LOS ANGELES — There was no doubt who the most popular player on the Vikings was on Wednesday afternoon.
The team held one final practice for the week at Loyola High School in Los Angeles in preparation for Thursday night’s game against the Rams.
Loyola students and faculty alike clamored for the chance to see Anthony Barr in Purple as the Vikings linebacker returned to his high school while with his NFL team.
“I never really thought I’d be back here in this capacity,” Barr said after practice. “But it’s cool, man. I’m just very blessed to be able to come back here and share it with the kids.
“Obviously our focus is on Thursday, but it’s a good little change up,” Barr added.
While Barr was used to the picturesque 76-degree day that included a backdrop of the downtown Los Angeles skyline a few miles away, his teammates took notice of the fact that Barr was at his old stomping grounds.
“Barr is a legend,” Vikings running back Dalvin Cook said as he walked off the practice field.
A 2014 first-round draft pick, and the first selection made by Minnesota under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, Barr has made the Pro Bowl in three straight seasons.
He was a standout at Loyola, too, both on the gridiron and in track and field before going onto to a successful college career at UCLA.
Even though Barr is nearly a decade removed from his high school days, he still has a connection to the school. His brother, Nick, is a kicker and punter for the Cubs but was at study hall during the session.
Barr said coming back to his old high school brought a smile to his face.
“It’s a testament to the work I’ve put in and the support system that has helped me get here,” Barr said. “There are a lot of familiar faces still around here, so it’s cool to see them and catch up a little bit.”
A few of those faces were on hand Wednesday afternoon.
Eddie Rivera has been a security officer at Loyola for the past 13 years. The two immediately caught up as soon as Barr stepped off the bus.
Tim Moscicki has been the head athletic trainer at Loyola for 30 years. Moscicki and Barr also chatted before practice.
Both Moscicki and Rivera said Barr hasn’t changed much since he was a teenager in high school.
Moscicki said Barr and his friends ate lunch in his office almost every day.
“They were in there a lot,” Moscicki said with a smile. “Those were great days with him.
“[He was] like he is now … quiet. You maybe got five words out of him,” Moscicki added. “But he worked hard. The nicest kid of the world.”
Said Rivera: “He was a gentleman in every way you can expect. Every morning when I saw him, he would say, ‘Good morning’ to me and everything.”
Barr has helped the Vikings to a 1-1-1 record on the season with 18 total tackles (according to coaches’ tally). He also has a tackle for loss and a pass deflection.
Now in his fifth season with the team, Barr has upped the ante a bit this season when it comes to his production.
The 26-year-old recently launched a fundraising campaign for his Raise the Barr Foundation.
For every tackle Barr makes this season, he will personally donate $100 toward the fund. Fans and others can pledge either a flat amount or per-tackle donation. Pledges can be made here.
The funds will be split between Barr’s foundation and the Jeremiah Program, both of which are aimed at helping get single mothers out of poverty.
Barr said he had the idea for his foundation after seeing Vikings safety Harrison Smith do a similar campaign through Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I actually saw that Harry was doing it and I thought it was a pretty cool idea,” Barr said. “It’s an easy way to get some funds for the charity and help some families out. I thought it was a good idea, so I piggybacked off that and put my own stamp on it.”
On Wednesday, Barr returned to the place where he initially made his stamp in football.
And although he hasn’t worn a Loyola uniform in quite some time, it was quite evident the impact that Barr made on the school when he was here.
“Those guys have been big supporters and did a lot for me when I was here,” Barr said. “They continue to do a great job so it was good to see them.
“It’s a great school, and I’m proud to be from here,” Barr added.
Assistant General Manager George Paton also attended Loyola High School and enjoyed reconnecting with several familiar faces.
View images from the Vikings practice on Wednesday in Los Angeles from Anthony Barr's former high school as the team gets set to take on the Rams on Thursday Night Football.