Harrison Smith is one of the quieter players on Minnesota's roster. When the safety hits the field on Sundays, though, he lets his play do the talking.
Smith will enter Sunday's game with 15 career interceptions over six seasons, including three this season. All three takeaways helped the Vikings en route to wins against Tampa Bay, at Chicago and against the Packers last week.
The 28-year-old prides himself on film study and pregame prep, and sometimes a pick is the result of catching on to a player's tendencies and reading a play before it unfolds. Other times, it's all about capitalizing on a right-place, right-time situation.
"Sometimes you're just playing and executing your assignment, and you get a chance to go make a play," Smith said. "And then you're the athlete that you've always been, and you go take advantage of that opportunity."
While Smith prefers to fly under the radar and isn't much of a talker, he's often looked to as a natural leader in the locker room.
Earlier this month, cornerback Xavier Rhodes called Smith "the heart of this defense."
"He knows the game. He loves the game," Rhodes said. "He's quiet, but once Harrison speaks up, everyone listens."
It means a lot to Smith that his teammates have such strong faith in him.
"Coming from Xav', we've played a lot together, and we rely on one another a lot," Smith said. "So knowing that he has that confidence in me – because I know I have that confidence in him – allows us to play free and know the guy next to you is going to do his job, so I have to do mine."
We caught up with Harrison for a recent Timeout:
Q: What makes this Vikings defense special?
A: I think it's a lot of guys who love to play, and we all want to do exactly what we're supposed to do. Because if we don't, that could hurt one of the guys next to us. If a play comes our way – I don't want to say we're completely selfless, because we're not, we all want to make plays. But we know that, if it comes your way, make it. And if you do your job and it goes somewhere else, then that guy's going to make it.
Q: You're not the first great safety to wear No. 22 for the Vikings. What does it mean to follow behind Hall of Famer Paul Krause?
A: Yeah, he's up there. He's the all-time interceptions leader, so that's pretty lofty right there. Being able to wear that number, I obviously want to do him proud. I try to remember that before I go out and play every week.
Q: Baltimore is the only team you've never played against. Will that be a bucket list item checked off on Sunday?
A: Yeah, we played them in '13, and I was hurt when we played them. I didn't realize they were the only team I hadn't played, actually. Yeah, that's pretty cool. That means you've been around for a little while.
Q: Halloween is coming up; what was your favorite childhood costume?
A: I was always a pirate or a ninja – those were pretty much mainstays in my costume [repertoire]. We were the Spice Girls once, when I was in elementary school. Me and all my buddies thought it would be funny – that's probably the best one.
Q: So which Spice Girl were you?
A: I think we had more than five people, and we had a couple Baby Spices. I think I was Baby Spice.
Q: I've heard Andrew Sendejo's Willy Wonka-themed costume last year was pretty impressive. Any plans to outdo him?
A: One time we went as a group, and we were the American Gladiators. That was probably the closest I'm going to get to being at his level, because he goes all out. There's no telling what he'll do this year.
Q: What makes you and Andrew so close as teammates, on and off the field?
A: It goes back to that trust. I know how he prepares for games, I know how he plays and leaves it all out there every week, so I have to do the same. And I think we have a similar sense of humor, so I think that's one common thing between us off the field.
Q: The World Series is around the corner – did you grow up a baseball fan?
A: When I was young, I loved Ken Griffey, Jr. He was my favorite athlete. But then as I got older, I started getting more into football. I work out with a few guys that play, so it's fun to watch them, but that's about my extent of baseball knowledge at this point.
Q: You got a puppy last year, right? Tell me about him.
A: Yeah, Deuce, he's a maniac. He's a young lab, but him and Eric [Kendricks'] dog met recently, and she's like smaller than my hand. And my dog is like 90 pounds, a wild man. He calmed down, and he would just lay down and let her jump all over him. The two of them became friends pretty quick.
Q: You got your pilot's license a while back. What is it that you love about flying?*
A: Just the challenge. You get some downtime in the offseason, and you kind of find yourself not doing a lot. You can only work out so much, so I try to find other areas to challenge myself and just increase my knowledge of other things.
*Watch Vikings.com for a larger feature next month on Smith's flying experiences