*MARSHALL, Minn. — *C.J. Ham, Anthony Harris and Stephen Weatherly ventured to Southwest Minnesota on Saturday for the conclusion of the 2018 Vikings “Town Takeover.”
The Vikings trio joined about 35 Marshall High School Tigers players in leading a clinic for 300-plus young people in the morning before heading downtown for photo and autograph sessions with fans.
Initially scheduled for April, the event was postponed because of a blizzard* *that dumped 20 inches of snow on Marshall last month. The Vikings and Innovative Office Solutions’ InSports Foundation were happy to make the return trip and present a $10,000 grant for Marshall’s selection as the “Minnesota Football Program of the Year.”
A Saturday morning that began with clouds and a stiff wind transitioned into a pleasant spring day that featured a special surprise when Harris made his way into a wedding party for fun photos.
Groomsmen walking down the street spotted Harris through the window and immediately erupted into the SKOL Chant, enticing the fourth-year safety to join the party. The bride came running down the street, and Harris stepped out to surprise her and into the wedding album of Dan and Cindy Scamp.
“It was great. Sitting in there, talking to fans and taking pictures, you see this wedding group walking down the street, and they’re saying, ‘Come outside!’ Everybody’s excited, but wait, the bride is a Packers fan,” Harris said. “She’s running down the street. I decided I’d hide, pop out and ‘tackle’ her. She did a little Packers dis. We have you running down the street and have you hugging a Vikings player, so we can just edit that, and it will be great.”
Dan, a full-throttle Vikings fan, said being joined by players from his favorite team made their special day even better.
“To have you guys here is spectacular, because everybody’s Vikings fans. I am at heart, slightly,” Cindy admitted. “We switched the wedding date for this time. It was supposed to be next week, but we bumped it up for you guys.”
The wedding party then caught up with Ham and Vikings Cheerleaders at another appearance.
Earlier, the Vikings players enjoyed connecting with the youth for drills and talked about the importance of goals.
“I was working with kids on ball security, keeping the ball high and tight, protecting it,” Harris said. “We did some footwork drills. I just tried to teach the kids some teamwork and other principles involved in sports.”
Ham, who played collegiately at Augustana in South Dakota, said he enjoyed returning to the area.
“I actually came out here for my junior year of high school for Boys State, a leadership camp, so I’m a little familiar with the area, and it’s awesome to be back,” the Duluth native said. “When I was a kid, I didn’t get to go to camps like this. It’s awesome to see kids out here and active, boys and girls, playing football.”
Ham has gone from an undrafted free agent in 2016 to becoming the team’s fullback in 2017. He shared with young people the importance of setting goals and continuing to climb.
“It’s great for everybody to set goals for themselves,” Ham said. “That’s how we hold ourselves accountable: set goals and try to achieve them. I encourage these kids, that when you set goals, make it something to really go out and get.”
Weatherly, a seventh-round pick in 2016, helped lead a large group of kids through a session in which they wrote goals in sports, for health, with teammates and in school on materials provided by the InSports Foundation.
“I just take into everything I do, not only in football but life and relationships on and off the field, just finding something to get better at every day,” Weatherly said. “It goes a long way. Setting a goal is one thing, but also being able to write it down and see it every day, I feel like it does so much more for helping you achieve said goal, so that’s something we tried to drive home to the kids today.”
Marshall Head Coach Terry Bahlmann said he enjoyed seeing the interactivity between multiple levels of football players.
“It’s been a lot of fun. The Vikings players were amazing, working with the kids,” Bahlmann said. “Some of our players asked the Vikings some drill-work questions, so it’s good to see them give back. We’re in Southwest Minnesota, so we’re not as close, but it’s great to see the Vikings come out.”
While Ham was quite familiar with the statewide support for the Vikings, Harris and Weatherly said they enjoyed the opportunity to explore a part of Minnesota that was new to them.
“The trip here was nice, a lot of open road. I said, ‘Good old, countryside Minnesota.’ Coming here is just as well as being up in Minneapolis,” Harris said. “The people are great, very welcoming. The kids had high spirits and a lot of energy. They’re out here enjoying themselves and having a great time, so it’s been fun.”
Added Weatherly: “The drive was awesome, surprisingly. With me, being born and raised in Atlanta and playing my college ball at Vanderbilt in downtown Nashville, I never really saw country.”
“The countriest thing I saw was the drive from Atlanta to Nashville, but just coming out here, it was acres and acres,” he added. “I had a lot of time to think, ‘This is someone’s life. They’re working the same job their parents did, maybe even their grandparents or great grandparents did.’ It’s the backbone of America.”