He remembers it like yesterday.
Ten-year-old Laquon Treadwell and his three brothers were in their front yard of a new neighborhood, throwing a football back and forth, when a boy they’d never met before stopped by and asked if they wanted to play on a team.
“We always played with a football, but we didn’t know it was a team sport, an organized sport,” Treadwell recalled.
Treadwell and his brothers checked in with their mother, jumped on their bikes and followed their new friend.
As Treadwell pedaled his bike up a hill and reached the crest, he saw it.
“There were cheerleaders, there were players on the field, everywhere,” Treadwell said. “I can still picture it to this day, when I went over that hill and just saw all the activity.
“It was something we’d never seen because of where we were from; there was [a lot of] violence, and there weren’t any organized sports [outside] of school,” Treadwell said. “And when we got there, it was like, ‘Wow. This is a whole new world.’ ”
Treadwell jumped in with both feet. While he hoped to be a running back, he was beat out by a boy named Lonnie – the two remain friends years later – and ended up playing fullback instead.
“But it was all good; we ended up going undefeated and winning the championship,” Treadwell said. “I loved that moment, and I’ve loved football ever since then.”
We caught up with Laquon for a recent Timeout:
Quigley and Treadwell helped host a "Fuel Up to Play 60" assembly and were met by raucous cheers from elementary students at the School of Engineering and Arts.
Q: A lot of players are active in the community this time of year, but why did you decide on a visit with elementary school students?
A: Well, it is the holiday season, and I just thought it was necessary. I was less fortunate as a kid. I didn’t get too many presents at Christmas, and my mom worked really hard. She was a single mom of six kids, so you know how tough that could have been. But she did what she could, and I’ve just seen myself as someone who can get out and impact some kids.
We went up [to the school], and I passed out some footballs and some presents, some player cards, and we had a pizza party. The kids were very excited from the time I walked in.
Then we went to the gym, and we did some exercises and threw some footballs around. They just enjoyed it, and it made an impact on them. It was good for me to see, it was a humbling experience, and I’ll just continue to focus on working hard and giving back.
Q: You talk a lot about wanting to be a positive influence; who were some people who made a positive impact on your life?
A: My mentors, Jerry Butler and Torian Moore. There were several men in my life that I leaned on and took knowledge and wisdom from, but those two were probably the most impactful. [My first youth coach] impacted my life tremendously … He was our head coach, and he just always taught us discipline and other things that help me even today.
I speak a lot about the story of Dwyane Wade coming to my elementary school because that made such an impact. And I still remember it, so I know it made a positive impact on my life and where I wanted to be. Every time I go to these schools, I just remember myself in those shoes.
Q: You and your mom are close; does now being a parent yourself affect your perspective?
A: When I first had my daughter, I was young and didn’t really know what to expect. I was really afraid about life – “What’s next?” I was an athlete, and I just didn’t know. It was just the fear of the unknown. But [her birth] impacted my life in the most positive way, and it changed my perspective on life in general. Just being a parent, it makes you grow up faster. I was 17 at the time, so I had to grow up fast and separate myself from a lot, my friends, in high school.
I had to mature a little earlier, but now [she’s 5], and it’s just one of the most amazing things to have a child looking up to you and following your every move. And to able to teach them good and bad and right from wrong. Now you see why your parents were on you so much when you were a kid. It’s a beautiful thing.
Q: Growing up in Chicago, did you watch the Bears a lot?
A: As a kid, I used to watch Devin Hester and Bernard Berrian, but I wasn’t a Bears fan. I would also watch Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne [on the Colts]. I used to always hear Peyton say ‘Omaha’ – that’s all we knew growing up and would joke about it as kids.
Growing up, all we used to see were cold games, snowy games, games playing in the snow – Brian Urlacher, James Tillman punching balls out – and just physical games … the NFC North, all we knew was just hard-nosed, running the ball, Adrian Peterson. We just knew it was going to be a snowy, [gritty] type of game – that’s all we knew, and that’s how we played when we grew up.
Q: How have you grown the most since being drafted by the Vikings in 2015?
A: I just have a better understanding of not just the game, but overall, just professionalism. It’s one thing to be a great athlete, but it’s another thing to be a professional – and I think every guy here does a great job of that. When I came here, I tried to figure out where I would fit in on the team, where my character on the team would fit in.
I’m a humble guy, but I’m a competitor. I didn’t want to rub anybody the wrong way. I wanted to compete, I wanted to make plays, but it’s also a business [and I wanted to] learn the business.
When I got here, I had to learn everything, and it was just being in the building every day and taking it a day at a time – going through the fire, learning, messing up, and I just think I’ve learned the professionalism of it and knowing how to be not only a great athlete but a great teammate and being coachable. I was always coachable, but the NFL is a different level. It’s a different type of communication.
What makes this 2017 Vikings team special?
I think the team this year is special because there’s no selfishness.
If you look around the locker room, I mean, everybody wants to be “the guy” and everybody wants to contribute, but I think that’s what fuels the team – everybody wants to be a part of helping the team win. And when it comes to Sunday, it all comes out on the field against the other team. There’s no selfishness; everybody works hard. I consider myself a hard worker, but Adam [Thielen] and [Stefon] Diggs, they’re working just as hard and probably harder. That’s the biggest thing.
Everybody takes it a day at a time … we’re just going to work. And then we get to Sunday, and it’s more fun when you know you’ve put in all the work throughout the week and you didn’t leave any plays or give a coach a reason to say, ‘You didn’t do this right’ or ‘You didn’t put enough effort in.’ If you watch our film, everybody’s scratching and searching for a block or running routes, even if they’re not getting the ball. If you look at other teams, guys are taking plays off, guys not blocking for the running back, so that’s what makes the difference on our team. Everybody’s unselfish and willing to do the extra to help our team win.