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Notebook: Collins, Keenum Have Minds on Family, Friends in Houston


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The eyes of the nation and the world have been on the city of Houston and the South Texas area as the region deals with catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey and its persistent rain.

A pair of Vikings with Houston ties also have Houston on their minds and in their hearts as a place they know well deals with tragedy and devastation.

Vikings backup quarterback Case Keenum is from Texas and went to college at the University of Houston. Houston is the also the hometown of tackle Aviante Collins, whose parents still live in the area.

Collins described the damage Tuesday after practice at Winter Park.

"My dad's house got flooded completely. He's staying with a friend right now," Collins said. "He sent me pictures, and it's up above his windows right now and he has a one-story house.

"My dad ran track, so he has a lot of valuables in there, but I asked him and he got most of the stuff out," Collins added. "My mom's house, she's good right now, but the water is up to the sidewalks. She can't even get to work because it's so flooded."

Collins said his mom lives in Missouri City, which is roughly 20 miles southwest of Houston. Collins' father, Bill, lives in Houston and is a track coach. Bill Collins was a star sprinter at Texas Christian University and is regarded as one of the top Masters sprinters in the world for his age.

Collins said Houston has had problems with flooding in the past but not to this extent. The rookie, who joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent this spring, said he's been in constant communication with his family.

He also noted his parents kept him in the dark a few days ago so he could focus on Sunday's preseason game.

"I'm going to call her right now," Collins said of his mom after Tuesday's practice. "I call her as much as I can and check in on her.

"They have a bad habit of not trying to tell me what's going on … I found out my dad's house was flooded after the game (Sunday) because he didn't want me to worry," Collins said. "I worry about them whether I'm there or not. I just want to be there for them, but I can't."

Keenum, who starred for the Cougars from 2007-2011 and was with the Houston Texans from 2012-14, said the people he knows are doing all they can to help out.

"A lot of people are displaced, and I've got friends that have boats that are out there driving around the streets going and helping people," Keenum said. "I think it's brought a lot of people together, but it's unfortunate any time something like that happens.

"Coming out here today, the sun is shining and I'm playing football. I'm definitely reminded how truly blessed I am," Keenum added. "I'm keeping those friends, family, Houstonians, people from South Texas in mind."

Bucky working on blocking

After mainly serving as a receiver at Virginia Tech, learning to add blocking to his repertoire is a new challenge for sixth-round selection Eric Wilson.

The tight end said he's been improving throughout training camp and the preseason when his "hand is strictly in the dirt, blocking zone and power plays." Hodges said he's mainly working on the technique.

"I've got to get my body used to it, whether it's the footwork, the hat placement, or the hand placement, it's something that I've got to get used to," Hodges said. "I'm working every day, and I'm hungry to be great.

"I'm raw with technique, but it's something I can do," Hodges added about blocking. "I can help by making plays also, but it's something I'm working on every day with my footwork. I've got a great group of guys to learn from with Kyle Rudolph and David Morgan. I haven't gotten close to reaching my ceiling."

Bower prepping for preseason 4

In looking ahead to Minnesota's fourth preseason game Thursday night, defensive end Tashawn Bower said it's important to "treat every game the same" and stay focused on technique and assignment.

That being said, the undrafted rookie knows he'll likely get a lot of action against the Dolphins and needs to be prepared.

"We're going to have a lot more plays and not as much rest," Bower said. "That's why you have to stay in shape and do your assignment so you can get off the field on third downs."

Leidner soaking in experience with Vikings

Quarterback Mitch Leidner said Tuesday's he's unsure if he'll play in Thursday's preseason finale against Miami.

Either way, the former University of Minnesota quarterback said he's enjoyed his time with the Vikings over the past week.

"It's pretty crazy how far you can come in a week," Leidner said. "But I'm really starting to get the playbook down and figure out what's going on offensively and the personnel as well.

"It's been great, everything you could ask for when you're in that situation and just hoping to get that phone call and get an opportunity," Leidner later added. "I'm very fortunate and thankful to the Vikings for giving me this opportunity. I've really enjoyed the first week."

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