Thursday, March 5, 2015
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minnesota vikings

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The 2014 Minnesota Vikings season was the franchise’s 54th season in the NFL and the first under head coach Mike Zimmer. It also marked the first of two seasons in which the Vikings will play their home games outdoors at TCF Banks Stadium. Nonetheless, one of the more significant notes to the 2014 season was the emergence of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

The Vikings fell short of the playoffs with a 7-9 record, but Zimmer and his coaching staff orchestrated vast improvements in the defense from the previous year. A strong finish down the stretch and encouraging play from the quarterback position has Vikings fans optimistic that this team is headed in the right direction.

The 2014 season has given us plenty of highlights to talk about this offseason. So, to get the conversation started, I thought I’d get mic’d up and share my Top 5 Plays of 2014 in video format.

Enjoy the video, and be sure to share your favorite 2014 highlights.

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(photo used with permission)

Brian Heintz is no stranger to unforeseen challenges and obstacles in life. However, he is just as familiar with a determined, positive attitude. Maybe it’s the combination of these things that make Heintz such a well-suited and dedicated fan of the Minnesota Vikings.

Heintz grew up in Minnesota, a product of the East Side of St. Paul. He recalls his earliest memories involving the Vikings:

“My mom was always a big Vikings fan, and she got me into it,” he explained. “One of her many great parenting skills.”

In fact, the 29-year-old cannot remember a time when he wasn’t rooting for the team; at age five, he owned his first jersey—Tommy Kramer.

Years of memories surround the Vikings, but one stands out to Heintz as more special than the others: a year he attended the Vikings training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs in River Falls.

“As the players were loading onto team buses, Korey Stringer threw his glove out the window right at us. I got his glove and had Chris Walsh autograph it before they took off. RIP, Big K.”

Heintz experienced many great Vikings moments this season, as well. He attended eight games, and the Vikings won all but one of those contests. “Apparently, I should have gone to all of them,” he joked. Heintz went on to emphasize that the team’s final 7-8 record seemed pretty good, considering the challenges on offense.

“Leaving a few wins on the field is always tough,” he admitted, “but good for Teddy [Bridgewater] as far as situational football goes. Finally, a quarterback to invest in and get excited about that’s not [over the hill].”

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

As far as football experience goes, Birk certainly has an impressive resume.

A Midwestern kid from St. Paul, MN, Birk played high school football for Cretin-Derham Hall. He then went on to become an NFL draft pick, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, a Super Bowl champion, and currently works as the NFL Director of Football Development in New York City.

And it all started with the Minnesota Vikings.

Despite having an excellent college career at Harvard University and earning several first-team honors, the center never fully expected to be drafted in 1998. He instead mentally prepared to be a free agent, to simply find an invite to a team’s camp. However, Birk took an opportunity over spring break to work out with the Vikings; the rest, as they say, is history.

“You think, ‘there are 32 teams—what are the chances I’m going to play for my hometown team?’ […] The phone rang, and it was [then-head coach] Denny Green—he said they were going to draft me with the next pick. My name came up on the TV, and it was a tremendously special moment.”

Birk played two seasons as a backup for the Vikings before taking over the starting center position in 2000. In that first year, he started all 16 games and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Birk continues to call 2000 his most memorable season, as the team rebounded from losing some significant players and impressively finished 11-5.

With the exception of missing a season due to injury, Birk cemented himself as an integral part of the Vikings roster for a decade. In addition to Pro Bowl honors, the center was named All-Pro twice and Minnesota Vikings Man of the Year six years in a row.

Despite going on to finish his career with four seasons—and a Super Bowl victory—with the Baltimore Ravens, Birk remains tied to Minnesota. A part of Birk’s spirit will undoubtedly always wear the purple and gold, and he felt incredibly optimistic about the Vikings’ year, calling the 2014 season’s end “tremendous.”

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(photo used with permission)

Although he hasn’t called Minnesota a permanent home since he was five years old, Matt Engstrom lives and breathes the Vikings.

Engstrom was born in Minnesota, and he immediately fell in love with the purple and gold. He remembers spending time with his father and grandmother, watching the games on television or listening to them on the radio. Engstrom was a child of the Purple People Eaters era, and a framed poster of the 1974 team hung in the family’s basement near the pool table—one of his earliest memories.

By the time Engstrom moved to California with his mom, his allegiance to the Vikings had already formed. It is a long-standing devotion; Engstrom bleeds purple into most areas of his life, including his career.

In addition to his love for the Vikings, Engstrom is passionate about art, drawing, and humor. He pursued a profession that would perfectly fit these three things and has been in the animation industry for almost 20 years. In what some might consider a dream job, he currently works as a Supervising Director for DreamWorks Animation Studio.

“My job, simply put, is to take a script and visually tell the story in the clearest, most humorous way [possible],” he explained. “To make sure the viewer is feeling exactly what the moment calls for.  My job is very similar to what a live action movie director’s job would be like—except I don’t deal with ‘live’ actors, I deal with artists that draw our ‘actors.’”

Engstrom’s job mainly consists of setting up scenes to effectively communicate the mood of the moment—whether that be dramatic, scary, tense, or funny—and acting out and drawing the characters’ actions.

Photo Credit: Joe Lemke (used with permission)

Since being drafted No. 17 in the 2006 NFL Draft, Chad Greenway has been a Minnesota Viking.

In a Nov. 2012 interview, Greenway expressed that he hoped to play the entirety of his career in purple and gold:

“I certainly want to retire a Viking […] I’d love to just play it out here and be able to have an entire tenure in Minnesota.”

Two years later, Greenway’s leadership, comradery and positive attitude in the locker room continue to be an asset to the team; his contribution on the field upheld its reputation, as well. Greenway missed four games due to injuries this season; in the 12 that he started, however, the linebacker tallied 93 tackles. According to league stats, he leads the NFL since 2007, with 984 tackles.

Greenway’s loyalty to Minnesota and athleticism have not changed; but there is no denying that other things have—namely, younger, talented players making an impact on the roster. As the Vikings packed up their gear and prepared to head into the offseason, Greenway demonstrated no sense of urgency to clear out his locker.

For No. 52, there is some uncertainty if he will return to this locker room next season.

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