EAGAN, Minn. — Dustin Thompson and Marie Nordine thought they were just getting to spend the day with their family and take a tour of the Minnesota Vikings Museum.
What they didn't know was there was another big surprise waiting for them.
A Sleep Number delivery truck pulled up outside. When Thompson and Nordine stepped outside, the door opened to reveal Justin Jefferson. The Vikings wide receiver surprised Thompson and Nordine with a Sleep Number 360® i8 smart bed and new bedding and pillows.
Nordine was stunned when she saw the surprise — and who was delivering it.
"I was in too much of a shock to do anything," Nordine said. "I think it's really cool that [Jefferson] wants to be out here and represent and do something that's so special for us, and it just shows his character."
Jefferson said it was a "no-brainer" when he was first approached about the surprise encounter, adding his family has played a major role in teaching him the importance of giving back.
"Just helping people out, especially people that serve our country, [they're] just the reason why we're standing here being free today," Jefferson said. "My family always preaches giving back to the community, just showing love whenever I can."
Sleep Number Director of Public Relations Julie Elepano said Jefferson was the perfect candidate to provide the surprise.
"You couldn't pick a better surprise; a better player; a better day," Elepano said. "It is [an] incredibly gratifying feeling to work for a company with purpose like Sleep Number that is giving back to the military and to have the star receiver in the NFL be a part of it. It's really amazing."
Prior to the surprise by Jefferson, Nordine actually provided the first surprise of the day. She told Thompson they were attending an event for Blue Star Families, an organization dedicated to strengthening military and veteran families while they actively serve.
Instead, the family got a private tour of the museum before they received gift cards to the Vikings Locker Room Official Team Store.
"I didn't even really know how much we were coming to do," Thompson said afterwards. "I just thought we were coming to do a little tour and that was it. I didn't have any other clue."
Elepano said the smart bed Thompson and Nordine will receive is fully adjustable and comes with monitoring and tracking that gives them insights into their sleep.
Elepano added a good night's sleep and taking care of one's health — both physically and mentally — is extremely crucial, especially for those who serve.
View photos of WR Justin Jefferson as he surprised a military family with a new bed following a tour at the Minnesota Vikings Museum.
"Sleep Number is a purpose-driven company and we're focused on improving the health and well-being of society through higher-quality sleep. And nobody needs quality sleep more than our military," Elepano said. "We've been working with Blue Star Families for nine years and we've given hundreds of beds to deserving military across the country because again, they need sleep as much and more than anybody else. And when they're in transition, they really need their health and wellness, their emotional, physical and mental stability, and sleep will help them get that, so we're honored to do this."
Thompson and Nordine met in 2013 while they were both serving for the Minnesota Army National Guard. Nordine currently serves as a Staff Sergeant, while Thompson finished his service in 2017 as an E-4 specialist.
Both Thompson and Nordine come from military backgrounds. They each have grandparents that served, and Thompson's father, Ryan, served four years in the Air Force.
When Thompson and Nordine found out they were getting a tour of the museum, they immediately knew who they were bringing along.
Nordine said it was special getting a chance to share the experience with her father, Kyle.
"My dad and I always grew up going to sporting events, that was always our thing together," Nordine said. "I share my time with three older brothers… [so] it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
After Jefferson presented the family with the bed, he had one more surprise. Jefferson took the family on a personal tour of the Vikings practice facility at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Thompson said it's nice to see their sacrifices be recognized in this fashion.
"It makes the time away from the family worth it," he said.
Since 2011, the NFL has been implementing the Salute to Service campaign to honor active military members and veterans during the month of November. This year, the Vikings will face the Dallas Cowboys in their Salute to Service home game on Nov. 20 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"I think it's something that's really cool to see. I love the Salute to Service campaign. I think it's really important to show truly what's important and to give the support back," Nordine said. "I think it was 2016 we were able to come and be flag bearers on the field and that was a really fun experience."
Jefferson added it's extremely difficult to be able to make that sacrifice to serve, and he wanted to give back to those families.
"I can't imagine what they go through, throughout the times where they've got to leave for months [and] just go and fight a war and not knowing if they're going to make it back to their families or not," Jefferson said. "It's definitely a tough life to live, that's why every chance I get, I would love to give back to them."
Jefferson has appreciated his partnership with Sleep Number that started last season.
"Throughout the whole time of me being with them, we've been doing surprises like this and just giving back to people throughout the country," Jefferson said. "It's a great partner. [You've] always got to be [getting] quality sleep, getting the best sleep of your life."
Elepano added Jefferson takes his sleep seriously in order to help lead the Vikings offense on game days.
"He's amazing. One of the things that we really love about him is he takes his sleep seriously, which is why we wanted to partner with him, and obviously you see the effects in his play," Elepano said. "He's a great guy, a wonderful hope for the state of Minnesota, and I can't wait to see what he does next."
As for Thompson and Nordine, they'll appreciate the day a dream became a reality.
"We continually watch the Vikings and we hope they continue to do well, and we really appreciate Justin's time. It's a really cool experience that we've been able to have."