A native of Chariton, Iowa, located 4.5 hours south of the Twin Cities, Hockenson’s father grew up a Vikings fan and has a room in his house painted purple and gold.
The 25-year-old tight end, acquired in a trade with the Detroit Lions at the 2022 NFL trade deadline on November 1, is gearing up for his first game where he’ll wear those same colors.
T.J. Hockenson Says ‘There’s Nowhere I’d Rather Be’ Than With Minnesota Vikings
Hockenson, making his first media appearance as a member of the Vikings, expressed his excitement about coming home.
“[My dad’s] room is painted purple and yellow so it’s kind of hitting home for sure,” Hockenson said in a November 2 press conference. “But I’m excited to be back in the Midwest. They call Michigan the Midwest, but this is the true Midwest. I’m excited to be here for sure.
“When I played here four weeks ago, I had to get like 30 tickets. We can’t make that habit,” Hockenson said with a laugh, “but there’s going to be a lot of people here.”
Hockenson had high praise for quarterback Kirk Cousins, having played Cousins two times a year since Hockenson entered the league in 2019.
“A great guy to have in the locker room a guy that can lead a team somewhere that’s what we’re here to do — is go somewhere and win some games, that’s kind of the first time I’ve been able to say that,” Hockenson quipped with a smirk after he went 12-42-1 in his time in Detroit. “So I’m pretty excited, I really am.”
Leaving a 1-6 team in the Lions to a 6-1 Vikings team is enough reason to get excited, but it’s the talent in the Vikings locker room that has Hockenson hoping his homecoming becomes his homestead.
“A lot of good guys around here I’m just excited to be here,” Hockenson said. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”
Kevin O’Connell Lauds T.J. Hockenson Signing
Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell has preached a concept he calls the “illusion of simplicity” in his offense.
The concept comes down to playing in a straightforward way for your own players while creating enough wrinkles and nuance to confuse the defense. This takes form by the Vikings lining up with the same formation and personnel but having a handful of plays to keep the opposing defense guessing. No more “I’ve seen this before,” from opposing defenders, ideally.
And Hockenson adds a significant layer of nuance to the offense as one of the league’s top tight ends who can both block the run, make acrobatic catches down the sidelines, or YAC int up in the middle of the field.
O’Connell had a high evaluation of Hockenson as an offensive-minded coach, but he said it was his defensive staff that was most excited about the potential he brings to the offense after dealing with the headache of a matchup nightmare Hockenson brings in Week 4.
“One of the telling things when you make a move like this, obviously the offensive coaches like myself have strong evaluation of T.J., but it was the defensive coaches coming to me as excited as anything,” O’Connell said in a November 2 press conference. “Having to defend and put together a gameplan for a player like T.J., when we played the Lions a few weeks back, they were more excited than anybody to get him on our roster and know what he can do for us.”