Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman’s rookie season was halted before it began.
After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2021 draft, Twyman, 21, was shot four times in a vehicle in Washington, D.C., last June. He was placed on the team’s non-football injury list and missed the entire 2021 season.
Twyman has since made a full recovery and is expected to return to the team activities starting Monday, Twyman’s agent Drew Rosenhaus told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.
Twyman hasn’t played since 2019, when he tallied 10.5 sacks for Pitt. He opted out of the 2020 season during the peak of the pandemic and is slated to compete for a roster spot this summer.
The Pitt prospect became an instant favorite among the 2021 draft class for a viral video of Rick Spielman calling Twyman to tell him the Vikings would be drafting him.
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Twyman Motivated to Break the Cycle
At 6-foot-2, 301 pounds, Twyman was deemed an undersized offensive line prospect, testing in the bottom 37th percentile in weight and 18th percentile in height of his draft class, per Mockdraftable.
What Twyman lacks in size, he makes up for in explosiveness. The Washington D.C. native tallied 41 tackles and 10.5 sacks in 13 games as a sophomore at Pittsburgh, becoming the first interior defensive lineman to lead the team in sacks since Aaron Donald in 2013. Evaluators penned him as a potential first-round pick.
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Twyman’s motivation for continuing his football career coincides with helping his family escape poverty. He had previously lost two relatives to gun violence before he became a survivor of gun violence last summer, the Washington Post reported.
“My family members, every other week, one of them deceased or one of them just in a shootout or one of them locked up,” Twyman told Washington Post in 2016. “It’s just pushed me to try to get everybody, get all my family members, out of poverty. Nobody needs to be around this.”
Twyman’s uncle was killed during a drive-by shooting in 2014, a mile from where Twyman was shot. In 2010, Twyman’s older brother was killed less than a mile from that same area, per the Washington Post.
While in the hospital, Twyman described his injuries as flesh wounds, FOX 5 reported. His mother, Stephanie Twyman, told Washington News4 that her son miraculously survived because the shots made superficial exit wounds.
“I’m hurt and I know that it can happen to anyone,” she said. “I want [people] to know that Jaylen is fine. He’s strong. He’s going to make a 100% recovery.”
Aaron Donald Remains a Mentor to Twyman
Twyman has modeled his game after Donald since he was a teenager. Donald has remained a mentor and avid supporter of Twyman, working out with Twyman often throughout Twyman’s time at Pitt.
Donald sent Twyman a signed jersey during the 2022 season, to which Twyman replied, “Appreciate you bra for giving me the blue print on what it take.”
Twyman will have an uphill battle this offseason after missing the past two seasons, however, he’s proven he has raw ability and persistence to make an impact.