EAGAN, Minn. -- AC Patterson has been reunited with his father on the Vikings, and the hazards at practice have been significantly reduced.
AC is a first-year offensive quality control assistant and the son of Andre Patterson, in his second stint as Vikings defensive line coach. During his father’s first stint, from 1998-99, AC was 6 and 7 years old, and spent time hanging around practice, tossing the ball to star receiver Randy Moss.
“Randy was always throwing me in trash cans because I would tell him he wasn’t very good,’’ AC said. “And then (defensive lineman) John Randle and the guys would go yell at him because he stuffed me in a trash can.’’
So what did his father think of it?
“He said that I probably deserved it,’’ AC said with a laugh.
AC, 27, and his father are very close. The Vikings are the third team they’ve been on together.
In 2007, AC was a freshman center at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., a suburb of Denver, and his father a volunteer offensive line coach. AC said his father was still being paid after having been Broncos defensive line coach from 2005-06 and wanted the chance to work with him on the field.
From 2010-12, Patterson was defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Texas-El Paso. During two of those seasons, AC was a Miners center before his college career ended due to injury.
In between Regis and Texas-El Paso, AC starred at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. Patterson served as assistant head coach and defensive line coach at UNLV from 2008-09. He said he had opportunities then to return to the NFL but wanted to watch his son play.
“That was more important to me,’’ said Patterson, who has been with the Vikings since Mike Zimmer took over as head coach in 2014. “It was a great experience for him, being a two-time state champion and high school All-American. I got to see him play, so that experience was way more important than coming back to the NFL. … So why would I disappoint him (by moving)?’’
AC said his father made a “huge sacrifice” then to turn down NFL jobs. At the time, Patterson had 10 years of experience as an NFL assistant, having also had stints with New England in 1997, Dallas from 2000-02 and Cleveland from 2003-04
“I really appreciate him greatly for letting me finish high school in one place and being able to successfully earn a college scholarship and those type of things,’’ AC said. “We are very close. He helped me become who I am today and he’s a great role model for me and his players.’’
Patterson, 59, is married to Donna. They also have a daughter, Ashmera, 21, a junior at Wisconsin-Stout.
AC said it’s “very, very cool’’ being reunited with his father on the same team although they don’t work together due to being on opposite sides of the ball. AC, who as an intern with the Vikings during training camp in 2017, had been a Portland State assistant the past four seasons.
“(The Vikings were) looking for some quality control guys and he applied for the job and he came in and interviewed and he earned it,’’ Patterson said. “It’s great to see him around. It’s great for him to be around (offensive adviser Gary Kubiak). I told him, ‘You’re getting experience and you couldn’t pay enough to get around one of the best offensive minds that ever coached the game.’’’
While Patterson was with the Broncos in 2005, Kubiak was offensive coordinator.
Patterson is in his 16th season as an NFL assistant, and nine have been spent with Zimmer. When Patterson was with Dallas, Zimmer was the defensive coordinator.
The two also spent three seasons together in college. In 1988, Patterson was the defensive line coach at Weber State when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator. From 1992-93, they had those positions when together at Washington State.
“I tried to hire him some other places but couldn’t get him,’’ Zimmer said. “He’s just a great teacher and good person, good friend.’’
Since the two teamed up again in 2014, the Vikings have had one of the NFL’s top defenses, including being No. 3 in the NFL in total defense in 2016, No. 1 in 2017 and No. 4 last year. Over the last four seasons, the Vikings have had defensive linemen Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter named to a combined total of six Pro Bowls.
“(Patterson) can be very hard on the players, he can be very loving on the players like a mother hen, so he has a good way about him,’’ Zimmer said. “But he demands excellence from them. … The players, they all swear by him.’’
Defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, trying to make the 53-man roster after being among the final cuts for two straight years, said Patterson treats “everybody with respect” whether you’re a star or an undrafted player.
Hunter said one key for Patterson is the ability to coach players differently.
“He teaches you to play defensive line with what your attributes are,’’ Hunter said. “He’ll find whatever you’re good at and then he’ll tell you, ‘OK, you need to do this.’’’
In his previous Minnesota stint, Patterson had Randle, who went on to make the hall of fame, and defensive tackle Jerry Ball, who had been all-pro with Detroit. And in 1999, he coached future hall of fame defensive end Chris Doleman in his final season.
So how does Patterson compare the defensive line now with the one he had two decades ago?
“I can’t until the season is over,’’ Patterson said. “You can’t compare anybody to John Randle and Chris Doleman. But we’ll see how we play as a group.”
At least one similarity between this year and then is Patterson again will have his son around even if he won’t be stuffed into any trash cans.