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Thank You, Big Phil

All good things must come to an end, they say. It's certainly true in the case of Phil Loadholt's Vikings career. The big-time blocker, a veteran of nine NFL seasons, announced his retirement on Monday.

Loadholt was big time in many senses of the word. In size because he tipped the scales at 6-8, 345 pounds. In ability because he entered the League as a second-round pick, won a starting job after his first training camp and played and started in 89 career games plus three postseason contests. And in heart because he played through injuries, played at a tough position and was a gentle giant off the field.

In my time with the Vikings, Loadholt has been one of the fiercest competitors in the locker room. After a loss, you could see how much it bugged him just by looking in his eyes. After a win, he was quick to celebrate with his offensive line mates and deflect any credit to the rest of the team. But either way, he would give you a fist bump and then move on to the next challenge worthy of his focus. He was always approachable, always kind and never made an outsider feel anything but welcome.

I will always remember on game day mornings in 2009 and 2010 when Brett Favre would briskly walk to the back of the team bus and plop down in a row of seats near Loadholt, and then yell "Big Phil!" as he settled in. I will always remember big crowds around his locker because of his engaging and charismatic personality. I will always remember talking basketball with him because it was a good diversion every now and then – and he always had a well-crafted opinion. I will always remember hoping that in any short-yardage situation the play call was going to be an Adrian Peterson run behind right tackle.

Whether it was blocking for Favre or Peterson, giving his time to the many charitable efforts he supported or helping out the Vikings Entertainment Network with something content-related, Loadholt gave it everything he had, he did it well and he never looked back.

For that, I am big-time thankful.

View some of the best images of Vikings tackle Phil Loadholt who retired Monday after eight seasons in Minnesota.

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