MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Everywhere Linval Joseph goes, Sharrif Floyd is right there with him.
They are the Minnesota Vikings’ twin tackles, 620 pounds worth of humanity that represent a new day for the team’s defense and a new hope that the struggles of last year will soon be forgotten.
And they rarely leave one another’s side, whether it’s on the practice field, at the dinner table or on vacation.
“Once I heard we signed him, I got with him and our bond quickly became strong,” Floyd said. “At the end of the day, the way we are on that front is the way we’re going to portray ourselves in the game. It was great the way me and him jumped straight into a relationship and just started building that chemistry. Now we’ve got nothing else to do but shoot for the stars.”
Joseph is the big, run-stuffing nose tackle who is entering his fifth season in the league. Floyd is the sleek, fast first-round draft pick from a year ago still trying to carve out a name for himself entering season No. 2.
But from the moment Joseph arrived in Minnesota as one of the team’s free agent prizes, the two have bonded, forming a fast friendship thanks to some common ground off the field and Joseph’s intent to provide Floyd with the veteran leadership he says he never got with the Giants.
“It’s like a big brother-little brother type deal,” Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson said. “That’s how I see it. Linval is the big brother and Sharrif is the little brother. He’s trying to bring his little brother along and I think that’s a good thing.”
The two met not long after the Vikings lured Joseph away from the New York Giants with a five-year contract in the offseason and quickly found common ground both on and off the field.
Joseph was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but grew up in Gainesville, Fla., where Floyd went to college at the University of Florida. So when Joseph arrived in Minnesota, he sought out the 23-year-old Floyd and immediately took him under his wing.
Joseph said when he broke in with the Giants in 2010, the veterans told him to be seen and not heard and “the way you learned was by them asking a question to a coach and you listened to the answer. That’s what I had to do.”
“I just didn’t want him to go through that,” he said. “I wanted to show him the way because at the end of the day we want to win games. If he knows what’s going on and if he can be polished and do everything right, he’s going to make plays and be a great player.”
The two also became travel buddies.
They went back to Gainesville together, showing each other their favorite restaurants and places to hang out, then took a trip together to the island of St. Croix, where Joseph was born.
“I wanted to show him something different,” Joseph said. “He’s never been on an island or experienced anything like that so I just wanted to show him what this world has to offer.”
Floyd grew up in poverty in Philadelphia, never having the opportunity to do recreational travel. The trip opened his eyes to what is out there and the snorkeling, mango-picking and laid back beach life are now calling his name.
“It was a beautiful place. … Now that I’m away from it, I keep talking about it,” Floyd said. “I know that I want to go back and potentially settle down there.”
Now, the two friends are in Mankato, and Joseph is bringing the education on the field.
“They come off the field after their rotation and he’s got him off the side and coaching him,” Patterson said. “They come out here early before practice and he’s coaching him. He’s working with him all the time and because of that, I think they’ve developed a really tight bond.”
Under the sun in Mankato, the two of them weren’t ready to say where their travels will take them next.
Now is the time for football, and that’s where the focus lies. But they did allow their minds to wander just a little bit, to the trip the two will take together one day to celebrate a Super Bowl championship.
All Floyd could do was smile when he contemplated the possibilities.
“That will be a great trip,” Joseph said. “A GREAT trip.”
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