But what about the person inside the pads? He had heard Patterson was “arrogant” and “aloof.” So during Patterson’s predraft visit to Winter Park, Stewart asked him, “What am I getting from you?”
The smile disappeared. “You’re going to get a young man that cares about others,” Patterson replied.
Stewart has another story he likes to tell about Patterson. It was Christmastime at Winter Park. After the wide receivers exchanged Secret Santa gifts, Patterson left the room and returned with a box filled with watches, shirts, sneakers and headphones for everyone in the group, coaches included.
“The whole locker room loves that guy because he is fun-loving, spirited and has a great heart,” Stewart said.
A father now, too
As a rookie, Patterson made an instant impact as a kickoff returner, setting a few franchise records before being named All-Pro. But the Vikings brought him along slowly on offense, something Patterson had trouble coming to grips with. He also feels he was lazy and tried to coast on talent alone.
“I was never the guy that just rode the bench,” Patterson said. “It was a wake-up call, riding that bench. It taught me a lot of things. You’ve got to want it, man.”
Now, heading into his second season, Patterson is focused and much more comfortable, even with a new head coach in Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator in Norv Turner. The Vikings are counting on him to emerge as a go-to receiver after he caught 45 passes for 469 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie.
“It’s a different everything,” Patterson said. “I think I’m better than I was last year.”
He feels more mature, too.
Changing diapers will do that to you.
His daughter, Cienna, was born last November and lives with her mother in Tennessee. The parents are no longer together, but Patterson said he sees his daughter as much as he can.
Does being a dad make him feel like an old man now?
“Naaaaah. Naaaaah. Nah, man,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to be young forever.”
Patterson gradually emerged from his shell after arriving in the Twin Cities and has become one of the fresh new faces of the franchise, showing off his personality while throwing out a first pitch at Target Field, taking a random fan to a Wild playoff game and representing the Vikings at community events.
Sometimes on days like that one at the pizza place in Mankato, with fans calling his name and clamoring for autographs as soon as he heads for daylight, it hits Patterson just how far he has come. But then he sees the opportunity in front of him and knows he still has a long, long way to run.
“It was a blessing that I’m here where I’m at today,” said Patterson, wearing two gold chains and a pair of glimmering diamond earrings. “I like to look back sometimes. But Coach Stewart likes to tell me that God gave us eyes so we can see where we’re going, not where we’ve been.”