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Vikings Salute Minnesota Football Honors Winners

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For the fourth consecutive year the Vikings recognized the 2015 winners of the Minnesota Football Honors on Sunday.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings players — Chad Greenway, Linval Joseph, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen — said Sunday night that individual awards they received were made possible by teammates.

Greenway, Joseph, Diggs and Thielen on Sunday attended the ninth annual Minnesota Football Honors Awards Dinner at the Minneapolis Hilton and were presented awards from General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

The Vikings organization co-presented the dinner with the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation. The dinner salutes athletic, academic and civic achievements by players, coaches and support staff throughout the state of Minnesota at prep, college and professional levels. The Vikings also announced that next year's event will be held at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Greenway was recognized as the Vikings Community Man of the Year for the third time in his career. Joseph was named Defensive Player of the Year, Diggs was chosen as Vikings Children's Fund Rookie of the Year, Thielen was named Special Teams Player of the Year, and Adrian Peterson, who was unable to attend, was named Offensive Player of the Year for 2015.

"It's obviously a great honor. We have so many great guys in this community and on our football team," Greenway said during a session with reporters. "I think the Vikings do a great job of really giving a lot of guys the opportunity to have community outreach, whether it's something they're passionate about from their history or in their family, or whether they just get involved in another guy's charity, so it's obviously an honor any time you can get an award like this."

Joseph, who was NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 9, told reporters, "Without the team, I wouldn't have gotten this award. The linebackers doing their jobs, the defensive ends doing their job. I'm just glad and honored."

Joseph does a considerable amount of dirty work at nose tackle, often taking on double teams from opposing offensive linemen. He also made a mark on the stat sheet in his second season in Minnesota, recording 71 tackles (43 solo), eight tackles for loss and 26 quarterback hurries.

Diggs, a fifth-round pick a year ago, led the Vikings with 52 catches and 720 yards in 13 games. He ranked second on the team with four touchdown catches. Peterson led the NFL with 1,485 yards on the ground for his third career rushing title. He tied for the league lead with 11 rushing scores.

Thielen, who has worked his way up from joining the practice squad in 2013, had 10 special teams tackles last season and ran a fake punt 41 yards on Minnesota's opening drive at Green Bay in the 2015 finale that secured the NFC North title for the Vikings.

"There's a lot of good, talented special teamers on our team, so to get this award is pretty cool, definitely an honor," the native of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, said.

The players all spoke with master of ceremonies, WCCO anchor Frank Vascellaro, to share with the crowd their gratitude to people who have helped them make it to the sport's highest level.

Greenway, now at the onset of his 11th season in Minnesota, told the sold-out crowd of 800, "You can't achieve that goal by always looking at the end. It's got to be, 'What goal are you going to survive that day?'

"Every day, you realize a couple of things you can always control: one is your attitude and one is your effort. I think even to this day in my career, those are the two things I rely on more than anything, more than talent or speed or anything," Greenway added. "It's about, 'What can I bring from an attitude and effort standpoint every day and constantly win that day?', whether you're recovering from an ACL injury or you're in a push for the playoffs. It's about what you can control."

Zimmer and Spielman, whose fathers both coached high school football, told the crowd they still call upon values they learned from participating in the sport.

Zimmer, whose late father, Bill, is in the Illinois High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame for a 35-year career, said "camaraderie, being disciplined, fighting to overcome adversity and teamwork" are elements that make football "the greatest sport in the world."

Spielman recalled character traits in Zimmer that were observable during the interview process that led to the long-time defensive coordinator's hire by Minnesota for his first NFL head coaching opportunity in 2014.

"When we went through the process of interviewing Coach Zimmer, and just listening to his background and my background, it was uncanny how parallel they ran," Spielman said. "We learned a lot of our values from our fathers, not only what it takes to be a good football player, but what it takes to be a good student-athlete and what it takes to be a good person.

"The Minnesota Vikings feel very fortunate that we're able to be a sponsor of this great event," Spielman added.

The night also included recognitions for several accomplished players, coaches and support staff.

U.S. Navy veteran Stan Nelson, who served during World War II and survived the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, was presented with the Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award. Nelson compiled a record of 154-70-8 as a football coach that included 26 seasons at Anoka.

Casey O'Brien, who won the Courage Award, received a standing ovation from the crowd. O'Brien is concluding his junior school year at Cretin-Derham Hall and has overcome bone cancer discovered in his knee, as well as lungs through surgery and extensive chemotherapy. O'Brien, however, managed to stay with the team as a holder, appearing in five games last season. He said he wants to become the first holder to serve as a captain in school history and is excited to play for new coach — and former Viking — Brooks Bollinger.

When Vascellaro, jokingly asked, "You know he's from Wisconsin, right?," O'Brien perfectly responded, "Sadly," generating a roar of laughter from the crowd.

Award winners:

Bobby Bell College Impact Player of the Year – Josh Gordon (Minnesota State University, Mankato)

Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award – Stan Nelson (Augsburg College)

Courage Award – Casey O'Brien (Cretin-Derham Hall High School)

Fred Zamberletti Award – Missy Strauch (Augsburg College)

Highlight of the Year Award – SMB (St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy and Blake) Wolfpack

In the Game Football Program of the Year Award – Caledonia High School

John Gagliardi Legacy Award – Grady Rostberg (Hutchinson High School)

Murray Warmath Legendary Team Award – 1975 Stillwater Ponies (Minnesota State Championship Team)

Sid Hartman Media Award – Gene McGivern (University of St. Thomas)

Stacy Robinson Leadership Award – Mohamed Mahamud (Minneapolis Washburn High School)

Stein-Fallon College Scholar Athlete Award – Jon Christenson (University of Minnesota)

High School Scholar Athletes:

•                Matthew Biegler (Underwood High School)

•                Isaac Collins (Maple Grove High School)

•                Cory Dixon (Patrick Henry High School)

•                Andrew Haldeman (Harding High School)

•                Ethan Ishaug (Barnesville High School)

•                Kiefer Miller (Nevis High School)

•                Conner Olson (Monticello High School)

•                Elijah Rice (St. Michael-Albertville High School)

Click here for more information about the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation.

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