EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Minnesota's Week 2 game in Pittsburgh against the Steelers featured a series of firsts for C.J. Ham.
The Vikings fullback recorded his first NFL carry and promptly gained a single yard, bulldozing his way into the end zone for his first professional touchdown.
Ham's final stat line: one carry, one yard, one touchdown.
"It was an awesome feeling; obviously it was a dream come true," Ham said. "I scored in the preseason before, but to score when it counts and have that in my career, it was an awesome feeling for me. I just wish we would have gotten the win as well."
The fullback's memorable touchdown came after Dalvin Cook nearly had his first pro touchdown. Cook initially was ruled to have crossed the goal line, but officials decided after a review that the Vikings running back's knee touched down just short of the goal line.
"I was definitely a little surprised," Ham said of the play call. "I thought that we were definitely going to give Dalvin the ball, and I was going to have to go in there and block somebody. But my number was called, and I was excited and I just wanted to get that yard."
The Duluth native has always been known as a running back. He rushed for 1,800 combined yards as a junior and senior at Denfield High School before heading to Augustana College, a Division II school in South Dakota.
Ham ran for 2,662 yards and 29 touchdowns in college before joining the Vikings in the spring of 2016 after performing well in a tryout at rookie camp.
He was active for the Week 17 finale against Chicago and then endured a position switch as the Vikings moved him to fullback this offseason.
Ham said he's taken to his new role, which is a little more physical than his old one.
"You know you're going to be more smashmouth. I'm coming to hit guys," Ham said. "I kind of had that same mentality as a running back, but at the same time, I knew I had to avoid people as well. Fullback is more of a hard-nosed mentality."
Ham said he spent the offseason learning how to block, something he credited Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu for helping him with.
"I always had the will and the want-to for hitting just about anybody," Ham said. "But sometimes just hitting them isn't going to get the job done. You have to position yourself and execute the block for a certain amount of time.
"Coach Polamalu has done a great job of really helping me dissect defenses," Ham added. "He played fullback as well, so he really knows the ins and outs of where to be, what to do and how to do it."
We caught up with C.J. to talk about his unique name, his special bond with his family and his passion for movies.
Q: We'll start with a question about your name. Does C.J. stand for anything?
A: Cortez, Jr. My dad's name is Cortez, as well. My full name is Cortez Thaddeus Ham, Jr.
Q: Do you have a special bond with you dad?
A: Definitely. My dad has been there the whole way. He's the one guy who, from the time I started playing football, he always believed I was going to make it to the NFL. Even when I started to doubt myself later in my career when I realized how hard it was, he still always said I was going to make it.
Q: Was he your coach when you were playing football growing up?
A: No, not a coach. But it's funny because I think since third grade, I have every single one of my sporting events on tape. No matter what sport it was, he always was that parent in the stands with his video camera.
Q: What do you like to do outside of football?
A: I'm kind of a boring person. But I really enjoy watching movies. I've watched a lot of movies, and I used to go to the movies by myself all the time just to clear my head and get out of the house.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: That's tough! It's hard for me to pick one … but I'd say Gridiron Gang, to be honest with you.
Q: Is that the one with The Rock (Dwayne Johnson)?
A: Yeah. It's not really what you think a person's first choice for a favorite movie would be, but I really enjoy it.
Q: Given the influence of your father, what do you love about now being a dad?
A: My daughter's name is Skylar, and she's my first child. It's a blessing. Being a parent is the best thing in the world, and I'd take it over anything. Just being able to see her smile and talk and walk … you realize that you don't really know how much you love something until you have a child.