Once-Popular Former Viking Calls It Quits

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He had a really sweet name and was associated with the Minnesota Vikings, but now he’s saying goodbye to football.

Once-Popular Former Viking Calls It Quits

That’s Hercules Mata’afa, a member of the Vikings from 2018 to 2020. Mata’afa joined Minnesota via undrafted free agency in 2018 from Washington State University and later played for the Washington Commanders (then simply called The Washington Football Team) and Jacksonville Jaguars. He then tried on the USFL and UFL on for size as recently as this season.

Former Viking
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

But he used Instagram this week to announce his retirement. “Dear Football, Thank you for everything you have given me. I’m writing to you to tell you I can no longer give you everything I once was willing to give. My mind and body no longer have the strength to handle the preparation it takes to give you my everything. With that being said, I am officially retiring from football,” Mata’afa wrote.

The former Viking appeared in 19 career NFL games, logging 25 total tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2019 and 2020. He never saw a regular season field with the Commanders or Jaguars. In Minnesota, Mata’afa was a reservist defensive end and defensive tackle hybrid on teams led by Mike Zimmer.

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Mata’afa continued his goodbye speech, “I’m so grateful for every opportunity that was handed to me, all the amazing people I’ve met along my journey, and especially grateful for the support amongst everybody along the way. Because of you, I have learned and grown so much. You paved a way for me and gave me so much.”

He also accrued several collegiate accolades from 2015 to 2017 at Washington State:

  • Polynesian Football Player of the Year (2017)
  • Pac-12 Defensive Player of The Year (2017)
  • Consensus All-American (2017)
  • First-team All-Pac-12 (2017)
  • Second-team All-Pac-12 (2016)
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Mata’afa saw more playing time in 2020 when players like Danielle Hunter were injured, and Everson Griffen had just departed for the Dallas Cowboys and later the Detroit Lions. The Vikings tried to fit EDGE defender Yannick Ngakoue onto the defensive line via trade, but he was later shipped to the Baltimore Ravens in a different trade. Minnesota’s 2020 defensive line often featured Ifeadi Odenigbo, Shamar Stephen, Jaleel Johnson, and Jalyn Holmes, making it easy for Mata’afa to see playing time.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

The Hawaii native will turn 29 in September. He played 413 snaps in the NFL.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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