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Patterson, Joseph Help Coach Special Olympics Flag Football

ORLANDO –Whether he's playing or coaching, Cordarrelle Patterson has high goals.

Patterson exchanged his cleats for a clipboard last week and helped coach an exhibition game for the Special Olympics Unified Flag Football program.

The game kicked off between two local Florida teams sponsored by Tampa Bay and Miami. Patterson and Vikings teammate Linval Joseph coached the Buccaneers squad that ran away with a double-digit victory.

"It's always fun winning. When I came out here, my expectations were high," Patterson said with a smile. "It's fun coming out here with these kids for the Special Olympics and trying to put smiles on [the faces] of each and every one of them."

Joseph, who received his first Pro Bowl nod after his performance during the 2016 season, said the event was a highlight of his time in Orlando. He described the afternoon as both fun and emotional.

"They just love being around us, and we love being around them," Joseph said of the athletes. "Just seeing them happy [is what it's all about]."

The program's "unified" designation indicates teams that are made up of both Special Olympics athletes as well as youth with no disabilities.

Ellen Herold, the Communications Director for Special Olympics Florida, said that partnering with NFL PLAY 60 provided an invaluable platform to help increase awareness and involvement with the organization.

Herold also emphasized the significance of NFL players participating in the activities.

"They look up to these players and see them on TV each week, so the chance to play and interact and meet them [makes] a huge impact," said Herold. "Especially when they're promoting PLAY 60 and being active and healthy, which is a shared goal for Special Olympics."

View images of the Vikings taking part in cheering and coaching at the Special Olympics game at the 2017 Pro Bowl.

Joseph and Patterson fully immersed themselves in the competition – cheering for their players, breaking down team huddles and running down the sideline to follow big plays.

A little good-natured competition existed between coaches, as well.

"Linval was just telling them to rush the quarterback the whole time," Patterson quipped. "I was there telling the quarterbacks how to throw, the receivers how to catch the ball and the running backs how to run it. That's just the kind of guy I am – I coach them all. I don't just coach one position."

Patterson, in his second career Pro Bowl, said it was important for himself and other NFL athletes to take the time to give back. In spending a small chunk of their afternoon with the youth, a significant impact was made.

The event reminded Patterson what it was like to be a young athlete with big goals.

"It means so much to them," Patterson said. "When we were little, we looked up to those older guys in the NFL and what it takes to get there, and they're probably saying the same things."

Keith McMaster, an on-field coordinator for NFL PLAY 60, said the partnership and exhibition game stressed an ongoing message for PLAY 60.

"It's not just for certain athletes; it's for all athletes," McMaster said. "We're inclusive of all athletes of any level, any skill, any age."

"It's an impact that [you can't recognize] until you're out here playing," McMaster added. "And for these kids, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

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