Jonathan Bullard has been everywhere as a football player.
The seventh-year defensive tackle grew up in North Carolina before playing in college at Florida. Bullard then became a member of the Chicago Bears before stopping in Arizona, Seattle and Atlanta.
Now, Bullard has landed in Minnesota and is looking to make an impact in his first season with the Vikings.
For Bullard, he's made sure to appreciate every stop.
"I definitely would like to have a home base and sit there and say that I've been with a team for so long, but at the end of the day, [it's] such a blessing to be in this league," Bullard said. "Seven years is a long time, whether you're on one team or seven different teams. I'm just thankful for the opportunity every year."
Bullard said his older and younger brother have had a huge impact on him.
"My older brother's passion was football, too, so growing up I kind of wanted to be around him. He became my role model; he became somebody I looked up to. He's a great big brother," Bullard said. "They both helped me in so many ways become the man that I am, and the football player."
We sat down recently for a Water Break presented by Crown Royal.
Q: You were drafted by the Bears in 2016. What will it mean to play against them today, especially now with you being on the Vikings?
A: "I mean, it'll be exciting. Go back where it all started. That's the first organization that gave me a chance, so I'll always have a special place in my heart for them. It didn't turn out the way that either one of us expected, but it'll mean a lot to me. They gave me the chance to live my dream, so I'm always grateful for that."
Q: What's it like reconnecting with defensive line coach Chris Rumph, who coached you at Florida in your final season?
A: "I think that's a huge part of why it just turned out so good for me here. During camp, I just walked back into a room that I was familiar with. The way he coaches, his personality; I had my best season under him, so the familiarity of it just really gave me a confidence boost. He's always been good at getting the best out of me in the right way, learned how to coach me, so when I got the call to come here, I was excited."
Q: You were ranked as one of the best defensive ends in high school and a 5-star recruit. How much did that build your confidence going into Florida?
A: "The people grading you, whether it was high school graders or college graders, at the end of the day it made you feel good and made you work harder. Made you understand at a young age what was possible and your potential because you're not there when you get those five stars. You go back and look at the tape now knowing what you know and you're like, 'Dang, I was better than the people around me.' It's a confidence booster; it definitely gives you that when you're going to camp and understanding you're going to get a shot … it's just what you're going to do with it. … With recruiting nowadays, they're getting recruited in eighth grade and stuff like that. I was an 11th-grade guy, so it was a confidence booster for me."
Q: You had your number retired by your high school [Crest High School in Shelby, North Carolina] last year. How special was that moment?
A: "Very special. That number means a lot to our family. Growing up, my favorite player, if I'm being honest, my older brother's favorite player was Julius Peppers, and then naturally I wanted to be like [my brother], so my favorite player became Julius Peppers. My older brother wore 90 in high school, and when I came in, he left, so I took 90, so we got to wear it back-to-back. I wore it because of him. He played defensive end, so then I played defensive end. My little brother also played at Crest High as a wide receiver. Our last names are on there, so it was special to me to know that our last name is going to be hanging up there forever."
Q: The "Crucial Catch" initiative honors those who have died from cancer, survivors and caregivers. I understand you lost your grandmother to cancer. Can you just talk about the impact that she had on you?
A: "Huge impact. From a little kid all the way up to a grown man, she was like a second mom to me. She was really around sports, really into sports; I'll never forget her yelling at the Lakers on the TV as much as she did. She meant the world to me. I have her tattooed on my chest, so she's always with me. But yeah, she definitely got me into sports. It means a lot, what she did for me growing up. I always take her along for the journey, and I know she's still with me."
Q: What does the "Crucial Catch" initiative mean to you?
A: "It's just important. It's a lot of people that have lost a lot of people to that disease, so it's just one of those things that's dear to my heart because of the situation I've been through, and I understand that others go through it, too, and there's still people fighting and going through it right now. I know how it can impact a family; my family took a big hit. So, it's special. I appreciate the people who support it."
Q: You teamed with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks in Chicago. What did you learn from them to help your game?
A: "It's a lot of things they can do that I just can't. But you learn the mental part, you see how they work, you see how good of players they are, but how hard they work. For the best players to also be the hardest workers on your team says a lot. I walked into a room with Akiem Hicks, where he went on to have his best years, made the Pro Bowl, so I got to watch him dominate as a Bear and actually see it in my [defensive line] room and watch it, and that's what I studied. Obviously, he's way bigger than me, so I can't go try to do what Akiem Hicks does. But I could see the way that he worked, the way he wanted it and even when he got it, the way he kept pushing. It was very impactful to see those guys."
Q: How about your new teammates. What have you been able to learn from them so far?
A: "You've got guys like Dalvin [Tomlinson] and [Harrison] Phillips and you just see the way that we all communicate. Those guys are here for a reason, got paid for a reason, but it's nice to be in a room where I'm older so I can still see certain things that we all work together to make it a good core group up front. Those guys work hard and those guys on the outside make it easier for us. They push and come off the edges and push the middle, so they all have been impactful. We've got a good group."
Q: How nice is it to be reunited with Patrick Peterson and Jordan Hicks, who were your teammates in Arizona?
A: "It's always good because they're great guys, too. Me and Jordan, obviously he was a linebacker there, so we had a connection. He knows how I can play up front, some things that we talk about. Pat P, the same way, the way he led Arizona, the legend he is in Arizona, you got to see those things, so it's always nice when you walk into a new building and see familiar faces."
Q: You play multiple positions within that defensive line. How important is it for you to bring that versatility to a team and a defense?
A: "It's very important to play my role. I want to be a guy that they can plug in across the front and lean on when they need to. I just keep working at it every day, do my job, do what's asked of me, try to be that versatile player when somebody goes out or if they need me to play a new role to be able to do it at the ability that they want me to."