Staying put in the NFC North, tight end T.J. Hockenson isn't moving all that far from where he's played the first three-plus seasons of his career.
It does feel like a different world since he was traded from the Detroit Lions to the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday, however.
"That's really what we're here to do is go somewhere and win some games," Hockenson said Wednesday. "That's kind of the first time I've been able to say that."
In one day, Hockenson took the elevator up from last place in the NFC North with the Lions (1-6) to first place in the division with the Vikings (6-1).
The No. 8 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, Hockenson has experienced nothing but last-place finishes with Detroit, which was 12-42-2 during his time there. Though it's probably not going to take all that long to get comfortable joining a team that's won five in a row after leaving a squad that's dropped five straight, Hockenson is getting a crash course in the Vikings offense as he prepares to debut for Minnesota on Sunday against the Washington Commanders.
"It's one thing to be able to see it on paper and say, 'OK, oh, yeah, I got it,' but then you hear it and you have to mentally decipher everything. It's a different story," Hockenson said. "So it's definitely a process, and I'm starting."
Throughout his tenure in Detroit, Hockenson displayed flashes of his big-time potential, but never became a consistent producer. He was a Pro Bowler in 2020 with 67 receptions, 723 yards and six touchdowns, but that season didn't springboard Hockenson to more success. Instead, those numbers remain his career highs. So far this season, he's racked up 26 catches, three touchdowns and 395 yards -- with 179 of those yards and two scores coming in one game.
With Irv Smith on the mend, Hockenson will jump into the TE1 spot and join an offense that boasts quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. The ninth-ranked scoring offense in the league has bolstered its ranks with Hockenson, who's not just hungry to produce but hungry to be part of a winning squad for the first time.
"I'm just excited to have a piece in this puzzle. A lot of good guys around here. This facility is beautiful, so I'm just excited to be here, man," Hockenson said. "There's nowhere I'd rather be."