I can’t remember the last time my father and I didn’t go to Vikings training camp in Mankato.
I think our first trip to training camp was back in 2004, the summer before I began fourth grade. I still have a photo from that day featuring Chris Hovan, Kevin Williams, and other members of the Vikings’ early 2000s defensive line.
Over the years, we would happily make the 90-minute trip to Mankato and sit on the hot bleachers in order to see our favorite players run through drills at practice.
But this year, we got smarter. Instead of baking under the hot afternoon sun, we went for their night scrimmage this past Saturday.
We got to Blakeslee Stadium around 5:40 p.m., and the bleachers were already 95 percent packed.
We waited for about 10 minutes just to enter the grounds. Some fans bee- lined for the remaining seats in the bleachers while the rest, my family included, settled down on a hill beyond one of the end zones.
However, after a few minutes of sitting on the hill, I decided to look for a spot in the bleachers.
I was lucky to nd one spot available near the aisle. As I waited for the scrimmage to start at 7p.m., I found myself thinking about past memories of training camp.
There was the time I had my photo taken with Antoine Winfield and was surprised to learn that I was as tall as he was. He certainly seemed bigger on television.
Another time, when I was a student at MSU- Mankato, I was given special permission to move my belongings into my dorm early, the same dorm the Vikings lived in. On my way out, I met Norv Turner and he greeted me, but I was caught off-guard and gave an inaudible reply.
However, my best memory isn’t one specific moment, it’s having a day each year to bond with my dad over our shared love of the Vikings. Yes, we watch games together, but going to Mankato was special.
Thank you Minnesota State University-Mankato for being such gracious hosts, even while your campus was taken over by the team and its fans.
Thank you Minnesota Vikings for coming to Mankato for training camp for the past 52 years and for allowing us fans who live south of the Twin Cities a great opportunity to see our team.
Saving my biggest thanks for last, thank you Dad for taking me to training camp all these years. From taking days off from work to standing in long lines for autographs, I really appreciate the sacrifices you made to give me a great day at training camp each year.
I’ll miss going to Mankato each summer, but I’ll always cherish the memories.