EAGAN, Minn. — At 329 pounds, Linval “Big Goon” Joseph is the heaviest player on the Minnesota Vikings roster by a good 13 pounds, but the Pro Bowl nose tackle isn’t slow.
Joseph sparked the Vikings in their 23-21 win over the Eagles in Week 5 when he returned a fumble 64 yards for a touchdown.
EA Sports took notice of Joseph’s run and announced they were boosting his speed rating in Madden NFL 19 by 12 points to an 80, which ties him with Fletcher Cox as the third-fastest defensive tackle in the video game. The only players with a faster speed rating than Joseph are Tyquan Lewis (83) and Ifeadi Odenigbo (82).
“I’m not slow,” Joseph said. “I know I might be big, but I’m really not slow. Even when I ran the 400 and 200 (meter relay in high school), I didn’t get first, but I didn’t get last. I always made points for our team. I like running. Running is fun.”
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Joseph reached a max speed of 18.2 miles per hour on his fumble-return touchdown. To put that into context, Jets safety Marcus Maye reached a max speed of 18.3 miles per hour on his 104-yard interception return that wasn’t a touchdown against the Broncos.
A multisport athlete at Santa Fe (Fla.) High School, Joseph excelled away from football in powerlifting and track and field. His best event was the discus throw and shot put, where he often came away with first place awards; the latter event earned him the title of state champion his senior year.
He also regularly found himself in the winner’s circle of the “Fat Man Relay,” where athletes around his size (roughly 250 to 275 pounds, Joseph said) competed against each other on foot. Even at 315 pounds in high school, Joseph’s athleticism allowed him to outrun those smaller than him.
Following the Vikings’ win, quarterback Kirk Cousins offered up support to get Joseph involved more with the offense. Many of his teammates answered in similar fashion this week. Even Arizona coach Steve Wilks joked that Joseph “looked like a running back or a receiver.”
While Joseph said he’s played tight end and running back before (he scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown at East Carolina in 2009), the chance of him moving over to the other side of the ball on a regular basis is highly unlikely.
But Joseph’s athleticism is undeniable, although he believes he surprised some in the Vikings organization with his speed on the way to the end zone.
“I think I did,” Joseph said. “I think it was pretty good form. It was fun, man. It was a dream come true. I was telling all the guys that in my career, I still have to get an interception, but I want an interception and a touchdown. It was pretty good to catch the ball and show everybody that I’m faster than what I look.”