Members of the Vincent Massey Vikings football team were slated to board the bus early this morning at 5 o’clock to head south to make some memories off the field.
A total of 51 people — players, coaches and parents — are off to Minneapolis to attend Sunday’s National Football League between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions. Not only is the trip an opportunity for the high school players from Brandon to see high-level football live, it also gives them a chance to meet Massey alumnus Israel Idonije, although he’s no longer scheduled to play in the contest after the 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive lineman was placed on the Lions’ injured reserve list on Friday with a neck injury.
“It’s really exciting,” said Mike Steeves, Massey’s head coach. “Until you’ve seen an NFL game, you haven’t watched football. That and college football in the States is ridiculous. A lot of guys in this area are football fans and it’s exciting to see a team they like and, in a sense, play for.
“To see an alumni is amazing. It gives the guys some perspective that not only is it possible (to go on and play professionally), but here’s proof. Here’s a guy at that elite level and came from the exact same field that these guys did.”
Steeves and other Vikings coaches made this trip three years ago when they attended a Monday Night Football game on Dec. 20, 2010, which was played in TCF Bank Stadium as the Metrodome was being repaired after its roof collapsed a few weeks earlier. Everyone had a blast a game, which was the last one in Brett Favre’s career and ended in a 40-14 victory for Idonije and the visiting Chicago Bears, and the Massey representatives decided they would have to do it again.
Massey’s coaching staff waited until Idonije decided where he was going to play this season before selecting the game this year. They got a travel company to get the tickets for the game and arranged travel on a bus. As it turns out, Sunday’s NFL game will be the final one ever played at the Metrodome before it is demolished in February.
The Vikings aren’t just going to the NFL game on their trip. They also have a football fitness session set up with people in Minneapolis that will focus on football-related skills and weight lifting. That will begin the players’ off-season training regimen.
Although the schedule for the trip is tight, Steeves remains hopeful his players will get to rub shoulders with Idonije.
“We don’t have a big window for him,” he said. “(The Lions) are getting there (Saturday) morning and we won’t get there until suppertime. We don’t know when we’ll meet up with him, but chances are we’ll meet up with him after the game.”
If this year’s trip goes as well as the 2010 excursion, Steeves will look at making the trip to Minnesota a biennial event.
Steeves said the most important thing is for his players to see elite football and create some great memories.
“For us, it’s a great experience for the team bonding,” he said. “You get 12 hours on a bus with the kids. It’s a learning session. … These are the things kids will take away from football. These are the moments and experiences that they’ll remember when they’re our age.”