MINNEAPOLIS – No one has ever told Obadiah Gamble not to dream big.
So when he came up with the idea to invite Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to his birthday party, 6-year-old Obadiah never looked back.
“I was making up songs in the bathroom, and I thought, ‘Hey – maybe I could invite Teddy to my birthday party,” Obadiah says, laughing.
The musically inclined first grader created a song to invite Bridgewater to his party, even having his own Twitter page to post the videos and tag the quarterback. Two months, three videos and one music video later, Bridgewater gave Obadiah the birthday present of a lifetime: although he can’t make Sunday’s party, Bridgewater surprised Obadiah with a private visit at his home Wednesday.
When Bridgewater walked into the Gambles’ back yard, Obadiah couldn’t believe it.
“It was a dream come true,” he says, pumping his fist in the air. “I was like, ‘Oh man, that’s Teddy.’ Now I have to put on my best behavior for a football player.
“I was like, ‘He must be like 32 [years old] to come here,” Obadiah adds. “But no, I remembered he’s 23. Just flip the numbers over. Not 32, but 23.”
Obadiah sits in a coffee shop chair, his legs swinging excitedly. He’s wearing a pair of Bridgewater’s trademark white gloves, personally autographed, though they barely stay on his hands. A football sits in his lap, on it a note from Bridgewater in black Sharpie: Obadiah – Happy Birthday, Buddy! He even has a towel tucked into the front of his lime green shorts, just like his favorite player.
Obadiah says he spent time playing catch with Bridgewater during his visit.
“I told Teddy I was a good football player,” Obadiah says proudly. “He said we should throw the football around to see more of my talents.”
Although Obadiah’s party isn’t until this weekend, it seemed appropriate to share an early birthday cake with Bridgewater. The layered cake included both Obadiah’s favorite (vanilla) and Bridgewater’s favorite (strawberry).
“Teddy even brought the cake to the table,” Obadiah says. “I gave him strawberry toppings and red sprinkles. He loves strawberries – I didn’t know that before!”
Obadiah’s mother, Vanessa, says she was impressed with the whole experience and couldn’t be more grateful to Bridgewater for making Obadiah’s birthday so memorable.
“Teddy is a class act,” Vanessa says. “He’s gracious and kind. He was so present and so engaged, and he has a good sense of humor.
“Everything I heard about him was definitely true,” Vanessa adds. “Just a class act.”
Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he’s not surprised that Bridgewater made the effort to surprise Obadiah and meet with him in person.
“It’s terrific, and that’s the kind of guy Teddy is,” Zimmer said in an interview with ESPN Thursday. “Teddy is the leader of this football team, but more importantly, he’s a great person.”
Like the rest of his family, Obadiah bleeds purple. He says he’s been cheering for the Vikings since he was 3 years old, and if you ask him, there’s no better player on the roster than Bridgewater.
“Teddy’s really nice, he’s a good sport, and I really thought he would be a good fit for a birthday party,” Obadiah says seriously. “I’m going to be friends with him forever.”
Obadiah’s parents said it was difficult to find that balance between supporting their son’s dream and not letting him get his expectations too high.
“I tried to tell him, ‘Listen – we certainly can invite him. But he’s really busy, and he probably has a lot of people inviting him to their parties,’ ” says Vanessa.
Obadiah kept talking about his idea, however, so a friend of the family suggested creating Obadiah’s Twitter account as a way to send Teddy the songs.
“The nice thing about the music video, we thought if nothing else, we would tell him, ‘This brings joy. It brings joy to people, and that’s why we do music and write songs. It’s not to gain fame.’ ”
But then Bridgewater retweeted Obadiah’s songs on Twitter. A week later, the Gambles received a call from the Vikings. When told that Bridgewater wanted to stop by to wish Obadiah a happy birthday, Vanessa thought it might be a prank call.
“They said it wasn’t a hoax,” Vanessa says. “I did cry when I get off the phone. I feel like we’re so used to being told to bring our dreams back down to earth. But here’s this dream that really was laughable, at the beginning, on paper, and yet to realize that this was going to come true for him. And then other people can be inspired.”
Obadiah has been inspiring people for most of his life. When Obadiah was just 16 months old, Vanessa first noticed his musical talent.
“I would sing little phrases, and he would finish them in the right key,” Vanessa says. “I thought it was so crazy, that I would switch keys and think, ‘Surely, that was a fluke.’ But then he would finish the phrase in the key that I was in.”
It was Obadiah’s music that first caught Bridgewater’s attention, but his personality is just as contagious.
“He’s 100 percent extrovert,” Vanessa says. “I say he has two levels: loud and asleep.”
Bridgewater spent nearly two hours at the Gambles’ residence – playing football, talking with Obadiah and even making a cameo in a second music video that’s currently in production.
“I’ll remember this until my 92nd birthday,” Obadiah says, before correcting himself. “No, I’ll remember it my whole life.”
And Obadiah’s prediction for how many games Bridgewater and the Vikings will win in 2016?
“All of them,” Obadiah says. “Because he has a new friend to cheer him on.”