Vikings defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman was visiting relatives last June in his native Washington D.C. and looking forward to a month later taking the field for the start of training camp. But in an instant his season was derailed.
Twyman, who was then a rookie and seven weeks earlier had been selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft out of Pittsburgh, was sitting in a vehicle. Suddenly, shots rang out and Twyman, an innocent victim, was hit four times.
“I don’t remember too much about it,’’ Twyman said about the June 21, 2021 incident in which four people were shot but all survived. “I kind of blacked out in the situation.”
Fortunately, Twyman’s injuries were not serious. He called it “definitely amazing” that he suffered “flesh wounds” that were “nothing but a little knickknack.” But the wounds still were severe enough to end his season.
Twyman was placed on the non-football injury list and sat out 2021. He returned last month for the start of offseason drills and went through practice Friday on the first day of a two-day rookie minicamp at the TCO Performance Center.
Vikings defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman, center left, goes against defensive tackle Tyarise Stevenson during a drill at rookie minicamp on May 13, 2022 at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan. (Chris Tomasson / Pioneer Press)
“It felt good,’’ Twyman said. “I’m glad to be back. It’s a blessing. … I’ve been stronger than I’ve ever been and I’ve been ready to just keep working and getting better each day.”
After the shooting incident, the Vikings released a statement saying that Twyman was “expected to make a full recovery.” But Twyman said “physically, it took a couple months” to recover.
Twyman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has been impressed with how Twyman has bounced back.
“Jaylen has worked very hard to come back from his wounds,’’ Rosenhaus said. “I believe he has a bright future in the NFL due to his determination and talent. I’m excited to see him on the field in pads in training camp (starting in late July). He is a terrific young man with a wonderful personality. It’s easy to root for Jaylen.”
Twyman was drafted by the Vikings to help provide an interior pass rush. When he last played, he had 10 ½ sacks for Pittsburgh in 2019. He then opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As Twyman continues to work his way back, Vikings first-year coach Kevin O’Connell likes what he has seen so far.
“He’s been one of those guys that you love to look in his eyes so far through (offseason drills),’’ O’Connell said. “He’ll be a guy we’re watching closely as we get into (organized team activities) and his continued ascent throughout this offseason program.’’
The 6-foot-2, 285-pound Twyman hit the weights after recovering from his wounds and said that it shows.
“I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, you know,’’ he said. “The other day I tested my strength a little bit. I put a little bit of (more) weight on the bar, and I felt pretty good.”
Twyman said he might have been able to come off the non-football injury list at some point last year had the Vikings needed him. Although that didn’t happen, he considered it a valuable experience spending the season around the team.
“I felt like I could have helped, but at the same time I was still learning the plays, getting in the swing of things as a rookie,’’ he said. “So me sitting back and learning from (defensive tackles) Dalvin Tomlinson and Armon Watts, it helped me. I’ve benefitted from watching those guys and getting those mental reps. … (It helped) being on the road with those guys or being an extra set of eyes on the sideline to help the D-line.”
Looking at the big picture, Twyman remains thankful the injuries he sustained were not more severe.
“I’m definitely relieved, and it’s a blessing,’’ he said. “I give the glory to God. I’m just happy to be back.”
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