During Saturday's Back Together Weekend at Twin Cities Orthopedic Performance Center, Justin Jefferson was getting Vikings fans fired up for the coming season. Football is back and Jefferson made his excitement for the season crystal clear.
Jefferson's charm spread like wildfire through the Vikings' first training camp practice of the year, welcoming fans in with open arms. The venue was filled with No. 18 jerseys, a testament to the widespread adoration Jefferson has from his Minnesota fanbase. The crowd erupted in cheers, chanting his name, and some youngsters eagerly reached out for high-fives as he entered the field.
Jefferson did not disappoint his fans who came out to support him, catching two remarkable long-range touchdowns from quarterback Kirk Cousins, he without a doubt impressed the stadium. After one of the catches, he showed us his iconic Griddy celebration, igniting even more excitement among the attendees. To express his gratitude for the fans' unwavering support, he closed off the second touchdown with a gracious bow, acknowledging their presence in the filled bleachers.
Entering his fourth season, Jefferson remains on a historic and record-setting pace. His 4,825 receiving yards are the most in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons. In 50 games, he's scored 25 touchdowns and caught 324 passes. Last season, he led the league in receiving yards (1,809) and receptions (128) and notched a third straight All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection. Jefferson also won the Offensive Player of the Year Award from The Associated Press. In just three years, he's blossomed into a superstar at his position and become the face of receivers in the NFL.
He will undoubtedly earn a well-deserved new contract. However, his primary focus right now lies far beyond this. His relentless dedication centers on consistently overcoming double coverage and contributing to the Vikings' success.
"That's not the worries that I have right now," Jefferson said during a media session earlier in the week. "I'm all about winning a Super Bowl, just getting the wins and being on our team. The contract is gonna play itself [out], and I'm just out here to play football."
As training camp commences, Jefferson finds himself thrust into the spotlight. He knows that every defensive coordinator, top-notch cornerbacks, and fierce safeties will be focused on containing him. Additionally, this season marks the first time he will have to navigate without his former teammate, Adam Thielen, by his side.
On a positive note, the team has brought in rookie receiver Jordan Addison, a first-round draft pick. Jefferson has willingly taken on the role of mentor and leader, not only for Addison but also for the entire receiver room.
"Just like when I came in, Adam (Thielen) was that person for me who took me under his wing and showed me the ropes and taught me how to be a professional," Jefferson said. "That's the role that I'm playing with him. Anything that he needs, I'm there for him. We're here to teach him a lot of things to be a better player."
Head Coach Kevin O'Connell has high hopes for Addison and anticipates Jefferson will thrive as a leader.
"He's learning from the best player at the position he plays in football, watching him work every day to what J.J. does on Sundays and throughout the season speaks for itself," O'Connell said. "But what a lot of people don't get to see is the way the guy works, the way he is in meetings, the way he collaborates with myself or Kirk or Wes [Phillips] or Keenan [McCardell] on what we're doing offensively and just the overall feel of J.J. as a pro… I think that will be great for Jordan."
With a talented offensive lineup, defenses still know who their biggest threat is when facing off against the Vikings. Defenses throw everything at Jefferson to slow him down. It starts with physical jamming at the line of scrimmage by opposing cornerbacks. Then, there's hand-grabbing downfield to disrupt his routes. While Jefferson battles the cornerback, there is often a safety over the top who is ready to bounce when he breaks open.
Jefferson is likely to keep garnering double coverage, but he's ready for it.
"As always. That's nothing new. But I love the target on my back. That means more pressure on me, that means more people looking at me, and it opens more people. The target's always been on my back, ever since the second year, so it's nothing new. I've just got to keep facing those difficulties and find new ways to get open."
Justin Jefferson's electrifying presence at the Vikings' Back Together Weekend highlighted his enthusiasm and leadership. As a record-setting superstar, he remains focused on team success, embracing his role as mentor. Despite challenges like double coverage, Jefferson's determination drives the Vikings' dynamic offense, making them a serious threat in the coming season.