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Scouting Twin Cities During Super Bowl Helped Assure Kirk Cousins

EAGAN, Minn. — The impact of Minnesota hosting Super Bowl LII has reached the Vikings locker room for 2018 and beyond.

Economists track and measure financial impact of the game based on visitors to game-related activities like Super Bowl LIVE and Radio Row at Mall of America, and the number of hotels booked and cars rented to calculate the impact of the 10 days leading up to the game.

It turns out one of the visitors — quarterback Kirk Cousins — will be making Minnesota his new home, thanks to a multiyear contract he signed with the Vikings on Thursday.

Cousins was in town the week before the game to be a guest at events and on several radio programs broadcast from the unique Mall of America setting that drew rave reviews.

With Cousins set to become a free agent for the first time in his career, he opted to rent a car that week so that he could scout the Twin Cities in case the Vikings became a suitor.

The timing was just right for market research. Minnesota had a unique situation with quarterbacks Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum having contracts that would expire on March 14 after making it to the NFC Championship.

Having not previously the frenzied opening bell of free agency, Cousins researched multiple possibilities online and demonstrated that he believes in informed decisions, especially when stakes are high, by driving by the Vikings former Winter Park headquarters in Eden Prairie and Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center about a month before the team moved to Eagan.

"I like to prepare and I like to cover my bases, and I don't like to be surprised," Cousins explained Thursday in his introductory press conference. "The nature of free agency is that you don't have time when free agency begins to do your research and to take your visits. Things move quickly as we saw.

"I did take full advantage the week I was here for Super Bowl," Cousins added. "I had five or six days here. … I wanted to get a feel for the area and did the best research that I could."

Married and with an infant son, Cousins wanted to scout out multiple spots and soak up as much information about the area and the Vikings as he could to make an informed decision.

He wanted a team that is built to win and a comfortable setting with the idea of a great fit for the player and team turning into an extended stay.

"As [General Manager] Rick [Spielman] said [Wednesday], this is a lifetime deal," Cousins said. "That's the goal. This is a three-year deal, but the expectation from both sides is we raise our kids here, and then if everything goes as planned, that I'd be here for a long, long time."

On the Tuesday before the Super Bowl, news broke that Washington had an agreement to acquire quarterback Alex Smith from Kansas City via trade. That deal became official with the new league year on Wednesday.

The jarring news dropped during a party for media members organized by the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee.

Cousins maintained his focus and kept surveying the area. He liked what he found.

"I called [my wife] Julie near the end of the week and said, 'Everything is checking the boxes here,' " Cousins explained. "The timing of it was such that I think the second day I was here was when the trade was made to show that I was going to be moving on. So the timing was good for me to start being able to do research here. From there, it was just a process of continuing to gather facts."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen in an interview that aired Friday morning on KFAN's 9 to Noon that he was impressed by Cousins' preparation.

"He really is smart. He studies, he works. He's similar to a lot of our guys," Zimmer said. "He prepares very, very well. As you could tell, he was very articulate about the Twin Cities and the Vikings history. He does his homework on everything."

Zimmer said he also liked what Cousins had to say about joining this team. The quarterback emphasized how much he wants to "assimilate" into what he believes is a well-led organization and help the Vikings win.

"He wants to come in and be a good part of this football team and organization, not just be the star quarterback," Zimmer said. "I don't think that's his mentality, and that's one of the things that I like about him."

It was against the rules for Cousins to meet with Zimmer or Vikings officials before the start of free agency, but he did track down another Minnesota coach.

Cousins, who starred for the Michigan State Spartans, scheduled a meeting with Golden Gophers Head Coach P.J. Fleck to "sit with him for about an hour and learn from him about leadership and some his culture building that he does."

"He was kind enough to grant me an hour, so we sat in his office, and I picked his brain," Cousins explained. "While I'm a Spartan at heart, I'm certainly excited to be in the Gophers backyard, and I'll be cheering them on as well because I have a great deal of respect for Coach Fleck and his leadership abilities."

Cousins also found time to speak with former Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, who was serving as the captain of the Crew 52 volunteers. asked Cousins' father about the level of preparation that his son put into his evaluation.

"Kirk is intentional about the things that he does, and he's a person who comes prepared," Don Cousins said. "Obviously, P.J. is not part of the Vikings, but he's here in Minnesota, so [Kirk] reached out and said, 'Hey, can we get together?'

"Kirk is a guy who does his homework. He does his preparation, and I think Kirk has a pretty good sense of discernment and intuition," Don added. "Just in driving around, talking to people, getting a feel for the area, talking to a guy like Chad Greenway, who [played at] Iowa."

Don explained that his wife, MaryAnn, grew up in the Hawkeye State, graduated from Iowa and still has family connections there.

Thus, Kirk, who was born in Chicago and raised in Michigan, followed Greenway's collegiate and pro careers and his decision to continue to raise his family in the Twin Cities.

"Chad speaks very highly of this community and has decided to stay in this community," Don said. "I think [Kirk] came away from that week, saying, 'I could see myself there. I don't know how it will all play out, but I could see myself there. I like what I saw. I have a good feeling. I have a peace about the possibility of being there.' "

Don said Kirk and Julie enjoyed Washington, D.C., and the nation's capital fed Kirk's robust appreciation for history, but they also are excited about being closer to Midwest ties.

It appears Kirk and Julie's son is already on board, too. Kirk posted a video of Cooper, who will turn 6 months on the 29th, in a knit hat with Viking horns doing the "SKOL Chant" with a little assistance from Julie.

Cooper's excited! #Skol — Kirk Cousins (@KirkCousins8) March 16, 2018

The day before, Cousins closed his press conference saying, "Julie and I are excited about the fact that I'll get up in the morning and come home at night and just be thrilled about where I live, where I work, and it's just a dream come true for us. The stadium, the practice facility, I could go on and on. It's a great place to live. It checked all the boxes for us, certainly."

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