MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings were proud to help recognize achievements from around the state two Sunday ago at the 8th annual Minnesota Football Honors Awards Dinner that was hosted at the Hilton.
The banquet is led by the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame and is presented by the Vikings as a way to recognize football players who have excelled athletically, academically and in exemplifying great character in their communities, as well as coaches and other contributors.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman congratulated the honorees and spoke of the emphasis the Vikings place on character when evaluating and signing players.
The Vikings served as the presenting sponsor of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation's annual awards dinner where the club handed our team awards.
"One thing that we're really emphasizing, and you see it in this room here," Spielman said, "all these kids that are coming up and getting these awards, it's not only what they're doing on the field, but what they do in the communities and what kind of character they have, and that all starts with their parents, guardians and coaches. Without everybody in here doing their job, it makes it tough for us to find those guys and do our job."
Spielman presented awards to Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings Children's Fund Rookie of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year), Everson Griffen (Defensive Player of the Year), Andrew Sendejo (Special Teams Player of the Year) and Chad Greenway (Community Man of the Year).
"In this business, you do your work and try to make things happen on draft day, but there's a lot of luck involved. We were very fortunate to draft this man last year, not a finer human being on this planet than Teddy Bridgewater," Spielman said.
The quarterback, who also won Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year after his 2014 debut season, told Master of Ceremonies Frank Vascellaro of WCCO and the audience that he made sure to focus on academics — and help his mother with household chores — because football doesn't last forever.
"There's a ton of character in this room, and character trumps athletics," Bridgewater said. "When you have great character, it can take you a long way in life."
Spielman said Griffen kept "working and working and working" to be ready once he moved up the depth chart and made a vow to capitalize if extended an opportunity to start.
Spielman recalled Griffen saying, "I promise you if you give me the chance, if you sign me back to a contract with the Minnesota Vikings, I will not let you down. I will give you everything I have in my heart and soul to be the best player I can be."
"We rewarded him with a contract, and he ended up with 12 sacks last year," Spielman said.
Griffen said he wanted to prove he could play at a high level "day–in and day-out for 16 weeks."
"It's not easy to do it, but once you put your mind into it, your heart into, it's about want to and I wanted prove people wrong and help this team win," Griffen said. "Watching film makes me want to go play right now, but I've got to calm down because it's only May."
Spielman said Sendejo took the "long road" to reach this point but did so through persistence.
"I just always believed in myself and knew I could play at this level so I stuck with it," Sendejo said. "That's kind of been the theme (of the event), stick with it and go out there and do it."
Greenway was unable to attend but recorded a video message in which he said he was proud to represent "so many great men" on the Vikings and congratulated other recipients.
Spielman said Greenway has had a "tremendous career on the field, is an even greater person off the field, a true Minnesota Viking and what we're trying to build our program with."
Vikings Pro Football Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel, who is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, said he was pleased to join in honoring award recipients.
"It's always good to see them honor the young men that have come along and what they've done," McDaniel said. "I like that it's honoring football and what they've done in the classroom.
"If it wasn't for the people that met me when I was that young kid in high school and gave me that leadership as role models, who knows where I would have been," McDaniel said. "Things like this are important to come back for, let the kids know they're important and what they're doing, honor them for their accomplishments and then watch them grow and see what they do in the future. It's always good to recognize them and let them know they're doing good work."
Bob Stein College Scholar Athlete Award: Thomas Obarski, kicker, Concordia University-St. Paul (who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bengals)
Fred Zamberletti Award: Roger Casey, a former head athletic trainer at University of St. Thomas who retired after 29 years with the school
Stacy Robinson Leadership Award: Garrett Gardner, St. Paul Central High School
Outstanding Cheerleader Award: Nicole Dailey, University of Minnesota
John Gagliardi Legacy Award:Dick Hanson, whose 24-year tenure (1969-93) at Burnsville High School featured five state championships
Bobby Bell College Impact Player of the Year: David Cobb, running back, University of Minnesota (who was drafted by the Titans)
Courage Award: Josh Benson, running back, Hinckley-Finlayson High School; Benson was paralyzed in a four-wheeler accident last August but is undergoing physical therapy and has been able to walk with the assistance of braces on his legs and arms
Scholar Athletes: Trey Anderson (White Bear Lake Area High School), Tommy Auger (St. Cloud Cathedral High School), Ben Ellefson (Hawley High School), Gunnar Grimsrud (Rochester Mayo High School), Ismael Kamara (Harding High School), Taylor Otterstatter (Mayer Lutheran High School), Ben Shoults (Maple Grove High School), John Solberg (Cambridge-Isanti High School), Mitchell Stangel (Crosby-Ironton High School); each received a $2,000 scholarship
Sid Hartman Media Award: Mike Max of WCCO Radio and Television
Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award: David (posthumously) and Janis Larson, philanthropists, University of Minnesota
Murray Warmath Legendary Team Award: 1965 St. John's University Johnnies