EAGAN, Minn. — The memories — some good, a few bad and others downright Vikings — returned to Brian Robison and Steve Hutchinson on recent trips to the Minnesota Vikings Museum.
Each player earned his respective place in Vikings lore prior to the creation of the facility that opened in July 2018 adjacent to the team's new headquarters at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Robison and Hutchinson didn't play football because they hoped to one day land in a museum, but they do appreciate knowing there is now a physical place to recognize Vikings Legends.
"This is special," said Hutchinson, who is featured in an interactive projection book that honors the 50 Greatest Vikings and other places in the museum. "If you were to tell me, 'Well, there's a new museum at the facility, and it's got a lot of history,' I guess I would be like, 'Well, that's cool.' But you don't get an appreciation for it as a former player until you walk through it and see the things, 'Oh, I remember playing in that game,' or 'I forgot that that happened.' "
Hutchinson said he enjoyed seeing the gear of earlier Vikings Legends that he met when they'd visit Winter Park.
"All I can think of is my kids and how much they'd enjoy it," Hutchinson said. "I'm not really one to talk about myself and about my career. It's great to see that there's places like this that can do it for you and know that you were part of something huge.
"You look at the names and the faces in this museum, and the accomplishments not only from the Vikings, but there's a ton of stuff here that made a huge impact in the history of the NFL, not just this franchise," he added. "It's one of the most historic franchises in the league, based on the history and players and the amount of quality players that have come through here, so to have this kind of stuff in here, look at it and remember, it's pretty cool."
Former Vikings DE Brian Robison visited TCO Performance Center for his retirement press conference and to see old teammates and friends.
Robison spent his entire 11-season career in Purple, from his selection in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft to his final official game at U.S. Bank Stadium that ended with the Minneapolis Miracle.
He admired the wall that features a photo of Stefon Diggs going up to make the famous catch, an interactive monitor with game highlights, sideline cam footage and fan-submitted bonkers reactions, as well as cases that feature an ESPY and NFL Honors trophy and a diagram of the play.
"That's pretty cool, the play up there," Robison said.
"That was probably the fastest 40 I've ever ran," added the defensive end who zipped down the sideline to celebrate with Diggs and teammates in the end zone.
"When I try to explain it to people, it was pure pandemonium. It was shock," Robison said, reliving the moment. "I hear people talk about it all the time, 'I didn't know it was real.' You did not know if it was real. The first thing is, you look back to make sure there's no flags because you're like, 'No way it's going to end that way.' And then you look back, and there's no flags and then you look at the scoreboard and start looking around, 'This just happened,' so it's kind of hard to explain, but straight pandemonium is the only way I can explain it."
Hutchinson arrived in Minnesota after five seasons with Seattle and continued to rack-up All-Pro selections and trips to the Pro Bowl in his six seasons with the Vikings, including five that overlapped with Robison's first five campaigns in the league.
They were teammates for the first time in the 2007 season opener when Adrian Peterson scored his first career touchdown, turning a simple swing pass into a juggling grab and sprint by defenders for a 60-yard score that introduced him to the NFL. The play is featured on a touch-screen monitor of the greatest plays in franchise history.
"There were guys in the defense, safeties and linebackers that had the angle and should have made the tackle," Hutchinson recalled. "I remember watching the film the next day with [Matt Birk]."
A few footsteps from that monitor, the 2009 team is honored in a space that features game-worn artifacts, including shoulder pads once donned by Robison and jerseys worn by Hutchinson, Peterson and former foe Brett Favre, who punctuated his first home start in Purple with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone with two seconds remaining, a case of "Favre being Favre." That play is also featured in the greatest plays, and the video shows Hutchinson congratulating Favre on the field after the play.
"That's the kind of stuff that just goes your way in years like that," Hutchinson reflected.
Robison could only laugh when he saw a "Mullet Militia" T-shirt inspired by Jared Allen on display in the 2009 section.
"When I look back at this team, I just think of the star power that we had," Robison said. "You look at guys like Adrian, Jared, Brett Favre, Steve Hutchinson, The Williams Wall, all of these guys that are Pro Bowl types. It's kind of crazy to me that I was able to be on that caliber of a team and be right there with them, playing. It's just surreal to look at that and understand the type of players you had. It's pretty cool."
As Hutchinson surveyed the memorabilia, he was asked about his strongest memory from that season and quietly said, "There were so many. Let's look at the schedule."
"Probably those two Green Bay games, having swept them, that was probably the first time in a while that we had swept them," Hutchinson said.
He's right. Minnesota had last previously swept the Border Battle in 2005, before dropping five contests in a row.
"Those Detroit games (27-13 and 27-10 wins) were closer than the scores showed," Hutchinson added. "That Carolina game (a 26-7 loss) was interesting. That Dallas game (a 34-3 victory in the Divisional Round), that was a fun one. Then, of course, the end one (a gut-wrenching 31-28 loss to New Orleans in the NFC Championship), they're still talking about."
That game was about as crushing as any in the team's nearly 60 years of frequent success in the regular season followed by grueling postseason agony.
The subsequent season was supposed to be a second chance but was anything but. Even the roof of the Metrodome caved in during a blizzard, forcing the final two home games of the season to be played at Detroit's Ford Field (a day after it was initially scheduled) and at the University of Minnesota.
"2010 was a really eventful year, and not in a good way," Hutchinson said. "I couldn't even tell you about all of the stuff. It will be in a book one day. Why wouldn't we go to Detroit and play a home game? And play a Tuesday night game [because of a blizzard] in Philly."
Across the museum, Robison stepped through spaces about the three permanent Vikings homes on game days (Metropolitan Stadium, 1961-81; the Metrodome, 1982-2013; and U.S. Bank Stadium, which he helped officially open in 2016 with a win over the Packers).
"That's crazy. I remember when that happened," Robison said, looking at an aerial photo of the Metrodome after the roof collapsed. "I was like, 'WHAT?' And then we went to Detroit for a home game."
The decision to replace the Metrodome with U.S. Bank Stadium on the same site meant the Vikings would play the 2014-15 home schedule at the University of Minnesota.
"I think the main thing for us was, 'We've got to play outside for two years?' We went from that [mindset] to kind of embracing that," Robison said before lamenting that his contemporaries didn't incorporate the "O-din" chant that the Purple People Eaters uttered over howling winds at Metropolitan Stadium.
"We should have done that," Robison said. "It would have been awesome."
"We embraced [playing outside], and then it was like, 'Hell yeah. You've got to come to us. Good luck.' I remember when we played Carolina there (a 31-13 win in November 2014). Just seeing the look on some of their faces, like, 'I just want to go back home.' For us, it was like, 'Welcome to our world.' "
The nomadic journeying concluded, and Minnesota was able to defeat Green Bay 17-14 on Sunday Night Football.
"That was awesome. It came down to the wire, and the place was electric," Robison said. "It still never ceases to amaze me when I look at a picture of it. I don't think people, even from looking at pictures, will ever grasp how crazy the stadium is until you're in it. You always worry that once you get into that place that it's going to underwhelm you because you've had so much [anticipation] for it, and then you get there and it's beyond belief, 'We get to call this home?' "
Now Robison and Hutchison can call the Vikings Museum home as well.
"To see the big plays in the history of the franchise or scroll through the 50 Greatest Vikings interactive book, that's the kind of stuff you don't get an appreciation of until you walk through and see it and be glad that people had enough foresight to know to do this," Hutchinson said. "I'm the type of person that will go on a vacation and not take a picture, 'Oh, I'll remember it,' and then what do you have to show for it? This is the kind of thing that's really cool, and I'm glad the Wilfs were willing to set aside the square footage for this."