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Yannick Ngakoue Motivated by Past Vikings Greats

EAGAN, Minn. – It likely will take a handful of days for Yannick Ngakoue to learn all his new teammates' names, but there are 15 Vikings he's already well-familiar with.

Pictures of Pro Football Hall of Famers who spent most of their careers with Minnesota line the wall of a second-floor hallway in Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance. From Fran Tarkenton (1986) to Steve Hutchinson (2020), the Legends are displayed in the order they reached gridiron immortality.

Ngakoue, whom the Vikings acquired from the Jaguars, arrived in Minnesota this week and takes notice of the display each time he walks past.

"I just feel like that's the biggest motivation if you really love this game and this sport," Ngakoue told Twin Cities media members Friday. "You look to your right, and you see the John Randles, the Randy Mosses, the Cris Carters – guys like that who brought it each and every Sunday – and that's my inspiration. That's my aspiration, to [be] a Hall of Famer, and I'm working and striving to do that."

View photos of Vikings DE Yannick Ngakoue who had his first practice with the team on Sept. 3.

Ngakoue knows that Randle was coached from 1998-99 by Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson, who also has taught the likes of Chris Doleman, Everson Griffen and, of course, new teammate Danielle Hunter.

"I've known Coach [Patterson] to be a person that's groomed some players that are Hall of Famers and things of that nature," Ngakoue said. "So that's what I'm most excited about, getting a different coaching style and continuing to get pushed. … I'm excited to be able to work with him each and every day."

Both just 25 years old, Hunter – who in December became the youngest player to accrue 50 career sacks – and Ngakoue are two of the NFL's top pass rushers. Now, they both are understudies of Patterson.

While Ngakoue has only known Hunter personally for a few days, game respects game.

"I know that he's a guy that's put up double-digit sacks [the past] two years," he said of Hunter, who has recorded 14.5 sacks in back-to-back Pro Bowl campaigns. "You can definitely learn from a guy like that. I did it one season (12 in 2017), and I want to continue that trend of being able to get back to that elite status. Just having him push me and I push him, and we can teach each other different things. I feel like we'll complement each other really well.

"We want to become the best of the best. We want to be elite," Ngakoue later added. "When they talk about edge rushers, we want them to talk about 'Danielle and Yannick.' I'm just glad, like I said, that we're on the same team and can push each other each and every day. I'm pretty sure our friendship will build as time goes on."

Ngakoue is excited for this next step of his NFL journey in his fifth pro season.

"I get to play for a great city," he said. "I'm just excited to be here. It's another opportunity in the NFL, another opportunity to make plays and make a name. That's what I'm excited to do."

Asked why he was willing to take a reportedly smaller paycheck than if he had played 2020 for Jacksonville under the franchise tag, Ngakoue said it's never been about the money.

"That's never been my drive. I've always wanted to be a great-caliber guy, great-quality guy, on and off the field," he said. "I just needed a fresh start, and Minnesota was [the team] that gave me the opportunity to continue to live out my dream. I'm appreciative and excited."

Ngakoue won't have a long wait for his first game in Purple, with the Vikings slated to host the Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium in just over a week. But he also has just one official practice under his belt in 2020 – will he be ready to go for Week 1?

View photos of Vikings players from Verizon Vikings Training Camp practice at TCO Performance Center.

He said it's "all in God's hands" and acknowledged that he was happy with how he felt during and after Thursday's full-padded practice with the Vikings.

"For me to feel like I'm still in-shape, just knocking a little bit of the rust off, I feel like that's a blessing," Ngakoue said. "So eight, nine days from now, being with Coach Patterson, I know he'll get me groomed up enough to the point where I should be able to hopefully make some plays for these guys."

Patterson will ask different things from Ngakoue in Minnesota's defensive scheme than Jacksonville did.

The defensive end voiced confidence in his ability to get up to speed, though, noting the "little bit of tweaks" he's adjusting to.

"Just putting my hand in the ground again. I hadn't done that for two years," Ngakoue said of his stance. "I stood up in the 2018 and 2019 seasons in Jacksonville. Just getting back to the familiarity of putting my hand in the ground and getting comfortable with that again. That's not too difficult to get used to, but that's the biggest difference, I would say, is just getting back used to that."

When Ngakoue steps into U.S. Bank Stadium on Sept. 13, it will mark just a little more than two years since he played against the Vikings there during a 2018 preseason contest. The exhibition game followed two days of Vikings-Jaguars joint practices held at TCO Performance Center.

Now, he's glad to be on the Minnesota side of the relationship.

"I could tell that this was a special place back when we had joint practices, with the way everything is run," Ngakoue said. "Coach Zim' does a great job of taking care of everybody, making sure everyone is fresh and read to go the next day.

"I saw that back in [that 2018] preseason," he continued, "so actually being able to live in it and absorb the energy of being a player here, I feel like this is a special place."