ST. PAUL – Stephen Weatherly stood poised and focused, blocked out the chaos around him and prepared to react.
The second he heard the call, he lunged forward with his arms extended …
… and handed off a hot tray of chocolate chip cookies to a smiling, sweating high school student.
The call came again, and Weatherly pivoted quickly once, then twice, trying to pinpoint the source.
He spotted an empty pan and dashed to replace it with his. Just behind him, Martha Rossini Olson laughed.
The sight of the 6-foot-5 Weatherly darting about inside the Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar building in a bright-yellow T-shirt was comical, to say the least. But Martha mostly was impressed by how quickly he caught on to the process.
"He was just right on the spot with those cookies," Martha told Vikings.com. "And then he went to serving milk, where I noticed how his height gave him quite the advantage, because he could see the server who was calling for milk immediately, and then he could look over the crowd and call out to the crowd, 'Do you want a milk? Do you want a milk?'
"We just thought it was so much fun," continued Martha, a lifelong Vikings fan. "He was so enthusiastic about everything he did."
Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly visits Sweet Martha's Cookies at the Minnesota State Fair.
Weatherly tackled the madness of the Minnesota State Fair for a segment of The Weatherly Report, a Vikings Entertainment Network content series that is new for the 2019 season. And he didn't simply sit back and observe; as with the "hot hands" runner station, the Vikings defensive end embraced each step of the process.
"From the mixing of the ingredients all the way to serving it to the customer was great. My favorite part was being the cookie runner," Weatherly said. "I was thinking, 'OK, they've got a whole tray; they'll be fine.' But then you realize, they have probably 20-25 open stations, and you've gotta stay on the move.
"Playing football and always having to read and react, I was pretty good at that," Weatherly added. "I would say that was my favorite part."
Martha was pleasantly surprised at the inquisitiveness of Weatherly, who has become known for his plethora of off-field hobbies.
"We were thrilled with that. He was so on top of things," said Martha. "He had so many questions on all the different areas we were working, from the mixing to the dolloping to the baking, and finishing up with the serving."
The native of Snellville, Georgia, had only gotten a small taste of the Fair in previous visits. This time around, he enjoyed immersing himself in the experience and even did some research on the Sweet Martha's cookie franchise.
Martha has been selling her baked-on-the-spot chocolate chip cookies for more than 30 years. What started as a 9-by-11-foot booth soon turned into two small buildings, each holding multiple ovens to constantly cook the thousands upon thousands of sought-after treats.
There now are three Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar buildings on the State Fair grounds. And in 2018, the franchise was the highest-grossing food vendor over the 10-day span.
"It's a well-oiled machine. Everyone has a job, everyone does their job and is highly efficient. It's really fast," said Weatherly, who added that it meant a lot for Martha herself to spend time showing him the ropes.
"I've never really had a real job. Growing up, I was always playing sports, even in the summers and stuff like that, so to see a bunch of high schoolers coming in and running Sweet Martha's like that was impressive," Weatherly continued. "A lot of pressure, from having to deal with asking for more cookies, and then greeting customers, and then running milk. It was a lot, but I was happy to be a part of it."
On the field and on-air
The Weatherly Report will feature six episodes in which Weatherly does a unique activity or tries his hand at a new craft. In the debut episode that aired earlier this month on Vikings Connected, the defensive end learned the art of glass blowing.
In an upcoming segment of The Weatherly Report, viewers can watch Weatherly play "Split or Steal" with patrons at the Mall of America.
"That was really fun, testing the notion of 'Minnesota Nice.' But it turned out that Minnesotans really are nice," Weatherly laughed. "That was probably my favorite episode."
Since joining the Vikings as a seventh-round draft pick in 2016, Weatherly has worked his way up the proverbial ladder to play a more integral role in Minnesota's defense. And while he's proud of his on-field success, he's excited to show fans another side of himself.
"I'm more than just a football player, and it's great to show that I like to do different things," Weatherly said. "If anyone can take something away from it, it's that when you have an idea, if you have an interest in something, just go for it."
Does he have any trepidations about the new series?
According to Weatherly, he's "super nervous" about how the show will be received. He's gotten ample feedback for appearances in various other Vikings Connected segments, including the debut episode of “The Hot Dish.” But just like his experience as a cookie runner, the pressure is on.
"What if people don't think I'm funny? That would be awkward," Weatherly said.
But if it's any consolation, Sweet Martha herself has no doubt in her mind.
"Stephen is so much fun to work with," Martha said. "He's always got that positive attitude, and he's really a great guy. Everyone's going to love the show, because they're going to love him."