The Kenny Willekes story just keeps getting better

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·1 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

In the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft, the Vikings took an enticing edge-rushing prospect.

Minnesota drafted Kenny Willekes, a Michigan State product with 16 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks for the Spartans in 2019.

Willekes’ rookie year in the NFL was derailed by a season-ending injury. With a chance to prove himself in 2021, the second-year defensive end has delivered.

Willekes showed promise in the preseason this year. He ended up getting waived, but the Vikings signed him to the practice squad for 2021. Then, the Vikings took a hit to their defensive end depth: Danielle Hunter went down with a pec injury.

Willekes has stepped up with Hunter out. He had one hurry in 16 snaps against the Cowboys. He had two hurries in 41 snaps against the Ravens. He’s made his presence felt in the pass rush at times, despite being a practice squad player.

On Monday, the Vikings rewarded Willekes for his efforts. The team promoted him to the active roster as a COVID-19 replacement. So Willekes doesn’t have his permanent move to the 53-man team just yet, but this is a step in the right direction.

Vikings co-defensive coordinator said of Willekes:

“He did the things in the game that I told you guys I’ve been seeing in practice,” Patterson said. “He played at a different tempo than pretty much everybody else on the field. I don’t know how you couldn’t not notice him. It’s too bad his one sack got taken away on the penalty.”

With Hunter out for the year, Willekes will have plenty of more opportunities to get sacks. He could be looking at a full-time roster spot down the road.