Vikings fourth-round draft pick D.J. Wonnum knows he has a lot to learn from longtime defensive line guru and Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson.
Wonnum felt a connection with Patterson before joining the roster.
"My first big encounter with Coach Patterson was at the Combine," Wonnum said. "Him seeing a future in me there, I was kind of already excited about potentially being a Viking.
"I didn't know 100 percent, but I had a great feeling," Wonnum smiled. "Leaving that meeting with him, I was like 'Man, I gotta play for the Vikings.' "
The bond continued during the Vikings offseason program when virtual meetings offered the coach an opportunity to critique the prospect.
"Coach [watched] my film from college and [was] able to show me all the things I've done wrong," Wonnum said. "Him having a lot of praise for me when he's taught those other great guys before me has me excited to get up there and get to work."
It's well-documented that Danielle Hunter bought in to Patterson's plan early on during his rookie season, resulting in him becoming the youngest player in NFL history to amass 50 career sacks.
Although the interactions this offseason between the trio haven't been in person, Wonnum has picked up on Hunter's leadership as a 25-year-old.
"From the meetings and the walk-throughs, you can definitely feel Danielle's leadership presence."
Below are four other highlights from Wonnum's appearance on the Minnesota Vikings Podcast:
1. Leader at South Carolina
Speaking of leadership qualities by a young player, Wonnum has quite the resume to look back on during his days at South Carolina.
"My teammates voted me a captain as a sophomore. It was an incredible feeling, just knowing that you're a young guy and a lot of guys already look up to you," Wonnum said. "I knew I had to be on my P's and Q's every single day."
2. Huge Senior Season
Wonnum was South Carolina's 2019 Comeback Player of the Year after he was limited to just five games in 2018 due to injury.
Still a team captain in 2019, Wonnum collected Second-Team All-SEC honors from TheAssociated Press after recording 37 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
"My junior season was definitely a hard time, especially with never having any serious injuries before," Wonnum said. "It kind of just taught me things. You've gotta go harder, and you have to be a leader for your teammates even though you're not on the field. Just coming into Vikings Nation, I feel like that leadership is going to set me apart."
3. Facing SEC Competition
Playing in the SEC for four seasons definitely boasts heavy competition against some of the best programs in college football each season.
When asked about what team had the toughest offensive lineman, Wonnum was quick to note that Andrew Thomas, the fourth overall pick for the New York Giants in this year's draft was a tough matchup.
"Week-in and week-out in the SEC, it's great competition," Wonnum said. "The Georgia offensive line was pretty good. I went against those guys, but like every week, everybody is good. Just being able to get better and play against high competition was a great thing."
"It's kind of a step forward, playing against guys in college that are first rounders like Andrew Thomas," Wonnum added. "It kind of just shows me what I am going to be facing in the league."
4. Football family
Wonnum's younger brother, Dylan, is currently a tackle at South Carolina.
Dylan is two years younger than D.J. and started on the offensive line as a freshman. D.J. enjoyed being able to take part in his brother's development as a Gamecock.
"It was great having him come to South Carolina and showing him the ropes," Wonnum said. "He's been doing a great job, and I'm excited for the future."