Three Questions

Tom Moore on U.S. Bank Stadium, Vikings Alumni, and the Minnesota Offense
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

A familiar face roams the pathways of Mankato each year, and his name is Tom Moore. Known best for his training camp interviews and one-on-one spots in the Minnesota Vikings locker room, Tom is a longstanding member of the Vikings media community and recognizable name at VikeFans.com.

He took some time after a busy season of videography to catch up with Adam Warwas as part of Vikings Territory’s “Three Questions” series of posts. Today, we learned plenty about Minnesota’s most famous alumni, the beauty of U.S. Bank Stadium, and the potential of the Vikings offense in 2017.

First, in case you missed it, here is who we’ve had take part so far:

Daniel House On The Playoffs, Adam Thielen, & Vikings Free Agency
Mark Craig On 2016 Vikings Oddities, Adrian Peterson’s Future, & Sam Bradford’s Accuracy
Lindsey Young On Her Favorite Articles, 2010 Versus 2016, & U.S. Bank Stadium
Christopher Gates On London, Those Calling For Zimmer’s Job, & Minnesota’s Most Exciting Player
Matt Falk On The 2017 NFL Draft, Adam Thielen, & Fixing The O-Line
Joe Johnson On Nick Swardson, The Defense, & Roster Upgrades
Nik Edlund On Kalil’s Injury Impact, A Possible Vikings Draft Target, & The Play Of The Year
Matthew Coller On Norv Turner, Cordarrelle Patterson, And Vikings Craziness

Alright, and now we see what Tom Moore has to say…

1. With plenty of time spent in U.S. Bank Stadium this season, what aspect of the building has left the biggest impression on you?

The biggest impression you are left with is the improvement over an old and outdated Metrodome.  U.S. Bank Stadium is a cavernous facility and the noise level created by all the metal and steel is quite intimidating for opposing teams. Quite simply, when the Houston Texans got behind early, they were completely psyched out by the Viking defense and the deafening noise.

I was also surprised at how much the tall revolving doors added to the environment when they were opened up to show the beautiful downtown skyline of Minneapolis. It created a feel like no other stadium in the league and something that is uniquely Minnesotan.

However, the most striking feature of U.S. Bank Stadium is the glass roof that creates an authentic feel of a sunny afternoon outdoor game, while the fans enjoy the comfort of 70 degrees inside. Whether in person, or seen on television, in a very different way, sunny Sunday afternoon professional football returned to Minnesota after a 35-year absence, and football never looked better.

2. Where do you see the Vikings passing attack headed?

Obviously, Pat Shurmur will be in charge of the offense, but the question remains, who will be the personal quarterback mentor for Sam Bradford? Teddy Bridgewater may, indeed, be back in 2017, but it is hard to fathom him unseating Sam, not only because of  Sam’s record-setting year but also the long recovery time required for Bridgewater’s severe knee injury. 

The key for Shurmur will be to install his offense, as opposed to being forced to add wrinkles to the camp-installed Norv Turner offense. His continuity with Bradford will be helpful, but Shurmur has to insert himself into the entire offense, not just the skill positions. He must make determinations on how to use Cordarrelle Patterson (if he is re-signed) and how to make Stefon Diggs relevant every week, as opposed to his up-and-down production in the latter part of the year.  Most of all, he must find a running game, and it starts with the Offensive Line.  I’d love to be a fly on the wall to hear his offseason conversations with Offensive Line coach Tony Sparano.

Most of all, he must find a running game, and it starts with the offensive line. I’d love to be a fly on the wall to hear his offseason conversations with offensive line coach Tony Sparano.

 

3. I know you are well connected with the Vikings alumni in a number of ways. Is there any particular former Viking out there doing something awesome that maybe most fans don’t realize?

In the past two years, I have had the great honor of interviewing over 100 former Minnesota Viking players.  Among those discussions, we discovered some of the following interesting jobs or activities that the alumni are involved with:

  • 1960s

Joe Kapp is suffering from the mid-stages of dementia that is surely tied to his hard-hitting playing days.  But, he is currently writing his biography about his life in Pro Football, and the historical significance of the infamous 1982 University of California win against Stanford (where he was the head coach in the upset win).  He remains one of the funniest story-tellers this game has ever seen, and when he gets on a roll, you will be crying with laughter…and looking for liberal use of the censor button!

Alan Page is considered by most as a 1970s player, but he entered the league in 1967 after being drafted in the first round from Notre Dame.  While he retired as a Justice of the Minnesota US Supreme Court almost two years ago, he and his wife Diane are more active than ever, spending the bulk of their time funding Alan’s Page Foundation efforts to provide direction, mentoring and college scholarship money to people of color who do not have the financial means to attain higher education.  Some have described Alan Page as disconnected from football these days, and nothing could be further from the truth. He has reconnected with the Vikings, and his grandson is a huge fan of his hometown Minnesota team.

Bud Grant is doing exactly what you’d expect he’d be doing. He postponed our interview four times, as he would graciously call and say “Sorry to cancel with such short notice, but the deer are active, and I’m not getting any younger to go get a few.”  Some may be surprised to learn that Bud still spends 4-5 days a week at Winter Park in his office during the football season. Mike Zimmer does seek his counsel at times.

Carl Eller continues to be very active, with his Minneapolis art studio and both the casino games he created, as well as his Minnesota lottery game under the “Moose81” theme. He provided such a great assessment of life with Bud Grant, and how as African Americans, the NFL was a place where they found equality when it wasn’t always available to them in their everyday walk of life.

  • 1970s

Chuck Foreman was a 5-time All-Pro, now teaches at local Twin Cities high schools (with his favorite topic being history), and has recently garnered the attention of the Pro Football of Fame for consideration as a seniors candidate for revolutionizing the multi-purpose back position in the NFL. His son Jay played eight seasons in the NFL, and his youngest son is a linebacker at St. Thomas University in Minnesota.

Bob Lurtsema is mainly retired, spending his winters in Florida, but he retains a personality that is larger than life, and is one of the most giving men in the business for up-and-coming sports journalists in the Twin Cities. If you see Bob, say hello, and then you will get to hear some of the funniest football stories of your life. Bob remains a fixture in the press box at U.S. Bank Stadium on game days.

  • 1980s

Tommy Kramer astutely invested his money from his playing days and settled back in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. These days, he plays golf regularly and even hosts an annual charity tournament in the Twin Cities that draws scores of former teammates. About 2-3 times a year, he participates in his camp for up-and-coming middle school and high school players in Minnesota and Texas. He watches EVERY Vikings game on DirecTV and liked what he saw in Teddy Bridgewater and is also a big fan of Sam Bradford. With a big Texas drawl, he recalls the multiple missed extra points by Rick Danmeirer in the 1980 “Hail Mary” game vs. Cleveland: “I was a straight-on kicker in high school, and I wasn’t real good, but even I could have made some of those damned kicks Rick missed! But, he set up the most exciting game finish that I was ever part of in my football career.”

Benny Ricardo was the first soccer-style kicker ever employed by the Minnesota Vikings and head coach Bud Grant. In his sole season with the team in 1983, he hit 76% of his field goals, which was quite impressive in the 1980s. These days, Benny is a standup comedian!

ESPN’s Chris Berman made sure all fans knew that tight end Steve Jordan was from Brown University, but few expected this 7th round draft choice to play 13 NFL seasons (making 6 Pro Bowls in a row) and catch nearly 500 passes for over 6,300 yards. Today, Steve is in a career he loves, using his engineering degree from Brown in his role as Director of Constructing for the Southwest Region at the Ryan Companies.

Darrin Nelson quickly got the nickname of “Disco Darrin” for saying when he was drafted, “I don’t want to play in Minnesota, as its cold, dark and they don’t even have any discos.” In reality, Darrin says he loved Minnesota and even made it his offseason home after he retired. But, he was forced to move back to California for the medical needs of his son. For the past six years, he has been the Senior Associate Athletic Director at UC Irvine near Los Angeles and cares for his aging parents. But, each year, Darrin happily returns to Minnesota for the Snowmobile-based Artic Challenge.

Henry Thomas joined Pete Bercich and me for a show with Keith Millard last year. When we were done, he confided to Pete that he had the time of his life talking football with old friends. Three months later, Henry told us that he had joined ESPN in Houston as a radio sports host. We caught up with Henry at the game in Jacksonville this year, and he says his show is beating the ratings for the Houston Rockets games!

Keith Millard is as wild and crazy as ever and has a true love for life and the game, but is mostly fond of his former teammates. He loves Minnesota, follows the Vikings and WILL interact with you on Twitter. He says his most embarrassing moment is when he told the police upon a routine stop “that their guns were no match for his biceps.” “I was young and stupid; now I’m old and stupid!” After years of coaching at the college and pro level, Keith is now a consultant for coaches and schools, as well as a private coach for kids trying to earn college football scholarships.

Chuck Nelson was a kicker for several seasons for the Vikings and today is the President and CEO of the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle. He has rejoined his fellow Viking Alumni the last few years in Brad Johnson’s NFL Alumni March Madness Challenge.

  • 1990s

Randall McDaniel was, perhaps, the greatest guard in NFL history, being effective with not just brute force, but with technique and athleticism that has not been seen in the NFL since Randall retired.  What many don’t know is that Randall, the quiet soul, was often the instigator in many pranks played on his fellow teammates.   He used to sneak up on roommate Mike Morris on game days and flip his mattress to wake Mike up, leaving Morris in a heap on the hotel room floor.

To this day, Randall has left the most indelible impression on me of any player who once put on a Vikings uniform, and it has nothing to do with his football skills. He and his wife Marianne are involved in countless charitable activities that they mainly self-fund through Camp McDaniel. As part of their NFL contracts, all players are required to do charity work. When Randall was trying to figure out what he wanted to do, he signed up to help teach kids in a Minneapolis, elementary school.  “I immediately knew it was my calling and I wanted to help kids who struggle to get a quality education,” said McDaniel. Never in need of money due to his NFL career, Randall, nonetheless, worked in the offseasons as an elementary school teacher and then took the assignment full-time when he retired. Since then, he has moved to special needs education at the elementary level.

In his spare time, he and Marianne work with kids to get them involved in their community, teaching them how to give back. Also, both Randall and Marianne work with military families to help those who had lost a parent in the line of duty transition to their changed lives. When you speak to either of these unique role models, you can’t help but wonder how you can do more for our community, the kids and our world.

Todd Steussie is now the EVP and President of PotentialPRO and still laughs at his “false start” nickname.   Randall McDaniel played next to Steussie on the 1990s Viking lines and would tell him in the huddle, “Oh for God’s sakes, stay onsides!”

Corey Fuller is now the head football coach at Gadby High School in Tallahassee, Florida. He served as an interim head coach at Florida A&M and has been a coach at some level since he retired from the NFL. Corey remains very close to former teammate Robert Griffith.

Dave Dixon enjoys the retired life in Minnesota and spends a lot of his spare time watching his daughter TeTori play on the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball team. Dave had a strange habit in his playing days of never wearing shoes when off the football field. He was in Mankato for training camp two seasons ago, and sure enough, he was on the sidelines in jeans and barefoot! One of the most lovable and friendly guys who ever donned a Vikings uniform, he did have one mean streak. Long Snapper Mike Morris does a dead-on impression of Dave, and Dixon doesn’t love it. Morris said, “Dave was a mountain of a man, with the strength he never even knew he had. When he came at you, you ran, because that man could have killed you if he wanted to!”

As most know, Corey Chavous remains one of the elite draft minds in the NFL, running his DraftNasty website and magazine publication. He truly is a student of the game and knows every player who played a down in the NFL, training camp, and college.  He has a video library of games from the NFL that is nearly as large as those housed at the main television networks and NFL Films.

Chris Walsh lives in the Arizona desert. In his playing days, he was nicknamed The Undertaker for his vicious special teams hits. In fact, he once played an entire game with a broken jaw. He and Brad Johnson joined an interview together, and shared that, as backups, they would stay after practice at Winter Park and practice making highlight-reel catches and throws right in front of Denny Green’s office window.  Eventually, Brad would become a starter, and Denny told him that a lot of his faith in him came from watching he and Chris work long hours together. To this day, Brad says that Chris was his favorite NFL receiver to throw to — high praise for a quarterback who threw to Randy Moss, Cris Carter, and Jake Reed!

Dixon Edwards remains a close friend of teammate Pete Bercich, and the two joined me to help Dixon launch his radio career.  Dixon’s goal was to create a show for fans where they spoke bluntly, and as he put it, “Sometimes in a drunken state” to create fun, and entertaining radio.

As all fans in the Minnesota area know, Pete Bercich is the gameday radio color analyst for the Minnesota Vikings, but he also became the head coach of Twin Cities-based Hill-Murray (high school) Pioneers this past season. Pete isn’t the first former Viking to coach the Pioneers, as quarterback Brooks Bollinger led them to their first playoff berth in 2012. What you may not know about Pete is that he is often pursued for NFL coaching jobs, and frequently by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl as the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (in between his two stints as the Vikings’ starting quarterback) and is now the head football and basketball coach at his two sons’ (Max and Jake) private school in Athens, GA. Brad specifically loves coaching quarterbacks one-on-one.   His son Max follows his dad’s footsteps, and as a 6’3” 9th grader and quarterback, he is already being watched by college scouts. What you may not know about Brad is that he much preferred to be an NBA basketball player than NFL star, and even was a starter on his freshman and sophomore basketball teams at Florida State. But, as he tells it, “My coaches told me that I just didn’t have the jumping ability to play in the NBA, and if I wanted to be a pro athlete, I needed to stick to football.”

Maybe the largest goosebumps an NFL fan will get when listening to Brad is when he talked to us in 2015 about his experience after he led his Tampa Bay team to a 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXVII. “I had filmed the commercial after the game and said ‘I’m going to Disneyland,’ so I had to. There were so many media interviews to do after the game, and then I had to fly to California, so I didn’t get very much sleep. But, when I went to bed, I wore my jersey from the Super Bowl. I knew it stunk from sweat and grass stains, but I wanted to smell like a champion!”

Robert Smith and Leroy Hoard joined Pete Bercich and me together for an interview, and you quickly found out how close these former college rivals (Leroy went to Michigan, and Robert attended Ohio State) were. Leroy was known as a talker and rambled on in an entertaining interview. At one point, Robert accidentally disconnected from the call-in bridge, and after taking a few minutes to re-join, he found that Leroy was still talking, having never even realized Robert had dropped off the call

Leroy’s favorite play was his 1999 conversion of a 3rd down and 37 against Denver, saying, “Every once in a while if you needed 37 yards, I’ll get you 43!”  Robert also remembered a 37-yard run as his favorite Vikings memory, when he scored from that distance in 1996 to put the Vikings in front of the Packers 24-21, on the way to a 30-21 Metrodome win. “I was excited on that play for two reasons. First, I knew we had the momentum, and we were going to beat the hated Packers in front of our fans. And, maybe, more importantly, I had a habit of getting too excited when I made a big play and would throw up shortly afterward. After that play, I was about to puke, and the camera cut away before I again embarrassed myself on national TV!”

Robert Griffith made a run for the NFLPA’s president position and even enlisted Vikings fans to garner support. However, as bright as he is, he narrowly missed on his bid and now spends his time as President and CEO of real estate firm Matador Enterprises. He remains a die-hard Viking fan and still comes back to the Twin Cities for a game or two every year.

Rich Gannon is known to most as an MVP quarterback with the Raiders, but he got his start in Minnesota.  Drafted by the New England Patriots, he wanted to play quarterback, and they wanted to convert him to either a running back or wide receiver. He balked, and the Patriots traded him to Minnesota. Showing flashes of brilliance with the Vikings, Rich said he clashed with head coach Denny Green and never go a shot to lead the team in Minnesota. “Denny kept shuffling me and Sean (Salisbury) and never seemed to have a reason for the constant change. I loved Minnesota, but Denny made my early career tough because of a lack of support that young quarterbacks need in this league.”  Rich remains an NFL color analyst for games on CBS, but recently, after five years on Sirius NFL radio, dropped those duties to spend more time with his Minnesota-based family. Rich’s father-in-law is former Minnesota Vikings great, running back Bill Brown.

In all, your Vikings heroes are good guys and active members of the community. If you see one out and about, say hello — they love to talk Vikings.

For more great insight from Tom Moore, be sure to check out his work at VikeFans.com, on Twitter, and over on the page’s Youtube channel.