EAGAN, Minn. — Tristan Will was smack in the middle of a touch football game when a special guest stepped into the huddle.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer took over at quarterback for a few plays and connected with the 8-year-old on a pass down the right sideline.
“It was really cool,” Tristan said. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to catch this one.’
“I just had a lot of fun with my friends,” Tristan added.
Tristan was one of roughly 350 kids who attended Zimmer’s youth football camp on Saturday, with another 350 or so attending on Sunday inside the indoor practice facility at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. Both sessions were free.
While Tristan was attending the camp for the first time, Zimmer said there were others who were repeat visitors.
“One of the kids came up to me and said this is his third camp … he’s been here every year,” Zimmer said. “The more we can promote football, sports in general and healthy living in the Twin Cities, and the state of Minnesota, it’s good.
“It’s a lot of fun to get out here with these young kids and teach them about football and education and just going out and having fun,” Zimmer added.
While the three-plus hour camp did include football drills and dozens of touch football games, the focus was also on getting good grades and teaching youth about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Zimmer bounced around the field and interacted with players throughout the session, popping in and out of numerous huddles in the touch football games.
“[It’s] a lot more fun than my players,” Zimmer said with a smile. “We get out here and have fun … you try to teach them one or two things, but it’s just about having fun.”
A handful of Zimmer’s players were on hand to help out, including Kyle Rudolph, C.J. Ham, Devante Downs and Ade Aruna.
Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson was also in attendance, as were assistant defensive line coach Rob Rodriguez, assistant offensive line coach Andrew Janocko and assistant defensive backs coach Jeff Howard.
Zimmer’s son, Adam, the Vikings linebackers coach helped out along with Zimmer’s daughter, Corri, who runs the Mike Zimmer Foundation.
The camp has become one of the hottest tickets in town.
Corri Zimmer-White said the camp sold out in roughly 30 minutes this year.
“It’s gets more hype every year,” Corri said. “It’s really exciting, and it’s great to see all the kids having a fun time and enjoying themselves.
“He really enjoys it. He likes kids and treats them a lot differently than the players,” Corri added. “He’s still having fun with football, but it’s lighter.”
Zimmer’s foundation was started in honor of his late wife, Vikki, who passed away unexpectedly in October 2009.
Sunday would have been Vikki’s 60th birthday, which Zimmer said is a “special day for us.”
Added Corri: “She always gave back, especially with kids. This would really mean a lot to her, and she’s looking down on us.”
The camp was sponsored by Medtronic and was organized by ProCamps.
“We understand that healthy fitness, healthy activities and a healthy diet are important,” Medtronic Senior Director of Corporate Marketing Greg McCullough said. “It’s really an honor for us to work and partner with the Minnesota Vikings and Coach Zimmer and the Mike Zimmer Foundation to bring this community health and wellness event together for kids.”