The official warned Andre Patterson. Don’t take it personally, she said. The baby is afraid of men.
In the late ’90s a series of miscarriages had persuaded Patterson and his wife to adopt. Patterson, then as now the Vikings’ defensive line coach, signed with a local agency.
“They were having trouble placing children of color,” Patterson said. “We always felt we had a lot to give as a couple, so we went through process and were told it might take a couple of years. We got a call two weeks later.”
The Pattersons went to meet the baby girl. Patterson received the saddest of warnings, then walked into the room. “She stuck her arms out at me,” Patterson said. “From that day she’s been the love of my life.”
Patterson told the story as he stood on the sideline at TCO Performance Center, the Vikings’ lavish new training complex. He has made 18 stops in his coaching career. He worked for Denny Green in 1998 and ’99, and returned to the Vikings to work for longtime ally Mike Zimmer in 2014.
Finding his daughter is the primary reason he wants to remain in Minnesota “forever.” He also has professional reasons for feeling fondness for the Twin Cities.
In his first stint, he coached two Hall of Famers. In his second, he coaches a startling number of superior athletes.
“It’s hard to compare when you had two Hall of Famers,” he said. “It’s hard to compete with that. John Randle and Chris Doleman were two of the best ever to play the game, and then you throw Jerry Ball into that mix, that was a phenomenal group.
“The group I have now, from one to 16, is the most talented group I’ve ever been fortunate to coach. [General Manager] Rick Spielman and the scouting department have done an outstanding job of bringing the talent level at my position to a totally different place than where it was when I got here four years ago.”
He has seen organizational changes, too. Patterson is the only member of the coaching staff who worked for Denny Green and Mike Zimmer, for Red McCombs and the Wilfs.
“The biggest difference in the franchise is ownership,” he said. “The Wilfs want to do everything first-class. They want to have the best stadium in the league, the best office complex in the league. They’re not afraid to go get talent, to do whatever it takes to be the best.”
He has reason to praise both of the Vikings head coaches for whom he has worked.
“It was an honor for me to work for Denny Green,” he said. “I grew up in the Bay Area, so I knew of Denny. Being an African-American coach, and an African-American player at that time, Denny was one of the black coaches who got recognition when he was working for Bill Walsh.
“When he went to Northwestern, he was the only black head coach in Division I college football. That was a big deal.
“So later on I’m coaching at Washington State and he’s the head coach at Stanford, so when I got the opportunity to come here and work for him, I was very excited.”
Patterson has worked with Zimmer at Weber State, Washington State and with the Cowboys and Vikings.
“You come in and give him a good day’s work and he’s going to respect you, period,” Patterson said. “Everybody is treated equally, and nobody is walking around here wondering what he thinks. He’s going to be candid whether you want to hear it or not. He’s been that way since the first day we got together in the late ’80s and that’s unique.”
Patterson’s second stint with the Vikings is entering its fifth season, making this the longest stay of a coaching career that began in 1982. “Regardless of what happens in my coaching career,” he said, “this is the place that my wife and I and our two children feel is home.”