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'Once a Viking, always a Viking': Danielle Hunter begins next chapter

Hunter ranks third in Vikings' history in sacks.

Danielle Hunter said he will always remember his named being called by the Minnesota Vikings during the 2015 NFL draft.

It’s become the end of an era in Minnesota. Hunter agreed to a two-year, $49 million deal with the Houston Texans after spending the first eight years of his NFL career with the Vikings. Hunter will no longer be an anchor of the Vikings defense.

Hunter issued a heartfelt statement on social media on Thursday, thanking former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who drafted him, the organization, owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, current coach Kevin O’Connell, current GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the team’s staff, among others.

“To Purple Nation, the city of Minneapolis, and to Vikings fans everywhere — I am grateful for your unwavering support and commitment over the past nine years,” Hunter said in his statement. “And last but certainly not least, to all of my teammates and coaches: I appreciate you all more than you know. We have created some incredible moments and memories together that I will never forget! I will deeply miss this organization and fan base.

“Once a Viking, always a Viking! Skol!”

Hunter will no doubt go down as one of the better pass rushers, and defensive players, in Vikings’ history. His 87.5 sacks in Minnesota rank third all-time in team history. Across his eight-year career, Hunter has also recorded 461 tackles, 11 forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Hunter was a key part of a Vikings defense that in 2017 ranked first in the NFL. As a top-tier pass rusher, Hunter was a driving force of a strong defensive era under former coach Mike Zimmer. He never failed to make an impact. 

The Wilfs issued a joint statement following Hunter’s departure, acknowledging the impact he made throughout his tenure within the organization

“Danielle had one of the most accomplished careers in the history of the Minnesota Vikings,” they said in the statement. “His physical presence and aggressive style of play helped our defense rank near the top of the NFL for several years. His lead-by-example, humble approach made it easy for teammates to select him as a captain, for fans to cheer for him and for the community to embrace him as a Minnesotan. We sincerely wish Danielle and his entire family the best moving forward.” 

Danielle Hunter

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) warms up before the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Nov. 27, 2023.