After returning a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown that sparked a second-half comeback over the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving, Nwangwu received praise from the league’s all-time leader in kickoff returns.
Patterson tweeted at Nwangwu, saying “boy you special.”
Nwangwu, awarded Week 12’s NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award, addressed the tweet this week, offering the greatest compliment of all to the former Vikings return man.
Vikings Kene Nwangwu Calls Cordarrelle Patterson the GOAT
Speaking with Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson on November 30, Nwangwu admitted he was flattered by Patterson’s praise.
“That’s dope that he shouted me out,” Nwangwu told Tomasson. “He’s the gold standard, the GOAT.”
Patterson notched his NFL-record ninth kickoff return touchdown on November 20 with the Atlanta Falcons which will undoubtedly put him in conversations at Canton. He’s carved out a rare 10-year career as a kick returner after the Vikings did not offer him a second contract.
While Patterson’s record appears untouchable, Nwangwu has put forth a strong pace in his first two seasons to challenge Patterson.
Vikings Teammate Says Kene Nwangwu Will Beat Cordarrelle Patterson’s Return Record
A fourth-round pick in 2021, Nwangwu has the most kickoff return touchdowns by a player since entering the league that year. His return against the Patriots marks his third kickoff return touchdown in his young career, which ranks third in Vikings history behind Percy Harvin and Patterson.
Last week’s return felt like a long time coming, considering Nwanwu made a splash his rookie season by becoming the first player to return two kickoffs for a touchdown in the first five games of his career.
“All year long I hit him at pregame meals. Is today the day? Is today the day? He’s just so talented, such a special athlete,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said in a November 24 postgame press conference. “I just thought in that moment for Kene, even when it looked like maybe they were closing in on him there, he’s just so explosive, to get that thing going. Then to finish that in a moment where it was a huge play for our team. You’d like to think we would have gone on the field right there and drove for a touchdown. But to get that immediate response allowed the defense to get their cleats back in the ground and be ready to go on the next drive.”
Patterson also had two kickoff return touchdowns his rookie year but went dry the following season. Nwangwu currently has the edge with one more touchdown over Patterson through the players’ first two seasons.
However, Patterson’s longevity at the position has been as special as his return abilities. Being an NFL return man is a position for either superstar players who move on to playing strictly one side of the ball or players who are on the roster bubble. Few players have returned kicks for over a decade.
Nwangwu hasn’t seen much work on the offense this season, however, he’s prided himself in his return abilities since college and likely wouldn’t mind climbing toward Patterson’s record.
“Three returns in two seasons, that’s pretty crazy,’’ safety Camryn Bynum told Tomasson. “I know when it comes down to it, he’s going to end up breaking (Patterson’s) record.”