MANKATO, Minn. (WCCO) — Ten years ago, tragedy struck on the fields of Minnesota Vikings Training Camp in Mankato with the passing of Korey Stringer.
From the day he was drafted in 1995 out of Ohio State, Stringer made an immediate impact on the Minnesota Vikings. His outgoing personality meshed perfectly with quite a collection of characters from Randall McDaniel to Cris Carter to Mike Morris, and later to Randy Moss and Robert Smith. They were impressed by his ability and drawn to his Comedy Central-type worthy humor.
Stringer quickly immersed himself in the community, establishing programs at local schools and the St. Paul library.
He was a player with immense pride, so when he woke up and saw a still picture of a struggling Korey Stringer after the first day of practice in the heat of Mankato, it aggravated him.
The Vikings had a full pad, hard-hitting practice that morning when the heat index was near 110 degrees. Stringer collapsed, was brought inside to an air-conditioned trailer near the field and then taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.
He was unconscious and his body temperature was 108 degrees.
Late in the night, Stringer’s organs failed and he died at 1:50 a.m. The next morning, head coach, Denny Green, along with Moss and Carter were devastated as they spoke to the media.
“There were several of us there last night when he passed away. There’s nothing you can go through in life that can prepare you for something like this,” Carter said.
“I really don’t even know where to start. It was like he was here today and gone tomorrow,” Moss said.
Days later, a tree was planted outside the Vikings dormitory in Mankato. Ten years later, one of his best friends, long snapper Mike Morris, said he’ll never get over the loss of a man who had so much to give to others.
“Korey Stringer was smart. He was street smart; he was this big kid because he came out of Ohio State so young, but yet so ready to play football. He could play already. He got his chance and he never turned that job back over to anyone else. And was just the kind of kid that changed the room immediately,” recalled Morris.
“He made a big difference. It wasn’t just another guy who came through the locker room or another lineman. He was completely different … a good one, miss him,” Morris said.