Hayden and Jake Stahly have had a difficult couple of months after losing their father, Justin, to a snowmobiling accident in January. Justin was a dedicated Vikings fan.
The young siblings attend Okoboji Elementary School in Milford, Iowa, and on Friday they received a special surprise.
All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes called in to Hayden and Jake's classroom via Skype, an experience written about by *Dickinson County News *Sports Editor Matt Heinrichs, who quoted part of Rhodes' call:
"I'm here on Skype today to tell Hayden and Jake that you guys are welcome to my [summer youth football] camp. I would love to see you guys at my camp so we can play and have a good time."
Hayden and Jake Stahly, seated criss-cross applesauce in the front row, rose to their feet and nervously approached a laptop in the front of the class. The siblings were greeted by one of their favorite players on their favorite team.
Rhodes encouraged the timid young people, saying, "You guys can talk to me. I'm just as nervous as you."
Rhodes told Heinrichs that the idea for the surprise started with Founder and CEO of Game On Management Tara Sipma, a native of Okoboji.
"She told me about the family and everything that they went through," Rhodes said. "Then I heard about how they're big fans of mine and I realized that football is not just a game; it really impacts families … it's a good thing at the end of the day. It's good to put smiles on kids' faces. They look up to you. You're a role model to them."
Hayden and Jake, who traveled to the Vikings-Bengals game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Dec. 17, will return to Minnesota to attend Rhodes' camp at Eden Prairie High School on April 21.
Cousins-to-Vikings among votes for best free agency move
Now that the first wave of free agency has settled, which teams made the best moves – through free agency or a trade.
Five ESPN NFL Insiders were asked the question, and all but two provided different answers.
KC Joyner opined that the Vikings signing Kirk Cousins was the best move of free agency. He wrote:
Famed Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi once said there is no price that is too high to pay for a franchise quarterback, so forget the big price tag for Cousins. Only Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan have posted a higher total for yards per attempt on vertical passes (aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield) than Cousins over the past two years. This downfield prowess could be the push Minnesota needs to get back to the Super Bowl.
What other transactions were highlighted by ESPN's Insiders?
Mike Sando voted for the Saints re-signing of Brees, who was due to hit free agency, and Field Yates praised the Rams offseason thus far. The Los Angeles franchise traded for former Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters and former Broncos corner Aqib Talib to bolster a secondary that the Vikings will face on the road in 2018.
Aaron Schatz and Dan Graziano pointed out the Colts trade with the Jets, which allowed Indianapolis to add three second-round picks (two this year, one in 2019) by moving down just three spots at the top of the first round.
Vikings assistant coach among 2018 El Paso HOF inductees
A member of the Vikings coaching staff is being recognized for his own accomplishments on the football field.
Assistant defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez is among eight individuals who will be inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame on May 2.
Bill Knight of the *El Paso Times *wrote:
Three were elected in the athlete category — former UTEP basketball star Brandon Wolfram, former Montwood High and UTEP football standout Robert Rodriguez and University of Texas All-American swimmer Will Licon.
Two were elected in the coach/administrator category — baseball manager and coach Marc Bombard and high school soccer coach Rennie Rebe.
Also being inducted are Manny Ontiveros (media/supporter), Berni Del Hierro (official) and former high school football coach Manuel X. Aguilar (posthumous).
According to Knight, Rodriguez was "an outstanding running back at Montwood High" and went on to earn All-Western Athletic Conference honors as a linebacker at UTEP.
He was the El Paso Times Offensive Player of the Year in 1999 and led the WAC in tackles in three of his four seasons at UTEP.
Rodriguez racked up 443 tackles as a Miner, the fourth-best total in UTEP history. He also recorded 34 tackles for losses, 8.0 sacks, eight pass break-ups and four interceptions over 48 games.