EAGAN, Minn. – Harrison Smith received an early Christmas present on Tuesday, and it wasn't the fact that he was named to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl.
Rather, it came in the form of a snowman-printed gift bag stuffed with red tissue paper.
Nine-year-old Hok presented the gift during Smith's annual Big Brothers, Big Sisters dodgeball game at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Hok looked on with a smile as Smith unveiled a carefully wrapped coffee mug. An H was embossed in black on the cream ceramic.
"Let's go!" Smith exclaimed, "Do you have one too?"
"No," Hok said with a giggle. "But 'H' for Harrison and Hok."
Smith thanked the youngster for the special gift before posing with his buddy.
The two first became connected this summer, when Smith became Hok's "Big Brother" for a day.
Smith spent time with Hok at the Minnesota Science Museum, where they conducted lab experiments, checked out exhibits and even tested their speed in a race.
"I won, though," Hok proudly told Vikings.com.
Spending a day with Hok meant a lot to Smith, who has since reunited with the boy at a handful of BBBS events.
"Everyone sees us as athletes, as professional football players, which is great – it's what we do – but if you can spend some time at a science museum with a young kid like Hok, [you can show] him there's more than what you already know – and there's more than just football," Smith said. "Being able to do other things is great, and it just opens kids up to keep growing and to learn more about whatever it is that piques their interest."
Director of Marketing & Recruitment for BBBS Jennifer Severson explained that Hok had been on a waiting list for more than 200 days before being paired with Smith for a day.
"Hok looked up to Harrison so much. They just hit it off," Severson said.
Since then, Hok – who spent his own money to purchase the mug for Smith – has been paired with Big Brother Joseph Tourand, who attended Tuesday's event at TCO Performance Center with his Little.
Tourand explained that he was involved with BBBS for seven years in Washington. Upon moving to Minnesota for law school, he opted to re-join the Twin Cities chapter and is glad he did.
Vikings S Harrison Smith hosted his annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities dodgeball game and donor event at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
"The program here is a lot more interactive, setting up great events like this," Tourand said. "This is amazing."
The impact Smith has made on Hok is undeniable.
"It means the world to Hok," Tourand said. "All he asks about is when we're going to come do another event, and I told him, 'Guess what? We're going to go play dodgeball [with Smith],' and he lost his mind. He doesn't ever stop talking about it.
"I don't even think I'm doing it justice," Tourand added. "He's so excited about this."
Hok wasn't the only Little at Tuesday's event that Smith remembered from previous events. He recognized and spent time chatting with several young people who have been part of BBBS for a while.
He also reconnected with Jay, a Little he met during Vikings Training Camp in 2018 and later surprised at his youth football game. Jay, who attended the dodgeball event with his Big Couple Matt and Britta, was in for another unexpected gesture.
Away from the attention of media members and cameras, Smith gifted Jay with the football he intercepted from Chargers QB Philip Rivers during the Vikings 39-10 win in L.A. In addition to scrawling his name across the pigskin in silver Sharpie, Harrison added a message:
BE GREAT WHATEVER YOU DO
Hok and Jay, along with 50 other Littles and their respective Bigs, were able to not interact with not only Smith but also Vikings teammates Anthony Harris, Andrew Sendejo, Kris Boyd, Holton Hill, Mike Hughes and Irv Smith, Jr.
"Irv came, which is great, so we've got one offensive guy," Smith laughed. "But the DBs always show out, which is great. We stick together, and that's what I love about us."
The Vikings signed footballs, posed for photos and answered questions with the guests, who also were given tours of the team locker room. To cap off the evening, the entire group played a large game of dodgeball in the Indoor Practice Facility.
"It's wonderful for [the young people to] see that they're real people," Severson said of the athletes. "They give back to their community, and for kids to see that and what they can strive for in their future is really important and really life-changing for some of them.
"It's great to have someone like Harrison involved in our agency and the great work we do, our mission," Severson continued. "I think what we see from Harrison is that he really cares about our kids when we do an event. He'll stay and sign every autograph, he takes every photo, he gets down to the kids' level and asks them questions. It's an amazing opportunity for our kids to see that. And some of them have been here year after year and come to see Harrison at various events. So, having that consistency is amazing for us."
In 2018, a total of 3,780 Twin Cities youth were served, but BBBS is always looking for more Bigs. Currently, 256 young people are waiting to be paired with a mentor. To learn more, click here.