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Interview: Hercules Mata'afa talks about his acclimation to the NFL, the Vikings and more



Tanishka Mhaskar
August 2nd, 2020
Photo: Vikings.com

Recently, VikingNations had the opportunity to chat with up and coming defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa. We spoke about Mata'afa’s acclimation to the NFL, his injury recovery process and more! Here is a transcript of the interview below:


Question: “What have you been doing during quarantine?”
"I came out here to San Diego, out here training and I just have a gym down here that I’m ready to work out at and going there everyday. I got some good work in.”


Q: “What player were you the closest to on the Vikings?”
“Probably everybody in the DL room. I got along with all of them. Probably Jalyn [Holmes], Jaleel [Johnson] and Armon [Watts] all pretty close.”


Q: “Who’s the most talented player that you have played either with or against throughout your career?”
“I’d probably say Danielle [Hunter] ‘cause he’s just a crazy, athletic freak and he just does things that nobody else can do and you know, it’s very inspiring to watch him and learn from him.”


Q: “What was the most challenging part of transitioning from college to the NFL?”
“Learning a whole new playbook. You get familiarized with one playbook for four years, it’s harder to switch from college language to NFL language -- it’s completely different. The veterans that have been up there, they really help out. That’s what I love about this team. We know all our jobs on the line everyday, but we go out there and we help each other out.”


Q: “As you were a UDFA, how do you think it’s more challenging this year with the situation with the virus?”
“I think it’s tough, there’s going to be so little film, and now that the NFL canceled the preseason, I kind of feel bad for the guys. It’s a very hard spot to be in. It’s very challenging, and you’ve got to be mentally locked in throughout the whole thing. Being undrafted, that means if you want to make this team, you’ve got to make no mistakes or you gotta learn from your mistakes. If you make a mistake one time you can’t make that mistake again, you know what I mean? That’s going to be hard because there’s always a learning curve once you get to the NFL, and a month is just not a long time to really get settled in.”


Q: “On your social media, you posted the picture of you on the weighing scale, which displayed that you were the average size of a defensive tackle. Can you take me through the process of how that was.”
"Me and Coach [Andre] Patterson talk all the time. We talk about our goals and what he wants me to be at. I really take that because I respect Coach Patterson a lot, and I trust him guiding me through the NFL and take all the knowledge I can from the man. Very smart football coach and he knows everything going on on the field. He knows every position, what they’re doing: quarterback, receiver, linemen, offensive side and defensive side, so to be able to exchange work with him, learn from him and take what he gives me is what I did. I range from 280 [lbs] to 287 [lbs]  now. It’s just taking coaching, I guess.”


Q: “Can you describe an experience that you’ve had with Coach [Mike] Zimmer?”
“I think he called on me during defensive meetings, and I had trouble with what type of run it was, and I don’t think it went that well.”


Q: “What was your recovery process like when you got hurt your rookie year?”
“With Coach [An]Dre [Patterson], he said, “Hey, I don’t need you to be in all these meetings and stuff. I need you to get in the training room and attack your injury.” After 2 weeks, I was able to fully bend my knee. It’s not normal for an ACL tear to be able to fully bend your knee. I think that showed them that I'm really serious about being out there.”


Q: “What’s something you hope to accomplish by the end of the year?”
“To fully understand the defense, go out there and have fun. Have no regrets.”


Q; “Who was your favorite player to watch growing up?”
“I was an Eagles fan growing up. You know the one year here that we played them..well, I was a big fan of Trent Cole. I used to love watching his game.”


Q: “What role do you see for yourself on the Vikings?”
“The only goal I have is to contribute to the team as much as I can. It’s all I can ask for. Keep my head down and continue to work and grind.”


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