Vikings rookie receiver Justin Jefferson: ‘My dream is to be a hall of famer’
Justin Jefferson has his eyes on a gold jacket.
The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver has had a spectacular start to his career, and has talked about wanting to break some of Randy Moss’ team rookie records. But on Thursday he let it be known that his ultimate goal is much higher.
“My dream is to be a hall of famer, being one of the best receivers,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson, taken out of LSU with the No. 22 pick in the April draft, has 42 catches for 762 yards and ranks fourth in the NFL with an average of 18.1 yards per reception. He is on pace to finish the season with 75 catches for 1,355 yards, which would top the 1998 rookie numbers of 69 catches for 1,313 yards by Moss, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
Moss played in the NFL from 1998-2012, including with the Vikings from 1998-2004 and in 2010. Jefferson said he grew up following him and some other legendary receivers.
“I’ve been dreaming about (being a hall of famer) since I was probably 10 years old,” he said. “Definitely watching Randy Moss and Cris Carter, Larry Fitzgerald, a lot of guys that I watched at a young age, I just wanted to be on their same level.”
Carter played for the Vikings from 1990-2001, and was inducted into the hall of fame in 2013. Fitzgerald, a Minneapolis native in his 17th season with Arizona, is a shoo-in for the Canton, Ohio, shrine.
Jefferson met Moss at LSU since his son, Thaddeus Moss, was an LSU teammate. Jefferson has had dealings this year with Carter and Fitzgerald, including speaking to Carter since the season began.
“Cris Carter was my mentor at the combine and I was able to feed off of him and get all of the information that I needed to get in order to be this type of receiver,” Jefferson said. “I connected with Larry over the draft. (They’ve) been trying to lead me in the right direction.”
When Jefferson had his NFL breakout game in Week 3, the CBS analyst was hall of fame receiver James Lofton, who starred in the NFL from 1978-93. After opening the season with just five catches for 70 yards in the first two games, Jefferson had seven receptions for 175 yards against Tennessee on Sept. 27 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“That game was an acknowledgement of how good he was in college,” Lofton said of Jefferson, who caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards last season at LSU. “So, now you’ve got to start stringing those games together.”
Jefferson has done just that, adding three more 100-yard games to tie Moss’ team rookie record of four in a season. His latest big performance was eight catches for 135 yards in Monday’s 19-13 win at Chicago.
“He has really easy hands, good hand-eye coordination, and can run and jump and stop and start,” Lofton said. “He has everything you want in a receiver.
“To be a hall of famer takes a number of years, but he certainly has the skill set to be one of the top receivers. I know for Justin, it’s about winning first. But there’s nothing wrong with having an individual goal and wanting to be a great player.”
Jefferson has emerged as perhaps the NFL’s top rookie receiver even though four were drafted ahead of him. Henry Ruggs III went No. 12 to Las Vegas, Jerry Jeudy No. 15 to Denver, Ceedee Lamb No. 17 to Dallas and Jalen Reagor No. 21 to Philadelphia.
Lamb, with 44 catches for 595 yards, has come close to matching Jefferson’s production. Jefferson will see him Sunday when the Cowboys visit U.S. Bank Stadium.
“It means a lot to be drafted fifth off the board and pretty much being the top rookie receiver right now,” Jefferson said. “That’s exactly what I said I was planning to do before the season started and when I was drafted. So, I’m just trying to back up my words.”
The flamboyant Jefferson doesn’t mind talking up his game. And he loves seeing television highlights of his catches and the Griddy, the dance he has performed after each of his three touchdowns.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks called it “sick” how well Jefferson has played.
“He’s been explosive,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “His yards per catch has been exceptional.”
If Jefferson can keep up his gaudy average for a number of years, he might be handed a gold jacket around 2040 or so. As explosive as Moss was, his career average yards per catch was a good bit lower at 15.6.