Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Almost every professional athlete across the planet has a charity or mission that is near-and-dear to their hearts, and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr is no different.

Barr arrived in Minnesota as the No. 9 overall pick back in 2014 and has since dedicated a large fraction of his time to giving back to the community that he now calls home. On Saturday July 15, Barr led two separate youth football camps at Winter Park, allowing for over 600 children ranging in age from seven to 13 to participate in a series of drills in order to improve their football skills and also engage with the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker.

“I feel like I have the possibility of being in Minnesota for awhile, so it’s important for me to get involved in this community and kind of give back,” Barr said. “I feel like they have welcomed me with open arms since I’m not from the state. With this being my home now, I think it’s important to get involved, play with the kids, meet the parents and show them that they matter to me.

“It’s been a great experience the last couple years and I hope to keep it going.”

This marks the second annual Hyundai Youth Football Camp led by Barr, who has also been involved in the community through his own charity “Raise the Barr“. Hyundai’s mission and continued fight against pediatric cancer was not just appealing to Barr, but the circumstances of their arrangement also felt right from the beginning.

“Hyundai being an official sponsor of the Vikings, it kind of felt like a natural fit,” he said. “I have my own charity, and I really respect what Hyundai does, so I feel like there could possibly be a partnership somewhere down the line. It’s just inspiring stuff.

“Anytime you have the chance to give back and affect lives in a positive way, whether it be Hyundai has been doing with these kids or what I’m doing with single moms, it’s very important to us to provide some type of hope, light and positivity.”

Barr, who has also led camps back in his home state of California, didn’t have the opportunity to attend events led by professional athletes when he was growing up. Consequently, it has become very important to him to provide kids with a positive role model through his actions both on and off the field.

“I’m from California, and we didn’t have a football team, so there really wasn’t a camp led by a professional football player in my community,” Barr said. “It just means a lot. Being able to give these kids a positive role model that they can look up to and they can say, ‘I can be that’, ‘I can do that’ and ‘I can do better than that’.

“It’s just a very enjoyable experience all-around.”

Now 25 years old and standing at a hulking 6-foot-5, Barr still feels he can relate to each and every kid attending the camp — and all the smiles and positive moments shared over the past two years would argue he’s right.

“My favorite time is when the M.C. is up there talking and I’m out here with the kids, and we’re just talking about anything,” Barr said. “I feel like I can relate to them. I’m now 25, but I honestly don’t feel like it. It’s always a good time, and I really enjoy doing this type of stuff.”

And it’s also nice to be the coach for a change.

“I enjoy doing this because it’s little kids, but if I had to coach myself, I’d probably quit,” Barr said. “Having kids to do this with is a lot of fun, they take coaching very well, very eager to learn and very anxious to show what they have learned. That’s what I like the most.

“They never stop running around. They are 100% go all the time, and I respect that because I don’t have that anymore. It’s awesome.”

The Vikings open training camp in Mankato just one week from today, and Barr believes 2017 will be a big year both for himself and the team as a whole.

“It’s a big year for myself and it’s a big year for the whole organization,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to be great, and that’s an opportunity we need to seize and become something special. I know we have the right guys in the locker room to do it. We’re all very confident and we trust one another.

“Last year did not really go the way we wanted, started off great obviously and faltered toward the end. We feel like last year taught us a lot, and we’re going to mature and be a more mature football team moving forward.”

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