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Vikings, Mall of America Treat Coach, Football Mom to Sprees

A high school football coach and youth football mom were treated to shopping sprees with Vikings receiver Greg Jennings and his wife, Nicole, Tuesday night at Mall of America.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — A high school football coach and youth football mom were treated to shopping sprees with Vikings receiver Greg Jennings and his wife, Nicole, Tuesday night at Mall of America.

Anoka High School Head Coach Jeff Buerkle was nominated by a player's family, and Lisa Johnson was nominated by her 12-year-old son Brendan, a seventh grader on the Inver Grove Heights football team, to receive the sprees. The nomination process included essays written on behalf of Buerkle for his leadership on and off the field and Johnson for her commitment to her son's team.

Greg Jennings and former Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson joined Buerkle on stops at Hammer Made, where the coach traded his hooded sweatshirt for a stylish shirt and sweater combo accented by a scarf and socks, at Banana Republic for a new pair of jeans and at Johnston & Murphy for shoes and a new belt.

"It was kind of a makeover for a coach who has done a lot of great things with his team and is a role model," Greg Jennings said. "I think it's great that he was nominated. I've enjoyed the entire evening with him. He's a great coach, and you can tell he has a lot of substance that kids need to develop into young men, but he's been a trooper and has completely revamped his entire look to Mr. Jeff Buerkle, so he looks good."

Buerkle said he appreciated the fashion advice from "guys that dress pretty sharp" in expanding his style beyond what he initially considered.

"That's pretty cool having some advice from people that know what they're doing, so yeah it's a lot of fun," said Buerkle, who sincerely appreciated that he was nominated.

"That's one of those things, I think we always feel like we're coaching for the right reason, but it's really nice because with coaching there's always a lot of criticism and things," Buerkle said. "It really kind of makes what you're doing feel worth it because there are some guys that appreciate it and some parents that appreciate what you're doing, so that's a really nice compliment and nice thing that they're thinking about you."

Henderson, who now works with high school and community coaches as Vikings Youth Football Manager, said he enjoyed spending time with a coach off the field.

"They spend so much time at practice, at games, getting ready for everything, so this will be a special treat for them," Henderson said. "It's something different. It's good to see the smile on a coach's face outside the football field or in the gym. It's good to see him in a different environment, smiling and trying on clothes."

Nicole Jennings joined Johnson as she had her hair and makeup done at Progressions Salon and for selection of a new wardrobe from Ann Taylor.

"We're always interested in giving back whenever we can, and it's always nice to be able to come out in the community and meet people, moms doing things for their children," Nicole Jennings said. "It's great to meet Lisa, who is working and also a full-time mother and wife and doing her thing, so she deserves a break.

"Being a mother myself and having one son (and three daughters), knowing that your work is cared about and they understand mom does a lot is meaningful," she added. "I think him writing that essay cemented that for Lisa. She's getting everything she deserves, and I know her son is going to be happy with it."

Johnson said attending each of her three children's events and activities is a continuation of the commitment her parents made to her when she played softball during her youth. She appreciated the unique way that the Vikings and Mall of America partnered to reward that commitment.

"It's awesome because my kids mean everything to me and if I can be at all their events I will," Johnson said. "I will miss going out with friends or doing things for myself so that I can be at their event and their sports. I remember my parents were there for me, and I want to be there for my children."

After the sprees, Buerkle and Johnson showcased their new looks to cheers from the Anoka High and Inver Grove Heights teams. The teams received autographs from Jennings and Henderson and a pizza party.

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