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McKinnon Honors Mother by Changing Jersey to No. 21


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Mother's Day has a little extra meaning for Jerick McKinnon this year.

The Vikings running back recently switched his jersey to No. 21 after wearing No. 31 for the first two years of his career. 

McKinnon said the jersey switch is in honor of his mother. Frances McKinnon wore No. 21 as a point guard at Pelham City High School in Georgia more than 30 years ago.

"My mom is the lady who brought me into this world," McKinnon said. "I have a lot of love and respect for my mom.

"Whatever she needs, I'll do it in the snap of a finger," he added. "I can't really put it into words how much I love my mother. She's done so much for me and sacrificed a lot."

But Frances McKinnon wasn't the only reason Minnesota's third-year running back grabbed the number when it became available.

McKinnon's older brother, Lester Norwood, wore those digits as a safety at the University of Florida from 1998-2002.

McKinnon said when Norwood, who is 12 years older, watched his youth games when he came home from college. And ironically enough, McKinnon's youth football team was called the Vikings.

McKinnon recalled trying to stay awake as late as possible so he could spend time with his brother right away. 

"Growing up, that was my idol right there," McKinnon said. "Anyone who has a big brother knows what it's like … that's like Superman to you.

"Growing up, he always kept me by his side," he added.

When Norwood showed up to watch McKinnon on the hardwood, it was a family affair as Frances Norwood was the coach.

McKinnon let out a loud laugh when asked if his mother was actually the best athlete in the family.

"I don't know if I'd say she's the best athlete," McKinnon said. "But I definitely got some of my athletic ability from her.

"But best athlete? There's a lot of good athletes in my family," he added. "Everyone is ultracompetitive. Me and my brother would be playing basketball and then my mom and dad would hop in. Before you know it, a game of one-on-one would turn into a game of 21."

McKinnon noted that his mother instilled a relentless work ethic in him, one that stemmed from her high school days in Pelham, a town of roughly 4,000 people.

"Way south Georgia, like the trenches of south Georgia," McKinnon said. "A real small town … dirt roads, train tracks, real country.

"That's where a lot of the roots for my family start," he added. "I've still got people there and I still go back and visit family."

For the record, McKinnon didn't have anything against No. 31, his original number with the Vikings.

It served him well during two seasons in which he rushed for 809 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. McKinnon also has  added 308 receiving yards and a score through the air.

McKinnon turned 24 last Tuesday while participating in the Vikings voluntary offseason program.  He's been hard at work trying to help the Vikings make the playoffs again a year after they won the NFC North with an 11-5 record.

"I don't know what opportunities I'm going to get but I'm going to make them count," McKinnon said. "I get labeled as a change-of-pace guy or a third-down guy … I've worked on being an all-round guy.

"I think that's fuel to run off of," he added. "It's sparked a fire inside of me."

Whatever impact McKinnon makes this season, he'll do it with his family on his mind, wearing a number his mother wore in high school and his brother wore in college.

"Those two have been a big part of the success I've had throughout my life and getting me to this point," McKinnon said. "I feel like it's showing a sign of respect and it's a tribute to those two.

"It's full circle," McKinnon added. "It's crazy how everything has worked out like this."

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