It’s the first Sunday sans football since early September, so I am naturally suffering withdrawal. The 7 or 8 weekends post-football/pre-baseball always provide a dreadful, lonely void in my life, so to combat this negativity, I’m starting yet another riveting blog series, “Where Are They Now?”
Have you ever lost track of a player once he left Minnesota? Well, the goal of this series is to hunt down some of the notable ex-athletes from your favorite state and find out what they’re up to, on and off the field. To minimize the amount of personnel, I’m only going back as far as 2000. Part 1: the Minnesota Vikings. Thanks to my friend Taylor for the idea.
-If you’ve listened to a Viking game since 2007, you’ve heard the voice of Pete Bercich, a linebacker on the 2000 team, who is currently the color analyst for the Vikings Radio Network.
-Perhaps the biggest goat in Minnesota sports history is kicker Gary Anderson. His 1998 NFC Championship miss cemented his legacy as ‘the perfect kicker who missed when it counted.’ Anderson left the Vikings in 2003 and made two brief comebacks with the Titans. He now lives in Alberta and runs a fly-fishing business ironically called “Perfect Season” (not quite, Gary, not quite…)
-You’ve probably seen legends Cris Carter and Robert Smith dozens of times in the past few years. Carter is a regular NFL analyst for ESPN during football season, and Smith does the same thing for college football.
-Five guys from the 2000 roster still play in the NFL: Matt Birk (Ravens), Chris Hovan (Rams), Randy Moss (anywhere that’ll take him), Fred Robbins (Rams), and our very own Jim Kleinsasser.
-Daunte Culpepper is quarterbacking for the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the UFL under old coach Denny Green (Oh, how far they’ve fallen). Other ex-Viking UFLers include LB Dontarrious Thomas (Sacramento), CB Marcus McCauley (Sacramento), TE Jermaine Wiggins (Virginia), DE Patrick Chukwurah (Virginia), and WR Robert Ferguson (Omaha).
–John Randle, one of the fiercest D-tackles I’ve ever seen play, is one of the newest Hall of Fame inductees.
-WR Jake Reed became an owner for the Frisco Thunder of the Intense Football League (I’m not making this up). Not surprisingly, the league collapsed in 2008.
-Corbin Lacina, an offensive guard, now works in real estate in Sunfish Lake, Minnesota.
-2001 punter Lee Johnson, who was 40 during the 2001 season, is now an elite mountain cyclist.
-Safety Robert Griffith (who was my favorite defensive player back in the day) now works as CEO for Matador Enterprises, an industry that must have no clients because it took me like an hour on Google to discover what it was (an aviation/aerospace company). “Griff” is also an owner of a California steakhouse, and Director of Personnel for the aforementioned Sacramento Mountain Lions.
-RB Michael “The Bust” Bennett now sits on the bench for Oakland.
-2002 LB Greg Biekert will get to work with him. He has just been named the Raiders 2011 linebackers coach.
-Jack Brewer, a safety who went to the U of M, left football and became a businessman out East. He completed Harvard School of Business and got a job with Merrill Lynch.
-As far as I could tell, WR Kelly Campbell (Edmonton) is the only ex-Viking in the Canadian Football League.
-Corey Chavous, a former safety, kept up his love for football by starting draftnasty.com, a website that hones in on year-round coverage of the NFL and NBA drafts.
-Good for Kenechi Udeze. The Vikings DE who beat leukemia went back to college and got a degree in sociology from USC. He then got hired as the Washington Huskies Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach.
-CB Fred Smoot, a primary participant in the Love Boat Scandal, plans on opening a Waffle House. Sounds like the kind of aspirations he would have…
-WR Koren Robinson floundered in and out of legal trouble since leaving the Vikings in 2006. He dabbled in the UFL for a year and is now out of football.
-Brad Johnson is in a nursing home… or at least not too far off.
-It turns out LB Napoleon Harris was officially named Napoleon Harris III. He recently had a son, Napoleon Harris IV.
-Longtime back-up QB Brooks Bollinger announced a couple weeks ago his intent to coach the Hill Murray football team in St. Paul.
-On a similar note, QB Gus Frerotte is taking a high-school coaching job in the St. Louis area. Also discovered that his full name is “Gustave.”
-Brett Favre will be joining Brad Johnson in a nursing home… after he hobbles around Dancing With the Stars (hopefully).
It was definitely fun and interesting to do this research and see where some of the Minnesota greats have wound up. Oftentimes we forget that professional athletes have talents and interests outside of their sport. You think Matt Birk, a Harvard grad, couldn’t have done anything he wanted? He’s a genius!
So many of these guys are brilliant men who continue their illustrious legacies beyond the field of play, and I salute them for it. Next edition will focus on another of the major sports, but until then…