News | Minnesota Vikings – vikings.com

C.J. Ham Embracing New Journeys in Football, Fatherhood

MANKATO, Minn. –As C.J. Ham walks off the practice field at training camp, a fan flags him down by name and requests an autograph from the running back he shares a hometown with.

"It's awesome," Ham said. "Just walking around here and having people know my name. It's awesome to know that people out here support me and all my other Minnesota teammates, too."

Ham is one of seven Minnesota players on the Vikings camp roster. He said it's a dream come true to be in Mankato competing for a spot on the team he loved as a child.

"It was a blessing, that's for sure," Ham said. "I got the call saying that the Vikings wanted to give me a tryout, and I just said, 'Wow, how awesome is that.' I get an opportunity to be in the NFL with the team that I grew up watching and the same state I grew up in. It was [great] for me and my family."

Ham was born in Duluth directly into a purple-blooded family. He remembers watching games and cheering for Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and Cris Carter, his favorite player. Two years after Carter retired from the NFL, Ham started playing football as a sixth grader. He played both running back and linebacker, and his passion for the sport grew.

After garnering attention for his production at Denfeld High School, Ham went on to play for Augustana University. As a senior in 2015, he started all 12 games and rushed for a career-high 1,097 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Although he always dreamed of playing in the NFL, it wasn't until after playing two seasons of college ball that Ham said the pros really seemed more like a reality.

"Right after the season, there was a little noise about me maybe getting a shot [at the NFL]," Ham said. "My junior year, one of the Vikings scouts was at the junior day I was at [the University of Sioux Falls]. That kind of put my foot in the door, and then I had a Minnesota Pro Day. From there on, it was a realistic goal for me."

View images from the Wednesday, August 3 practice at Verizon Vikings Training Camp.

The Vikings signed Ham as a free agent in May, and he's working to learn as much as possible while competing for a roster spot.

"I'm just going to come out here and work hard every single day … and see where it leads me," Ham said.

He's received support from his Augustana coaches, who have told him to "just come out and be me" and showcase his specific skill set.

The running back developed under the Vikings coaches, and he's grateful to now be playing under such a strong coaching staff in Minnesota. Specifically, Ham has enjoyed working with running backs coach Kevin Stefanski, who made the position switch after coaching the Vikings tight ends in 2014 and 2015.

"Coach 'Ski is a great coach," Ham said. "I mean, he's really down-to-earth, he really cares about players and he's a great teacher of the game. He really understands the game, and I'm learning a lot from him."

Ham is also learning from his teammates, specifically the veteran running backs. At Augustana, he initially wanted to wear either No. 34, after Walter Payton, or No. 28, after Adrian Peterson. He chose the latter, and he's now practicing alongside the Pro Bowl running back.

"It was a good number to go with," Ham said.

Ham is absorbing all he can from Peterson, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, who remind him to come out each day and work as hard as he can.

"They pretty much [told me] just to come out here and put it on tape," Ham said. "If you make a mistake, wash it back and do better the next play.

"AP just pretty much tells me to trust my eyes," he added. "He always tells me to trust, anticipate, trust my eyes and let the ball go where it goes."

While Ham is learning the ropes of the NFL, he's also a rookie in another area: fatherhood. He and his wife, Stephanie, welcomed their first child, Skylar, on July 1, and Ham said it's been the best four weeks of his life.

"Being a father is the greatest thing in the word, to be honest with you," Ham said. "Just seeing my daughter born and being able to spend time with her, it's just a humbling experience to know that somebody in this world came from you."

After Monday morning's walk-through practice, Ham sat inside the air-conditioned dormitory holding Skylar. The fans make training camp memorable, but nothing brings a smile to Ham's face faster than a visit from his family. While it's been difficult to be away from them for camp, however, Ham heads to practice every day with his daughter on his mind, pursuing his dream of making Minnesota's roster.

"Being on this team with this great organization – I'm just blessed and happy."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Advertising