EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings will incorporate multiple ways of saluting breast cancer survivors, paying tribute to those who have lost their battles and raising awareness about the disease during today's game against the Lions.
The "A Crucial Catch: Annual Screening Saves Lives" campaign is an initiative of the NFL, its clubs, players, the NFL Players Association and the American Cancer Society to emphasize the importance of annual screenings, particularly for women 40 and older, for early detection and treatment.
The initiative has a personal connection for Vikings rookies Teddy Bridgewater and Antone Exum Jr., whose mothers are breast cancer survivors.
Bridgewater's mother, Rose Murphy, will be the Honorary Viking and sound the Gjallarhorn.
Bridgewater, the 21-year-old QB who is expected to make his second NFL start, said he was already familiar with the "A Crucial Catch" campaign and appreciates the role it has in raising awareness and inspiring patients.
"I paid attention growing up and watching NFL games, and ever since the NFL started wearing the breast cancer symbols and everything," Bridgewater said. "It's going to mean a lot for me because my mom is a breast cancer survivor. It's going to be a good feeling knowing that we're playing a game that salutes and contributes to breast cancer (awareness)."
Exum was in middle school when his mother, Barbara Exum, was diagnosed with breast cancer. His mother, however, didn't tell Exum or his sister because their grandmother, Carreanna Exum, passed away from cancer shortly before Barbara's diagnosis.
Exum said he's proud to help raise awareness in the game, and his mother has plans to extend the effort for others. Barbara Exum will be an honorary captain during the coin toss before the Vikings host the Lions.
"I'm representing all of them when I put on the pink color and definitely my mother. It's definitely meaningful for me," Exum said. "With all the eyes on us and how much we're in the public eye, wearing pink will hopefully raise awareness for women across the world to get checked out to make sure everything is OK and you're cancer free. I know that's a message that my mom has been trying to preach, and I know she has plans in her future to try to raise that awareness."
Other game-day elements with close connection to the "A Crucial Catch" campaign include:
· Presentation of the colors by breast cancer survivors from the Minnesota National Guard's Pink Tank Project; the soldiers scheduled to present the colors are: Sgt. Cassie Mecuk, Master Sgt. Brenda Woods, Senior Master Sgt. Jami Panula and Col. Sandy Best
· Sgt. Mecuk, who currently serves as the Officer Actions Non-Commissioned Officer with the 34th Infantry Division Battalion in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., will also be recognized for raising more than $20,000 to help fight breast cancer. At the age of 19, Sgt. Mecuk committed to the Minnesota Army National Guard, following in her father's footsteps. One year ago, she found out that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer for a third time. She continues to combat this terrible disease.
· Distribution of pink ribbons to fans by the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, which has spread the message of early detection to millions since launching its first "Think Pink" event in 1999; members of the sorority will be in "Think Pink" T-shirts before the game and pass out the pink ribbons to fans entering TCF Bank Stadium
· Prior to today's game, select fans that have been impacted by breast cancer will carry a large pink ribbon onto the field for a recognition moment. This will coincide with the presentation of the season ticket member fan flag.
· Coaches, players and referees for today's game will be wearing pink game apparel. Much of the apparel, along with special game balls and a pink game coin, will be auctioned off at NFL Auction with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society's Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants of Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) program.
· King BMX Stunt Show riders, who have amazed crowds across the United States, will display pink during their halftime show.