MINNEAPOLIS — Jerick McKinnon had watched kickoff after kickoff sail over his head and out of the back of the end zone.
So when he was finally about to corral a kick in bounds — albeit eight yards deep in the end zone — there was little doubt the Vikings running back was bringing it out.
A dozen seconds and 108 yards later, McKinnon found himself celebrating in the opposite end zone with a kickoff return for a score that sparked the Vikings in a 32-31 win over the 49ers on Sunday.
"I only got one last week, so I was kind of itching for my opportunities. The first one was high and deep, and I tried to keep it in, but the next couple were out of bounds.
I kept telling those guys that if we got one in bounds, I was going to take it out," McKinnon said. "I didn't know how deep it was, I just know it was in bounds.
"Those guys made it easy for me," McKinnon added. "I don't think I got touched on the play. It was a great collective effort."
McKinnon barely did get touched on the play as San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould got a hand on him at the 40-yard line, but McKinnon breezed past him and raced down the numbers on the left side of the field for a touchdown.
McKinnon, whose nickname is 'Jet', joked after the game that he figured his moniker was on the line once he got to midfield.
"I just know that once I got to the 50, I had to score," McKinnon said. "If I get caught they might take my nickname away."
McKinnon's electrifying play sent U.S. Bank Stadium into a frenzy and pulled the Vikings to within seven points, making it 17-10 with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
There have been a handful of players trying to separate themselves for the vacant kick returner job, but McKinnon did his best to make an impression with his score.
"I see it as a way to help the team win and help impact the game," McKinnon said about potentially being Minnesota's primary kickoff returner. "(Vikings Special Team Coordinator Mike) Priefer always emphasizes momentum changes and I think that helped us pretty good at the time.
"We were able to swing momentum and get back (in it) and ultimately come out with the win," McKinnon said.
McKinnon's return also fired up fellow running backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray.
View games action images as the Vikings take on the 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday Night Football.
"He was rolling. I don't think I can run that far. He was rolling," Cook said of McKinnon's return. "It just shows the guys we've got in our running backs room, we just all want to go out and compete, no matter what we have on the field and have fun.
"Me and Latavius were running with him down the sideline. We were hyped," Cook added. "To see him do that, the running backs room, when he makes a play, we all make a play in the running backs room. That's how we take the situation. If one scores, we all score."
Offensively, McKinnon had 11 touches for 58 yards. The running back had seven carries for 27 yards and added four catches for 31 yards.
McKinnon said he's worked on positive plays with first-year Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu. McKinnon had a rush for no gain and lost five yards on another run but also rushed for 17 yards on his first carry of the night.
"KP has really helped me take my game to the next level with the things he's taught us," McKinnon said. "The certain things he taught, I've never seen them in that way, so I think since he's got here it's just about being more efficient.
"I'm trying to work on being more efficient and cutting my (negative plays)," McKinnon added.
There were no negative plays on McKinnon's lone kickoff return Sunday night, as he seized the opportunity and never looked back.