'That dude is a beast': Vikings' Danielle Hunter makes NFL history while chasing quarterbacks

David Blough #10 of the Detroit Lions gets sacked by Danielle Hunter #99 of the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 8, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Detroit Lions 20-7. ((Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images))

It was just another day in the office for defensive end Danielle Hunter, except for the fact that he entered the NFL’s history book during the first quarter of the Minnesota Vikings’ 20-7 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

After rookie quarterback David Blough had consecutive passes batted down, Hunter chased him down for a sack on Detroit's opening possession. The Lions had to punt, and Hunter didn’t know it at the time, but it was a historic sack. Hunter became the youngest player in NFL history to amass 50 career sacks in his first five seasons.

Hunter, a 2015 third round draft pick, turned 25 in late October.

“He’s a terrific athlete. Great kid, hard worker. I still think he’s got a lot of room to grow. He’s got some things that he can really improve on, and if he gets to that point where he does those, he’ll be really, really good,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

Hunter sacked Blough twice more before the day was over. He had three of the Vikings’ five sacks on the day, with Everson Griffen and Jaleel Johnson getting the others. Hunter now has 12.5 sacks through 13 games, and 52.5 for his career.

It’s a scary thought that in the midst of his fifth NFL season, he still has a ceiling and hasn’t reached his full potential.

“It’s good seeing a dude like that having success. He sweats for it, he grinds for it and to see all his hard work and dedication paying off up to this point means a lot,” fellow defensive line teammate Stephen Weatherly said. “Also, there’s more left in the tank so it’s great having a guy like that play for us.”

Vikings rookie wide receiver Bisi Johnson gives Hunter a nickname that’s popular in the team’s locker room.

“Danielle Hunter, that dude is a beast,” Johnson said.

Hunter has been spending most of the 2019 season putting fear in opposing quarterbacks, making them run for their lives. He started the season with a sack in three straight games and had at least one sack in seven of the first eight games. His 12.5 for the season is currently tied for fourth in the NFL.

When asked about getting after Blough Sunday, Hunter gave credit to his defensive teammates. He was humbled to learn he’s the fastest in NFL history to 50 career sacks in five seasons.

“It’s an honor, I definitely didn’t do it by myself. Teammates, coaches and all that. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been where I’m at today. If it was an individual effort, I would’ve been nowhere close to it,” Hunter said.

In just his fourth NFL season, Hunter was named an All-Pro last year after recording 14.5 sacks, including a sack in seven straight games to start the 2018 season. It also earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl.

This year, he’s been just as dominant. He’s the third Vikings’ player to get at least 50 sacks in his first five seasons, joining Jared Allen and Keith Millard, a pair of Vikings legends. It was the first time in his career Hunter has gotten three sacks in one half. He now has at least 10 sacks for the third time in his four-plus seasons.

Hunter remains focused on the next play, the next opportunity to put the quarterback on his back.

“I just go out there and I play the game, man. Play the game to win, play the game to help my teammates,” Hunter said.

“Every day he works to become great, and I respect him for that. We push each other and we hold everybody to that high standard. He’s living up to it,” nose tackle Linval Joseph said.

Hunter is the new prototype for an NFL defensive end. He’s 6-5, 252 pounds and chiseled to the point where it’s fair to question if he holds any body fat. He’s fast enough to get by any offensive tackle, and he’s strong enough to plow through any technique.

Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins can sympathize with Blough. Though he can’t be hit, Cousins has to go against Hunter in practice every day.

“He’s got a great way about him with his work ethic. Football matters to him. He’s obviously talented, he certainly looks the part,” Cousins said.

Most of all, Hunter is relentless. He was in the zone on Sunday against the Lions, and his teammates noticed.

“When a guy like that gets going, we do everything we can to make sure that guy keeps eating because what is the offense going to do? They’re going to put more focus, more energy on that guy, which frees everyone else up. But if they don’t, D continues to eat,” Weatherly said.

Hunter eating means a long day for opposing quarterbacks, and he’s pretty much always hungry.