Vikings' Joseph honed running skills at Fat Man Relays
MINNEAPOLIS — Those surprised by the athleticism shown last Sunday, Oct. 7, by Linval Joseph might not know about the Fat Man Relays.
The Vikings' 329-pound nose tackle ended up on plenty of highlight shows after catching a fumble in midair and chugging down the right sideline for a 64-yard touchdown in a 23-21 win at Philadelphia.
After the game, Joseph sought to explain that he's very athletic for a big man. On Thursday, Oct. 11, he talked about having competed in running events for Santa Fe (Fla.) High School a dozen years ago at the Fat Man Relays.
The event allowed shot putters and discus throwers to show off their versatility. Joseph was one of Florida's top performers in throwing events but proved he could do a lot more.
"I might be big but I'm really not slow,'' Joseph said. "Even when I ran the 400 and the 200, I didn't get first but I didn't get last. I was making points for our team. I like running. Running is fun.''
Joseph said he was about 315 pounds then, and he outran a number of guys who were about 250. When he was growing up, Joseph said he did a lot more than just play the defensive line.
"I played tight end, I played running back, I played a lot of different positions, so I'm used to having the ball in my hands,'' Joseph said. "It's just been awhile since I've had it in my hands. So it was good to see that I still had it.''
For East Carolina in 2009, Joseph was put in the backfield during a game against Southern Mississippi and scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run. Two years ago, the Vikings lined him up in the backfield a few times although he didn't get a carry.
"We're going to have to put that back in,'' said Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen.
Thielen said there was plenty of talk among players after Sunday's game about how nimble Joseph looked in scoring his first NFL touchdown, which gave Minnesota (2-2-1) the lead for good at 10-3 in the second quarter.
"We joked around after the game that we need to get him some offensive touches because he was so athletic,'' Thielen said. "There's not too many people who are able to bring down Linval, so it was pretty fun to see.''
Even Arizona coach Steve Wilks, whose team plays at Minnesota on Sunday, chuckled when discussing Joseph's big play this week on a conference call.
"He looked like a running back or a receiver,'' Wilks said.
Turning serious, Wilks talked about the challenge presented by Minnesota's defensive line, of which Joseph, 30, is the anchor.
Joseph, who signed with the Vikings as a free agent in 2014 after four seasons with the New York Giants, has made two straight Pro Bowls. He also had a sack in the win over the Eagles.
"I feel like my overall play has been OK, but it's really not about me, it's about winning,'' Joseph said.
Joseph's nickname is "Big Goon," given to him by younger brother Isaac. He's also being called a captain this season for the first time in his nine-year NFL career.
During a three-game stretch last month, when the Vikings went 0-2-1, Joseph utilized his new role while talking to players about getting the team back on track.
"Just focus on little things,'' Joseph said of what he preached. "You just have to dissect and just erase the play and go back to square one, and that's what we did, and it helped.''
Joseph's big play also helped. Now, he's hoping to get another.
"That was fun,'' said Joseph, who was clocked by ESPN as going 18.2 mph on his return. "It was a dream come true. I tell all the guys in my career, I want to still get an interception, an interception and a touchdown. But it was good just to catch the ball and show everybody that I am faster than I look.''