Harrison Smith Mr Nice guy in TC

Harrison Smith Mr Nice guy in TC
Hardest hitting safety in the NFL

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Training Camp Year 24 here I come


As I look forward going to Mankato for my 24th year of making the trip it’s time to reflect on memories, players and people I have met along the way.

It all started in 1994 making my trek to Mankato. I did not go every day and I was just unsure what was all included in camp. I did not have any guts to ask in fact the whole season I got 3 or 4 autographs.

I guess through the years I became much better at listening to fans, asking questions and just plain wanted to get the full effect of camp.

Yes, Training Camp consists of 2 a days and the young guy I was with no initiative would watch morning practice drive 45 minutes home then hang out at home and make my 45 minute journey back for the afternoon session.

I remember emailing and or calling the Mankato Chamber and asking for a schedule and they would then mail it to me so I could make my plans on travel and days off work I would need. We now of course have more internet usage and everything can be found on line by going to Vikings.com you will find everything you need.

The event is free with the only charge being parking which is usually 5-7.00 If you decide to leave after practice make sure you keep your ticket so there is not another charge for parking.

The years over there have gone so fast as it is the event I truly look forward to. One of the big highlights over there is move in day where players seem to be a little more laid back. The only trick to meeting them is knowing their name and they of course do not have their jerseys on. I have gotten so many pictures with players on move in day.

Camp has changed through much through the years where I talked to people that went the Bud Grant years and most said they could right on the field after practice and walk with the players.

Things have changed on the security part as each year it seems a little more restricted. The Brad Childress era brought in with him what is known as the Autograph Zone. It is here each day a different group of players is designated to sign autographs for 20 minutes. Let’s just say Monday is Offensive Line, Tuesday is Wide Receiver and so forth. There is timer that you can visibly see and when the 20 minutes is up the players get up and leave. There are of course exceptions when a player or 2 may stay to finish the line. I guess it just depends on the day and the player or players that are involved.

The one thing to know and keep in mind is the heat that typically comes this time of year. The year Korey Stringer died I was over there every day. I remember coming home with headaches with not drinking enough water. The heat index was in the 110’s seeming every day. Why was I out there? I am such a fan I really didn’t think about my safety and health.

I remember getting home and watching the news and then that night the announcement of Stringer’s death. I was just in shock. I got my picture with him earlier in camp and I still have it.

I remember the next day going and not thinking but camp was closed for the day. I spent time walking along the fence line and seeing all the flowers and notes left for Korey. It was an incredible sight.

I remember the next year Coach Mike Tice came up to my buddy and myself and said you guy are here every day aren’t you. I said, “Yes.” He told us to go to the practice fields at 3:30 and I asked him why but he just responded go over there.

We went through and watched the players do their stretching then the next thing I know the sprinklers went off and away the players ran towards the fence where my buddy, myself and several fans were. Mike Tice knew Stringer had passion for fans and signing autographs so in remembrance of Korey he had players sign for 30 minutes.

Other memories as I look back is I love asking players if it is ok if I take their picture and about 99 percent ok that and I take it. The thing they don’t know is I take the picture into Wal Mart and have it blown up 8x10 and I take it back to camp the next day and see if they will autograph it. The players are time will ask for a copy which I happily will and give it to them.

I have met people from all over the world including Germany and Holland and of course from all over the US. The one thing you know is you all have one thing in common and that is your passion for the Vikings. It makes things a lot easier to strike up a conversation.

One of the tough things for me is not seeing the Gage Towers anymore after they were imploded and now they are parking lots. I think of all the years the team stayed there and now they are in Julia Sears dorms which on the west side of campus.

There is so much history of the Gage Towers and all the years the team stayed it’s hard for me not to miss them with really no reason just my own struggle to get over the past.

One of the best days of camp and will forever go down in my memory is family day. It is usually the first Saturday of camp where there is a morning practice and then nothing football wise until 7pm where the team scrimmages in Blakeslee Field for 2 hours. There are anywhere from 8-10,000 fans that jam in the stadium. The practice which is usually in full pads ends, the players return to the lock room where hundreds of fans wait in hopes for an autograph. There has been traditionally a tremendous fire work display.

I have found through the years the team seems to bring classier guys each and every year who appear to be good to the public as far as signing and taking pictures. There is of course your exception but that’s all right. We as fans have to remember that these guys come to camp to fight for their livelihoods. There are of course players that are a seeming lock to the roster but all others are fighting to make the 53 man roster.

This may or may not be the last year in Mankato but I am going over like it will be and I intend to make every single second count.

One more thing for fans that have never been to Vikings Training Camp and that is there are plenty of food and drink places to get something. There is Chipotle, Noodles, Kwik Trip to name a few places.

I hope you take me up on going over to Mankato and making your own memories.



Thanks for reading

Purplestick


Saturday, April 29, 2017

A + weekend for the Vikings draft


Day 1 of the Draft was finally here and I knew the Vikings did not have a first round pick although last year’s trade for Sam Bradford was our first pick and I do like that. I am selfish as a fan because I was so hoping the team would still trade up.

As it worked out the Vikes stayed out of the first which I was fine with after that night was over. I do think the big winner of the night was 49ers new GM, John Lynch who pulled off a stunner having the Bears give up way to much just to go from pick 3 to 2. What on earth Bears are you thinking? Oh well one less team to compete with the Vikings in the division.

Day 2 came and I was so anxious to see what he Vikings had in store for pick 48. Yes, Vikes GM Spielman came through and pulled off a trade to move up 7 positions to go to 41. My mindset is I don’t believe the team will move up to get O-Line help. I did come in Friday hoping for O-Line help by picking Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky) or Cam Robinson (Alabama) but they were all gone even before 41 came. Who on earth Vikings did you move up to take? The answer: Dalvin Cook RB out of Florida State. I was in heaven getting him knowing what a great college runner he was. Yeah Vikings!!!!!

This NFL draft is unbelievably crazy with the Bears pick along with the Chiefs and Texans trade up to get their quarterbacks of the future. The other fact I read was of the first 96 picks 29 were cornerbacks and with the NFL getting to be a pass happy league this really makes sense,

Then later the team picks Pat Elflein, Center/Guard out of The Ohio State. I was in love with the pick and even more after I heard coach Zimmer say Pat could be a starter at center. Two picks, Cook and Elflein and I am giving the team an A+.

The Vikings Rick Spielman made 4 trades alone on Friday and last draft the Vikings made 3 total for the 3 day event.

I went to bed pretty pumped and could not wait to get up Saturday as I was headed to US Bank Stadium for the Draft Fest and catch all the draft there.

I got there at 10:30 and was pumped knowing the team had 7 picks although as it turned out by days end the team drafted 9 players to 11.

The cost was 20.00 and was worth every penny as I walked down all the stairs to go on to the field and take all the festivities in.

The TV’s had the draft on and KFAN broadcast for 12:00-5 so it was football heaven for myself and all other Viking fans.

Vikings play by play guy, Paul Allen made the Vikings first pick of the day and that was on NFL Network so I moved up to be a part of the craziness.

Everson Griffen came on stage to announce the next pick and the huge Skol drum was rolled in front of the stage and thus the beat and the Skol Chant began as Everson called out the pick.

Vikings HOF. Paul Krause was brought underneath the fire breathing dragon the team brought out to represent game day. It was an awesome sight. I was asked with a few other fans after Krause came out to stand behind him and cheer while the pick was being announced, If this didn’t give me chills I don’t know what will.

As for the draft I loved all the wheeling and dealing Spielman did to get 9 picks Saturday. I also love that 4 of the picks come from the Big 10. I look back and see the team took the following:

Jaleel Johnson-DT

Ben Gedeon-LB

Rodney Adams-WR

Danny Isidora-G

Bucky Hodges-TE

Stacy Coley-WR

Ifeadi Ogenigbo-DE
Elija Lee-LB

Jack Tocho-DB

The draft was 11 total with 6 offense and 5 defense. I absolutely love what the team did to fill needs. I did read twitter that #NFC North gave the Vikings an A and I cannot disagree. I am so fired up for this season after a weekend like this.

Thank for reading

Purplestick

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Breaking dowm the 2017 Vikings schedule

The NFL revealed its schedule on Thursday April 20th even though twitter leaked quite a bit information it was still fun to watch the revealing show.

As a long time Vikings season ticket holder I look forward to seeing when the first home game is and even more exciting is who the Purple will play.

The answer was: The New Orleans Saints which is exciting in itself but what makes it even more exciting is it’s on national TV on Monday night September 11th at 6:30. Yes, Drew Brees and company will be in town. This will be a great test right off the bat going up against the 2016 NFL leader in passing yards.

I am not going to break down every game rather look at each month with how many home and road games the team will face.

Let’s start with September with 3 games: New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Tampa bay. The team has 2 of 3 at home with the middle of the 3 sees the Vikes get to go and face former Vikings Defensive Coordinator, Mike Tomlin now Steelers coach and successful at that.

October sees Detroit, at Chicago, Green Bay, Baltimore and then the end of the month has the Vikes going to London to play Cleveland.  3 home games, and 2 road with one of the road games in London. The team gets to play 2 of the teams from the NFL North which are always fun and so much impact on the division early on. The London game is at 8:30am which will be strange being done with football by noon rather starting at noon.

September and October we will see the Vikes at home 5 of the 8 first games which really puts pressure on the team to get the home wins. I feel the NFL did the Vikes a favor. I also like the fact that the Vikings play in London and then get a bye the following week.

November at Washington, Los Angeles Rams and Thanksgiving Day at Detroit. This month will very tough as Washington with Kirk Cousins are a very good playoff caliber team and the Lions game on Thanksgiving is never easy. I do find it strange the Vikes will now play the Thanksgiving 2 years in a row.

December: At Atlanta, at Carolina, Cincinnati, at Green Bay and close out home vs Chicago. This month in my opinion will be the toughest month of the schedule. The Vikes start out the month vs the team who lost a heart breaker to the Patriots in last years Super Bowl and to make things worse this will be the first year for the Falcons to play in their brand new stadium. The team then goes to Carolina with Cam Newton and the boys. The Purple then comes home to play Cincinnati who is always seemingly contending with the Steelers for the AFC North title. Minnesota then gets to travel to Lambeau on Saturday night, December 23rd for a National TV game. The season ends like it did last year as the Chicago Bears come to US Bank in what I am hoping is a meaningless game for the Bears and the game means everything for Minnesota.

I can’t wait for 2017 Season with my every year hopes and dreams come true and the Minnesota Vikings become the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl in their own home stadium. The saying anything is possible and all I can do is hope because I will be at every home game supporting my favorite team as I do each and every year. This is mmy 20th year of season tickets and I hope for a memory never to forget.

Thanks for reading Purplestick

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

2016 Minnesota Vikings- This is the Year


The 2015-2016 season came to a tough end losing to Seattle at home in the playoffs which was tough to take however I saw signs of encouragement during the year that really has me hyped for the upcoming season.

The defense really showed true signs that the future will be fun to watch and the offense with Adrian running hard and Teddy coming gives me so much hope that this team finally has turned the corner.

The offseason started with me not really feeling the team would make a big splash knowing the team is being built through the draft and I applaud that.

The free agent signings of veterans, Alex Boone and Andre Smith was a great surprise and also showed me that the team along with so much youth can afford to plug vital veterans in and that they did. The offensive line is going to be a great battle to watch in Mankato.

The signing of veteran safety, Michael Griffin was also a pleasant surprise. It seems the only lock back there that is a lock is Harrison Smith and after that it’s fair game. I love bringing in the veteran presence in Griffin.

The next excitement for me and all other fans is knowing not only that the new stadium is opening in July but that we also know who is coming and when they will be in town to face the purple. I have paid for our PSL’s and also paid off the season tickets. It will be my 18th season as a season ticket holder and proud to say I have only ever missed 2 games in this stretch.

The home opener, are you kidding the Green Bay Packers? If the NFL is not the best sport in America it is hard to beat. The border battle in Prime Time in the new stadium. I can’t even imagine how crazy it will be in there even before the game is played. It will be a day in Minnesota history to always remember.

The next excitement that just finished up was the 7 round draft in Chicago and I for one could not be happier as a Vikings fan. Yes, I know everyone can argue why the team took various players. I look at it as more competition at Mini Camps and then in Mankato for Training Camp.

I am sky high on the first 2 picks seeing Wide Receiver, Lequon Treadwell coming to us at pick 23. I love the 2nd round pick, Mackensie Alexander out of Clemson. The argument is he had 0 interceptions in college but everything I have read and seen he comes across as a confident shut down corner. I can only imagine Xavier Rhodes as one side and either Trae Waynes or Alexander. I am also a fan of Terrance Newman but do know his age and how much longer can he play so the 2 youngsters need to step it up and fight Newman for the position.

The pick I am most intrigued even more than the first round is our 6th rounder, Moritz Boehringer out of Germany. What a story is this young man? I can’t wait to see him on the field.

I wanted to look at the schedule and plug some of the draft choices the Vikings will see starting in Week 1:

Week # 1- at Tennessee who took OT Jake Conklin out of Michigan State. This team also has drafted the last 2 Heisman Trophy winners in Marcus Mariota and now this last weekend out of Alabama running back, Derrick Henry.

Week # 2- Home in Prime time vs the dreaded Green Bay Packers who took DT out of UCLA, Kenny Clark who will face our big and hungry offensive line and the new adds.

Week #3- at Carolina Panthers, last year’s Super Bowl rep from the NFC drafted Vernon Butler, DT out of Louisiana Tech.

Week # 4- Home vs New York Giants in Prime Time and they drafted out of Ohio State defensive back, Eli Apple who will go against our youngsters, Stefon Diggs and Treadwell just to name a couple.

Week # 5- Home vs Houston Texans and JJ Watt along with new free agent quarterback, 6’8” tall in Brock Osweiler and they drafted Wide Receiver, Will Fuller. This will be the first game of the season we will see 2 of the receivers drafted against each other with Fuller vs Treadwell.

Game # 6- at Philadelphia and number 2 pick overall Qauarterback, Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State.

Game # 7- at Chicago who drafted linebacker, Leonard Floyd out of the University of Georgia.

Game # 8- Home vs Detroit Lions who took OT out of Ohio State, Taylor Decker who will get to face the ferocious pass rush of the Purple.

Game # 9- at Washington who took WR out of TCU, Josh Doctson. It seemed in so many mock drafts had Josh going to the Vikings. It should be a great game to watch for this story line alone the two rookie wide outs.

Game # 10- Home vs Arizona and they drafted DE Robert Nkemdiche who will meet the new Vikings offensive line and will get welcomed to the NFL

Game # 11- Detroit- Thanksgiving Day-  Do I need to say more?

Game # 12- Home vs Dallas in Prime Time and they drafted out of Ohio State running back. Ezekiel Elliott. The comparisons of Aikman, Irvin and Emmitt vs Romo, Elliott and Dez Bryant have to stop and it will in Minneapolis in Prime Time.

Game # 13- at Jacksonville who drafted Defensive Back out of Florida State, Jalen Ramsey. I don’t know who he will face for Minnesota receivers but I for one would like to see Treadwell vs Ramsey.

Game # 14- Home vs Indianapolis who took out of Alabama center, Ryan Kelly.

Game  # 15- at Green Bay   I will say after the Vikings won the division last year at Lambeau that this game will be great. My hope is the Vikes will have the division wrapped up so this will just be another Border Battle.

Game # 16- Home vs Chicago   What a way to end the regular season before the playoffs start for the Vikings!!!

I am so excited for this season with so many reasons. I donor want to rush my life away but I will say when Training Camp and the season come I will be fully ready.

Thanks for reading

Go Vikes

Purplestick

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2015 Vikings, a season that continues on


The Minnesota Vikings came in to the 2015 season with high expectations from fans and even some of the media were actually talking good about the purple.

The draft was held and on paper appeared in my eyes to be a solid draft and continuing the last few years of getting guys that made the 53 man squad.

The preseason started off with a bang beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame game and then winning 3 more before losing the finale to Tennessee. Yes, the Vikes were 4-1 but they suffered a major loss when they lost starting right tackle, Phil Loadholt for the season. Oh no, my thoughts was who will take Loadholt’s spot?

The Vikings who had been struggling in the last couple of years were finally thought of high enough to play in the first game on National TV as they traveled to San Francisco. The Vikings were even a favorite and on the road. It was looking so good with so many 49ers retired; a brand new head coach and really 49ers I don’t believe were thought to be all that good.

The games do need to be played and to the horror to me and so many Vikings fans were in shock watching the 49ers look like world beaters as they seemed to do whatever they wanted to. I went to bed jut sick with my hopes on the season and to see the Vikes embarrassed on TV was tough.

It seemed that loss really woke up the Vikings for the season as they win the next 2 both at home. The season summary sees a heart breaking loss to the Broncos followed by wins 5 in a row before getting beat handily by the Packers which was a 3:30 national TV game. This game was even flexed and on to 3:30 national tv and once again disappointment.

I know the team goes to Atlanta after the Packer game and what do the Vikings do? They win on the road so once again I am feeling good knowing the next week we are back home to play Seattle who had no Marshawn Lynch. I thought a home game we should be able to take but I was wrong as I sat in my seats at TCF and watched the purple get destroyed by Seattle.

Oh no we now go to Arizona for a national tv game knowing the first 2 we were humiliated. The pregame guests were all picking Arizona by double digits. Please don’t get destroyed on TV again I prayed. Coach Zimmer had the boys ready to compete and compete they did. They played the heavily favored Cardinals tough and it came down to the controversial play with Teddy not throwing the ball away and instead get strip sacked when the team was in field goal range to at least send it into overtime. It was indeed a tough loss even though it was a game that was supposed to be one sided.

The team has 8 wins in their pocket eclipsing last year’s total of 7 and games left with 2 home and 1 on the road.

Minnesota wins the next 2 at home by a combined score of 87-34 beating Chicago and New York Giants and yes the season may have taken even a better turn as the Giants game had been flexed to prime time in which the Vikings had been 1-15 in national TV Games. It was so cold that night but the real heat was put on by the Vikes defense as they harassed Eli Manning all night. Destruction on national TV was a game never to forget.

The season comes down to this in which the NFL had to love as the 10-5 Minnesota Vikings traveled to take on the 10-5 Green Bay Packers. The winner takes the division and earns the number3 seed and a home game. Which Vikings team will show up?

The Vikes take a commanding 20-3 lead and yet I was not comfortable until the game clock said 0:00. The Packers did make a tremendous comeback in fact coming down to the final Hail Mary pass into the end zone.

I stood up in my chair with my heart pounding out of my body and I kept saying to myself. Please knock it down and you are division champs.

The defense makes the play and I get to see the team I cheer for my whole life go running onto the field. The dowsing of Gatorade on Coach Zimmer was the moment of the season.

The Minnesota Vikings are your 2015-2-16 NFC North Division Champs. That saying both seeing and saying it is incredible and what a rush.

The Seattle Seahawks now come to town and not many are giving the Vikes a prayer but I feel until the game cock say 0:00 I won’t stop believing.

The season had so many players step up in the regular season beginning with rookie wide out,Stefon Diggs. He is inactive the first 3 games of the season and finally inserted into the lineup and what does he do the rest of the season? He catches 52 balls for 720 yards and 4 TD’s.

Blair Walsh stated our shaky and so much talk in the media will the Vikes keep or cut? He ends up going 34-39 on field goals including 6 of 50 yards or longer including a 54 yarder. Blair kicked 33-37 PAT’s good for 135 points.

How about Eric Kendricks, 2nd round draft out of UCLA? His year was so good he ended up being the first rookie to lead the Vikings in tackles since 1961.

Linval Joseph I believe would have been pro bowl bound if he had not been injured. The man was a beast in the middle.

Who can forget Harrison’s Smith season including an interception return for a TD which broke the Vikes all-time record for interceptions returns for touchdowns.

Rookies, Danielle Hunter who wears # 99 had 4.5 sacks in college total gets 6 in his first year alone with the Vikings.

Teddy Bridgewater’s 2nd great December in a row really helped propel the offense and his pass completion percent and passer rating were unbelievable.

Adrian Peterson is out all but 1 game last season comes back to win the NFL rushing title and gets his 8th season of touchdowns in is career.

There were so many players who stepped up and just because I didn’t write about them specifically does not mean they didn’t have a good year. It is truly a team sport.

The offensive line say what you want about them seemed to get the job when it really counted. Offensive line coach, Jeff Davidson might be his best job yet.

Mike Zimmer in my eyes even though it may not happen should be the NFL Coach of the year with all the accomplishments including a division title and going 5-1 in the NFC North. He has my vote!!!!

The season opening loss to the 49ers and yet the Vikes go onto make the playoffs while the 49ers season turned so sour they fired their coach in only his first season in charge.

The Vikes go 6-2 at home and a whopping 5 wins on the road which is incredible.  Add in the Vikes winning for the first time since 2007 in Chicago. This season had so many things that normally go wrong go right.

The season continues Sunday January 10th in what is expected to be a top 10 coldest ever playoff game in the NFL.

I will be there and I predict the upset as I say the Vikes win 20-10.

Thanks for reading

Todd Walkingstick