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Vikings in the Community: Teaming Up with Special Olympians


EAGAN, Minn. — A rookie quarterback lit up the field last week at TCO Stadium.

Dustin Delfs was one of a few dozen athletes from Special Olympics Minnesota who teamed up with a handful of Vikings players Tuesday for games of unified flag football at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

It was Delfs who stole the show, as the 29-year-old tossed multiple touchdown passes, including at least two to tight end Tyler Conklin, on a day where everyone who turned out had fun.

"This is my first year [at quarterback], so it's turning out pretty well," Delfs said. "Conklin is one of my idols. I've watched him play a few times. But playing with the Vikings was just amazing. From my heart, it touched me.

"Honestly, I never thought this day would come and that I'd be playing on the Vikings turf," Delfs added. "This is a childhood dream. I got to feel that moment of being a quarterback on this field."

At one point, as Delfs was being interviewed, Conklin trotted over and proclaimed that his guy was "the best quarterback in the league."

"He was throwing it today," Conklin said. "I don't know how many touchdowns he threw, but there were a lot of them."

The afternoon of fun, football and new friends marked the second straight year the Vikings have hosted Special Olympics Minnesota for a tournament at their facility.

In addition to Conklin, Sean Mannion, Brian O'Neill, Brett Jones, Jayron Kearse, Eric Wilson, Kentrell Brothers and Jake Browning also showed up to support the group. Each player was assigned to one of the eight teams on hand.

While the players initially planned on coaching, some couldn't help but get on the field in the middle of the action.

"I was getting coached up by my team … my standard of play wasn't high enough. This is important to them, and they're having fun," O'Neill said. "I'm just trying not to mess it up. They have all their plays, and I'm just going where they need me.

"They get to experience the same joy we get from playing football," O'Neill added. "It's a great game, and you can see on their faces that they're having a lot of fun."

Added Kearse: "It's a great opportunity for everyone out here. They're happy to see us, but we're happy to be running around with them. I'm just as happy as them to be out here."

While the main goal was for everyone to have fun, there was a was a competitive element to it, too.

Devin Kaasa, the Senior Manager of Sports and Education for Special Olympics Minnesota, said that the athletes have been prepping for the state tournament at the end of October.

"To be able to come out and play at the Vikings practice facility is cool in itself, but to be able to have some of the Vikings players out coaching and playing with them is a really awesome experience," Kaasa said. "This is an experience that they'll hold with them. The Vikings have been great to work with."

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was also on hand to take in the atmosphere. Special Olympics Minnesota is near and dear to Spielman, as has a daughter who is a Special Olympian.

There might not have been a more popular figure after the games ended, as there was a long line for Spielman's autograph — even if some signatures came on anything the athletes had nearby.

"I haven't signed an iPhone, so that was a first. And a stinky shoe," Spielman said with a laugh. "And an arm with a big bicep. They need to get the players' autographs, not mine. I just wanted to interact with them and let them know how much we appreciate them coming out here."

Spielman then turned serious for a minute and was a bit emotional as he described the impact that the partnership between Special Olympics Minnesota and the Vikings has on one another.

"Just to come out here and see our players interacting with the Special Olympians, and for them to get an opportunity to play on this field and compete for all of their heart and everything they have, it's actually just as moving as it is watching our team play on Sundays," Spielman said. "These kids, I know they want to get the same opportunities other kids get. For them to get to do this, it's incredible."

Thielen hosts 2nd annual Topgolf Classic

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen hosted his second annual Topgolf Classic on Monday night.

The event raised money for The Thielen Foundation, which focuses on youth in the Twin Cities and helping them reach their full potential.

Monday's festivities included a visit from multiple Timberwolves players, who tried out their skills on the range.