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Lunchbreak: TE T.J. Hockenson Shines in Vikings Debut

T.J. Hockenson verbally expressed his excitement hours after becoming a member of the Minnesota Vikings as part of a trade deadline deal that sent the tight end and a pair of draft picks to Minnesota in exchange for two picks to Detroit.

"I'm super excited to be here. I'm just excited to [be] a piece in this puzzle," Hockenson said last Wednesday during his first press conference with the Vikings. "A lot of good guys around here. This facility is beautiful, so I'm just excited to be here, man. There's nowhere I'd rather be."

During Sunday's 20-17 victory at Washington, Hockenson physically showed that same level of jubilation.

Hockenson recorded nine catches – the most in a game for a Vikings tight end since 2018 – for 70 yards.

Will Ragatz of Sports Illustrated broke down how Hockenson was able to prepare – and make his presence felt – so quickly. Ragatz wrote:

With less than a week to get up to speed in a brand new offense, it took major dedication from Hockenson and several others, starting as soon as he landed in Minnesota on Tuesday night. He spent a ton of time with Vikings tight ends coach Brian Angelichio and third-string quarterback David Blough, a former teammate of his in Detroit, during the week.

With those two at the forefront, Hockenson took a crash course in [Head Coach] Kevin O'Connell's offense and aced his first test on Sunday.

"Can't say enough about what T.J. Hockenson did this week to learn this system," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "Took me about four months to learn it; he did it like four days, so he's kind of making me look bad. Not one time in the huddle did I feel like he was looking at me like he didn't know what to do. Just very much on top of it. Gave me a sense of ease as a result."

Hockenson not only started the game on offense, but he converted the Vikings first third down of the day with a 19-yard reception on the team's opening drive. Minnesota went on to score a touchdown on the same drive.

"Once I got into the huddle, after the first play, I was very comfortable," Hockenson said.

Hockenson later had an 18-yard reception and a 13-yard catch in the second and third quarters, respectively. Five of his nine catches resulted in first downs. Three of those five first-down conversions were on third down, including a 9-yard catch on third-and-4 in the red zone in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

That reception ultimately led to a go-ahead 28-yard field goal from kicker Greg Joseph with 12 seconds left.

"He deserves all the credit, both him and Brian, they spent a lot of time together over the last five days, getting him ready to play," O'Connell said. "We didn't really dumb anything down; we didn't have a separate offense when T.J. was in there. I'm amazed at how prepared he was to play."

View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders at FedExField on Nov. 6.

Hockenson said he wanted to make sure he knew what he was doing when he took the field Sunday.

"I tried my hardest this week to learn everything — I really did," he said. "That's kind of the standard I put on myself, to be a guy that if they needed me, I would at least know what I was doing. That was a big emphasis for me this week, to be ready when my number was called, and I was able to do that."

Ragatz noted Hockenson also credited Blough for helping him prepare. Blough, who was with Hockenson in Detroit for nearly three seasons, translated concepts in Minnesota's playbook to ones they had seen together with the Lions.

"[David] just having the quarterback knowledge and understanding reads and where they're looking and what we're doing helped me a ton this week," Hockenson said. "I met with him last night to go over everything and he was like 'You're ready, dude. You got this.' That meant a lot to me, to have the confidence to come out here and do it."

After a strong debut in Purple, Hockenson is ready to bring more excitement and energy to his new team.

"This has just been awesome," he said. "My last four days have been incredible, and the guys in this locker room are so great. They helped me throughout the process, with learning the offense and with figuring everything out. It's just such a great group of guys to be around.

"This locker room, these coaches, these people, the community, just hearing the fans out there and how they travel," Hockenson continued. "I mean, they're already yelling my name. It's pretty sweet, and I'm really happy to be part of this organization and part of this team. There's nowhere else I'd rather be."

View action photos from the Week 9 Vikings vs. Commanders game at FedExField on Nov. 6.

Vikings NT Dalvin Tomlinson named NFLPA Community MVP for Week 9

Before he took the field against the Arizona Cardinals last week, Vikings nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson provided an experience for some fans they will never forget.

Tomlinson hosted six families from the Brighter Days Family Grief Center on the sideline before the Oct. 30 game, taking pictures, signing autographs and offering encouragement.

Last Friday, Tomlinson was named the Week 9 NFLPA (NFL Players Association) Community MVP.

"It's an honor being named the NFLPA Community MVP," Tomlinson said in a press release by the NFLPA. "My mother has always been my motivation for the work I've done in the community. She always told me, 'Be a blessing to others while you can.' "

"You never know how many lives you can help in a positive way just by smiling," Tomlinson added.

Brighter Days Family Grief Center is an organization that helps provide support to kids and young adults grieving from the loss or terminal diagnosis of a family member.

Tomlinson lost his father to cancer at the age of 5. He also lost his mother to complications from diabetes when he was a senior in high school.

Since then, Tomlinson has continued to connect and reach out to families who are experiencing grief with each team he plays for, including the Vikings, the University of Alabama and the New York Giants.

Tomlinson has held free youth football camps in his home state of Georgia, helped at children's hospitals during the holidays and become an ambassador for the American Cancer Society.

Tomlinson is a member of the Team Tackle Initiative with the American Diabetes Association, for which he helps raise money for diabetes treatment along with other current and retired NFL players. He's also been an advocator for equal benefits for those affected by diabetes and has met with multiple senators on Capitol Hill on the issue.

In addition to Tomlinson being named the Week 9 Community MVP, the NFLPA will donate $10,000 to a charity or foundation of Tomlinson's choice. Tomlinson will also participate in a virtual or in-person visit to a school or children's hospital and is now eligible for this year's Alan Page Community Award.