Irv Smith, Jr., had a very special person with him when he leapt for a touchdown catch Sunday against the Chargers.
Following the score, the rookie tight end danced in the white paint behind the end zone, showing off a pair of custom-designed cleats.
On the outside panel of one shoe, Coach Mark Bonis was painted in bold, black lettering against a yellow-gold background. The other featured a detailed portrait of Bonis, Smith's high school coach.
"He was with me for sure [on the touchdown]," Smith told Vikings.com.
Bonis, the head football coach at Brother Martin High School (New Orleans), was rushed to the hospital on Dec. 4 for an emergency coronary artery bypass.
According to a local news report, doctors say "the condition is hard to survive"; most who suffer the rupture that Bonis did don't make it to the hospital, and those that do often do not survive surgery.
But against all odds, Bonis returned home on Dec. 13 to recover with his family. A Facebook post showed the smiling coach with his wife and three children; included in the photo's caption were the hashtags #BonisStrong and #ChristmasMiracle.
Smith posted a tweet earlier this month in support of Bonis, who initially had planned on attending the Vikings-Chargers game in Los Angeles.
Following Minnesota's 39-10 road win, Smith commented on the significance of paying tribute to Bonis through his game-day kicks, which he wore through all four quarters.
"He's been there for me throughout a lot of my life," Smith said of Bonis. "I just wanted to honor him. He was supposed to make it to this game, actually. Once I found out that was going on, he couldn't make it, but I wanted him to be here in spirit so I got some cleats made for him.
"I'm going to sign them and give them to him," Smith added.