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Vikings Fans Show Purple Pride in London

Several Vikings players stayed after practice on Friday to hold a 'Fuel Up to Play 60' event near Hazelwood Park.

Sunday's game between the Vikings and Browns at Twickenham Stadium was just part of the outreach and festivities.

The Vikings practice squad and Hall of Famers Chris Doleman and John Randle participated in an NFL Play 60 clinic, and the whole team hosted families of military service members who have passed away at Saturday's walk-through.

The weekend also provided Vikings fans from across the United Kingdom and beyond to gather at The Barrowboy & Banker to celebrate the growth of American football after 10 consecutive years of holding regular-season games in London.

Members of an unofficial but deeply impassioned Vikings fan club took over the pub in Central London for an afternoon of connecting in-person just south of London Bridge to deepen friendships that were first bridged online.

The Purple pride was undeniable, even if fans had considerably unique reasons for forging their allegiance to the Vikings.

Thomas Beauchene, the club's acting president, grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, and has used social media to help extend the Vikings fandom across the pond.

"It's been such a great day. We have amazing fans," Beauchene told guest host Becky Ives. "As acting president, my goal is to get everybody together and have a good time, but our overall mission is to do community service and give back to people within the UK."

Xand Kendall, who is on the social media team with United Kingdom Vikings Fan Club, selected the Vikings as a 10-year-old out of slight rebellion from his father's choice of the Packers.

Kendall said he's convinced his wife "she wants to be a Vikings fan," and the couple attended the first game of this season in Minnesota.

View images of Vikings fans in London tailgating for the match up against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Twickenham Stadium.

"It's brilliant," Kendall said of the meet-up. "It means we get to meet all of these amazing people from around the UK, Europe and the States."

Sean West helps coordinate the group's community service coordinator.

"We try to help the community around us underneath the Vikings brand," West said. "We're looking at doing stuff like working in soup kitchens, especially this time of year, winter is coming up and people rely on that kind of service, as well as old peoples' homes, going there and helping out for an afternoon. This weekend is really important for us because it's a good chance for us to recruit.

"I live in London, but people come from Manchester, Scotland, all over the place, so this is a chance for us to find out where to do those kinds of things and then spread the message and get them to help out these volunteer opportunities," West added. "It's great when you can find a group of people that [share] a common interest, so then to use that a positive to help other people is really great. We're a big group, we can make a different in others' lives."

West said his closest friend in elementary school was a Colts fan, so he decided to go to the NFL website, closed his eyes and landed on the Vikings. West was excited to receive an autographed photo of Kyle Rudolph, who has played in both of Minnesota's regular-season games in London.

"He loves Britain, so it's a good guy to get, 'Rudolph the Red Zone Reindeer,' " West said the day before Rudolph caught a touchdown in the red zone.

John MacDonald is a season-ticket holder for the London Series, which including four total games at two venues in 2017. MacDonald said he distributes info about American football and the club at the games. He attended Minnesota's 2013 win over Pittsburgh and envisioned an opportunity to organize fans.

"I look at the room, and it's absolutely amazing," MacDonald said. "It's been a lot of hard work and grinding, but we've gotten there. I'm really happy with what we've done.

"I absolutely bleed Purple and Gold," he added. "I watch every game, no matter how early in the morning it is, or what time I have to get up. I'm surprised by how many fans in the UK that we actually have."

When presented an autographed photo of his own, MacDonald was giddy.

"That's Xavier Rhodes, and he's playing an absolutely cracking season," MacDonald exclaimed. "There's no stopping Rhodes. Rhodes blocked!"

View images from the Barrow Boy & Banker bar, which was home to KFAN's Power Trip morning show on Thursday and Friday this week.

London is six time zones ahead of Minnesota, so the time difference can present a challenge to view events live, but MacDonald and Callum Seymour haven't let that stop them.

Seymour said he hasn't missed a game live "willingly" for five years. Seymour has connected with Vikings World Order members, receiving patches and opting to get multiple Vikings tattoos on his left arm.

Seymour became a fan because of video games when he was about 10.

"I know I'm going to get a lot of stick for this, but I started playing a franchise as the Patriots," Seymour said. "I came up against the Vikings in some way, shape or form years down the line and thought, 'I like the color.' Being 9-10 years of age, you look at the logo and thing that looks pretty cool as well, so from then on, the franchise with the Patriots ended, and [it was] Vikings all the way.

"It's just a family. Everyone is a family," Seymour said of the joys he's experienced since connecting with other Vikings fans. "I've got friends over in Minnesota, and if I wanted to go attend a game next year, they would put me up for a week, maybe two, and wouldn't expect anything. I've got many friends that send me things. I've gotten care packages from a lot of people, all the patches on me jersey. I've got *Playbooks *that date all the way back to 2004. It's just one big happy family."

Cail Whittingham was rocking a Stefon Diggs Color Rush jersey and purple plaid trousers.

"It's my seventh year and second time seeing the Vikings," Whittingham said. "I'm a big football fan, but there's nothing like being with all of the NFL fans, having a laugh, a drink, a good time. It's such a good social event for everybody.

"I love the passion. I love speaking to Kyle Rudolph and Brian Robison on Twitter," Whittingham said. "Brian Robison has been brilliant. He always responds to what I say."

Whittingham was surprised with an autographed photo of Adam Thielen, a day before the receiver was named "Man of the Match" for his five-catch, 98-yard day highlighted by an 18-yard touchdown and epic celebration. He said he plans to place the photo in his son's room.

"He's only 1, so I've got to make him a Viking," Whittingham said.

At the Landmark Hotel, a few blocks north of Kensington Gardens, Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf, General Manager Rick Spielman, Doleman and John Randle participated in an NFL UK Live event hosted by Neil Reynolds of Sky Sports.

"It's great to be back here. We had a great experience in 2013, and it's great to be back," Wilf said. "We love what the NFL is doing in the UK and internationally and are really proud to be supporting it here."

Spielman told the crowd he visited Arsenal of the English Premier League earlier in the week to learn more about their business. He said going to Arsenal's match that afternoon was going to cross an item off his "bucket list."

Spielman said the logistics of bringing an entire team 4,000 miles from Minnesota was similar to the Vikings past experiences with training camp.

"You get away from everything at home, you get a chance to bond with your teammates, you're in a hotel together, you're meeting together, eating together," Spielman said. "It's a great experience for our guys."

When Vikings players had a few moments of downtime at the team hotel, they'd often challenge each other in FIFA *or *Madden. Spielman had a laugh at a matchup between Stefon Diggs and Rhodes.

"We're walking through the lobby the other day, and Diggs was the Vikings, and Xavier was the Saints," Spielman said. "Every play, Stefon Diggs threw the ball to himself."

Doleman and Randle shared anecdotes from their careers and described how they were proud to carry on the Vikings tradition of strong defensive line play that was established by the Purple People Eaters, a tradition they see the current players continuing.

"It's one of the greatest honors you can have, actually," Doleman said of being an ambassador of the Vikings franchise. "I look to Johnny here, and Henry Thomas, and a lot of our guys are really good, not only football players, but great husbands and citizens, and they're also great ambassadors.

"To be able to come over here and share a bit of Minnesota life and what it's like to be in the NFL is our pleasure," Doleman said. "It's something that not everybody gets a chance to do, and I was honored when I was asked."

Randle, a Texas native who has become completely Minnesotan, said he took pride in visiting London.

"When I wanted to get into the National Football League, Minnesota was the team that gave me a chance, so it's definitely an honor," Randle said. "I still live in Minnesota. I love it. I love the cold weather. I love that it gets minus-50 degrees. I'm a Minnesotan, so I'm very proud to be here."

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