Danielle Hunter had a memorable 23rd birthday and multiple reasons to celebrate.
The Vikings third-year defensive end began his next trip around the sun on Oct. 29, the same day that Minnesota defeated Cleveland 33-16 in Week 8 at London's Twickenham Stadium.
Hunter delivered a key play in the game on the first snap of the second half when he forced a fumble by Isaiah Crowell that was recovered by Anthony Harris. The Vikings took possession of the ball at the Browns 30-yard line and took the lead for good with a 43-yard field goal by Kai Forbath.
The day had extra significance for Hunter because he was able to play in front of several family members who were originally from his native country of Jamaica. They hadn't seen the 6-foot-5, 252-pounder in person since he was a toddler. Hunter moved to the United States when he was 8.
Hunter and the Vikings returned from their bye last week by visiting Washington, and he recorded his fourth sack of the season. The 2015 third-round pick swung behind Tom Johnson to surge through the line and take down Kirk Cousins for a loss of 14 yards. The sack put Washington in a fourth-and-24, and the Redskins had to settle for a 55-yard field goal with 1:14 remaining.
Minnesota prevailed 38-30 and improved to 7-2 on the season. The Vikings completed a five-game winning streak for the third consecutive season and will try to extend that today against a 7-2 Rams team with an explosive offense.
When Hunter is not on the field or in the weight room, he enjoys flying his Inspire 1 drone.
"I had a friend in town a few weeks ago. We took ours out and went flying," Hunter said. "[Offensive tackle Mike] Remmers has one. He's always bugging me about trying to fly with him. I'm like, 'Whenever you want to fly, just let me know.' "
We caught up with Danielle for a recent Timeout:
Q: What's life as a starter been like? You made that transition in high school and college, and now you're making it in the pros.
A: It's basically just going out there and being an every-down player, just doing your job. Don't try and be Superman or anything like that. Last year, I was a part-time player, only in on passing downs mostly, but this year, I'm in for more base defense plays and passing downs, so it's just going in there and doing your job.
Q: The Vikings rank third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game entering Week 11 after finishing 20th in the category last year. What's helped your improvement against the run as a team this year?
A: That's our main goal, stopping the run first, so later on, we get to rush the passer.
Q: What happened on the forced fumble you caused to start the second half against Cleveland in London?
A: We didn't start the first half how we wanted to, so everybody had in their mind the mentality of being better than in the first half. They ran the ball, and it was supposed to be my play to make, my gap, so I saw the guy and lunged for him. My hand just happened to be on the ball, and the ball came out. I just dove, and my hand hit the ball, and it came out.
Q: You guys were obviously focused on preparing for Cleveland but did have a little free time to explore. What did you think of London?
A: I went to downtown London. We went to Harrods and saw a lot of things. I learned that things in London are very expensive. I had family out there that's been out there since I was little. I saw them — aunties and cousins.
Q: Was that game the first time they've seen you play?
A: That's the first time they've seen me in a long time. The last time they saw me was when I was a kid when they left Jamaica to go to England. We parted ways. Some went to England, and some came here. There's a lot of Jamaicans in England and a lot in New York. They parted to go to the UK, so that was my first time seeing them in a long time. I didn't even remember how they looked. I've seen pictures and all that, but it's been so long since we've seen each other in person. I was 3 or maybe even 2.
Q: Do you ever think about how your life would be different had your mom picked England instead of America?
A: I probably wouldn't have been playing football. I would have been playing soccer or something.