-dying. Because they say, 'It's the damn leap.' That was pretty funny. I didn't even realize I did that.
"It's always a good feeling when you get a sack against them, because their tackles are really good. The only reason why we have a chance is because he holds the ball. We go to our second move sometimes and win."
Relentless Against the Raiders | Derek Carr | Sept. 22, 2019
Situation: Second-and-6 | 14:21 Q3 | Wrestled with Raiders RT Trent Brown and eventually broke through to take down Carr
Game result: Vikings defeated Raiders 34-14
"This was right after halftime. I was going against, supposedly, the highest-paid right tackle in the league, so I knew I had to come out and give him whatever I had. I knew eventually he was going to wear down, so I just moved him all over the place."
Double-teamed in Detroit | Matthew Stafford | Oct. 20, 2019
Situation: First-and-10 | 4:53 Q3 | Uses a spin move to evade Lions TE Jesse James and then out-muscles rookie TE T.J. Hockenson in order to get to Stafford and drop him for a loss of 7
Game result: Vikings defeated Lions 42-30
"We knew going into the game that either me or Griff' was going to get double-teamed. As soon as we beat the first dude, we have to go to the second dude and beat him. Coach Dre always tells us to stay active in our pass rush. … I was amazed myself that I did that. I was like, 'Man – that was pretty cool.' "
48 by 25 | Case Keenum | Oct. 24, 2019
Situation: First-and-10 | 9:04 Q1 | Won his matchup with Redskins TE Hale Hentges to circle around and strip sack former teammate Case Keenum; fumble was recovered by DT Shamar Stephen
Game result: Vikings defeated Washington 19-9
Note: Hunter set the NFL record for sacks before age 25 at 48. He celebrated his 25th birthday five days later.
"It was kind of weird. It's always weird when you sack someone you used to play with."
By: Lindsey Young