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6 High Schools & Kirk Cousins Looking Forward to 2019 Vikings Prep Spotlight Slate

The Vikings welcomed players, coaches and administrators from six high schools who will meet next month in three games for the 2019 Vikings Prep Spotlight series presented by FVP at TCO Stadium.

EAGAN, Minn. — Thursday had a Friday feel in more than one way at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

The Vikings held their final practice of the week and treated it much like they would a Friday before a Sunday contest because of Saturday’s game against Arizona.

They also welcomed players, coaches and administrators from six high schools who will meet next month in three games for the 2019 Vikings Prep Spotlight series presented by FVP at TCO Stadium.

2019 Schedule:

Friday, Sept. 20: Eden Prairie Eagles vs. Shakopee Sabers (home team), 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 27: Chaska Hawks vs. Apple Valley Eagles (home team), 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 28: Rochester Mayo Spartans vs. Mankato West Scarlets (home team), 6 p.m.

“It’s nice to have the high school football players out here today,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said to open his press conference. “It’s a great opportunity for them to come out and watch practice and then get a chance to play some games in [TCO Stadium]. We appreciate them being here, and I look forward to them all having good seasons.”

Vikings Prep Spotlight launched in 2018 and hosted five games on the same turf where the Vikings have held their annual night practice since moving into Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. The series allowed fans of participating teams to come together, support their schools and communities, and celebrate the sport.

They weren’t the only attendees last year.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins explained on Thursday that he enjoyed watching games during the inaugural season of the series.

“I actually find myself, when they play here, I drive over on Friday evening and park and walk up to our cafeteria and watch from the third floor window, just because I gravitate towards high school football and I love it so much,” Cousins said. “I love the bands and the whole deal.”

Cousins, Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes and Irv Smith, Jr., were among the Vikings who spent extra time with the prep players after Thursday’s practice.

“I’ve had a joy playing professional football and living a dream. College football is outstanding, but there is nothing better than high school football, playing Friday night under the lights in front of your people, your classmates and friends and your parents, your family, for your community,” Cousins said. “It’s special, and those are my best memories on the football field.

“Every time I talk to a high school football player I encourage them to cherish the moment, because even if you get to play beyond that, there’s nothing like those times with your buddies playing high school football,” Cousins continued.

Cousins said if his pro team’s bye week allows him to return to Holland, Michigan, he makes it a point to attend his alma mater’s game “because it means something to me.”

“When I’m done playing, I’d probably like to go be a high school quarterbacks coach at a local school somewhere and help out, because I just love it,” Cousins said. “So I’m glad the Vikings are willing to have them here and have some fun games here.”

Vikings Executive Director of Social Impact Brett Taber thanked Shakopee Head Coach Ray Betton, Eden Prairie Head Coach Mike Grant, Chaska Head Coach Bryan Dahl, Apple Valley Head Coach Chad Clendening, Rochester Mayo Defensive Coordinator Bob Sheehan and Mankato West Head Coach J.J. Helget, the players, administrators and Minnesota State High School League Associate Directors Bob Madison and Jody Redman for attending Thursday and their roles in the upcoming games.

“The Minnesota Vikings are truly committed to the growth and development of youth and high school football across the state and across the region,” Taber said. “The Vikings Prep Spotlight series offers us a tremendous opportunity to bring recognition to these great teams and the excellence of high school football that exists in the state of Minnesota. More importantly, we’re excited about the opportunity that this event creates to recognize these communities, the schools and make a tremendous experience for these high school athletes. We hope it’s a memory that they never forget.”

Speaking of memories, Grant — whose connections to the Vikings go back to 1967 when his father, Bud, was hired as the franchise’s second coach — was able to reminisce about his time as a ball boy and practices at Midway Stadium and training camps in Mankato.

“This is my first time out here, so to see this unbelievable facility, what a change,” Mike Grant said. “I know that’s what my dad always talks about. He just says, ‘Remember Midway Stadium?’ I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to be part of the Vikings in a small way. The Vikings are the flagship of all football in the state, and for all of our kids to have a chance to be here, even today to be around [practice], I think it helps build football in the state of Minnesota.”

Betton recalled coaching in an all-star game with Mike Grant and laughed about his impersonations of Jerry Burns, Bob Schnelker and other Vikings coaches.

Betton said his team and the community are excited to participate in the Vikings Prep Spotlight but will keep their focus on the games between now and then.

“It’s going to be a joy, a lot of fun out there,” Betton said. “Our plates are full. Our boys know it, but the community is very excited.”

2019 Vikings Prep Spotlight series presented by FVP:

Friday, Sept. 20: Eden Prairie Eagles vs. Shakopee Sabers (home team), 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 27: Chaska Hawks vs. Apple Valley Eagles (home team), 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 28: Rochester Mayo Spartans vs. Mankato West Scarlets (home team), 6 p.m.

Television: The games will be broadcast by FOX 9+ TV (channel 9.2).

Ticket information: Tickets will be sold at participating schools under the pricing that is used for the “hosting” teams’ home games. A limited number of walk-up tickets will be available.

Discount for Minnesota Vikings Museum: Ticketed student fans will be offered discounted admission ($10) to the Minnesota Vikings Museum.

Parking information: Parking is free, and fans can access lots via Vikings Parkway or Ames Crossing, using the 2600 Vikings Circle address as a location.

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