Stewart knew Patterson carried a label in some circles as “a knucklehead” with a remedial understanding of the game. He was aware of outside criticism that cast Patterson as sometimes arrogant and standoffish.
But Stewart wanted to make his own judgments. So in a one-on-one session, he and Patterson had a heart-to-heart, talking about so much beyond football, instantly creating a bond and a deeper trust that will prove vital to the teaching process.
“Sitting down with so many coaches from other teams, all they wanted to know was about football,” Patterson said. “Coach Stewart already knew I could play, and he already knew what I needed to improve on. So he sat down to get to know me, my family, my personality.”
Taking it slow
The push to draft Patterson was never a blind leap of faith. During the pre-draft process, the Vikings began brainstorming strategies for how to create an optimal learning environment if they were fortunate enough to land the receiver.
It’s no coincidence that Patterson’s Winter Park locker stall is sandwiched between receiver Greg Jennings’ and quarterback Matt Cassel’s. Both veterans already have been, in the rookie’s words, “a huge help.”
And while the coaching staff knows it needs Patterson to get up to speed as soon as possible, it also has been conscious not to dump three gallons of water into a pint glass.
“Everyone learns different,” Patterson said. “Some people take it slower. For me, I don’t like having a lot of stuff thrown at me at one time. Because I start to feel like I’ll never catch up.”
Added Stewart: “It’s like a puzzle. The pieces have to connect. The concepts have to connect. You can’t start that 1,000-piece puzzle with a piece over here, a corner piece over there, another corner piece way out here. Because then none of it makes sense.”
Stewart lauds Patterson’s understanding of the game and has identified him as “a visual conceptual learner” who responds best when shown what to do.
“He can see things,” Stewart said. “His visual conception of things is outstanding. If you talk it to him, it doesn’t click. When you put it on the board, he sees it, he understands it, he lights up.”
The Vikings’ hope is Patterson will be lighting it up weekly come September, quickly emerging as a significant factor in a passing attack that needs so many more big plays.
Yet while the rookie knows the lofty demands from fans will only swell from here, he’s thankful he landed with an organization that’s investing energy in his growth. And he’s constantly reminding himself to run his own race.
“Patience is a key to success. I rely on that,” Patterson said. “When my times comes, I’ll be ready for it. I don’t want to rush myself. You can’t be too anxious to predict when something big is going to happen. I’m waiting on my moment and working to make it happen.”