Reporting Shane Kitzman
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Michael Rhey has two loves – Star Wars and the Minnesota Vikings.
“I’m a die-hard fan of both,” he said. “I wanted to put my two passions together.”
So what do you get with an $1,800 budget and eight months of customizing a costume?
The birth of Skol Trooper.
The masked man’s actually from Huntington Beach, Calif., but when Rhey moved to Minnesota, he got hooked on the horns.
The 42-year-old from Winnebago, Minn., has since been a fixture at Training Camp for the better part of a decade.
“It’s unbelievable the kind of reception I get from fans of both Star Wars and the Vikings,” he said. “It’s awesome.”
Though the Storm Trooper kit was purchased online, he’s made it his own, complete with Vikings 50th anniversary patches, LED lights, and a classic combination of purple and gold.
Yes, being Skol Trooper gets quite toasty during Mankato’s sultry summer days, but Rhey planned ahead.
“Even put in a fan – right in my helmet under my chin,” he said.
Passing On The Purple Tradition
Tim Peacock reminisces on the days his father took him to see the Purple People Eaters at the Met.
Now, he’s passing on the tradition.
He brought along his baby son, Jaxx, to day 1 of Vikings Training camp, although the little one seemed to be more interested in getting some shuteye than showing off his pint-sized Vikings jersey.
Oh, and the rest of the family – Maddie, Chloe and mother Trudi, a dedicated Christian Ponder fan — were in tow, too.
“I took this summer off and decided to turn them all into purple guys,” Tim said.
The Big Lake family was present for the players’ arrival on Thursday and aimed to enjoy Friday’s practices before heading back north.
As for Tim’s favorite Viking – he’s a Tommy Kramer faithful, complete with about 30 signed photos of the former QB.
“I just remember watching him … sitting with my dad,” Tim said.
Seth Is Definitely Not Your Average Vikes Fan
Seth Sandhoefner is probably smarter than you.
He’s already at the University of Minnesota at age 17, and said he’ll most likely graduate before he’s 20 years old.
And he’s almost certainly a bigger Matt Kalil fan than you, too.
“I’ve got a couple hundred dollars worth of Kalil cards – about 30 to 40 of them,” he said. “I just like USC (Kalil’s alma mater), and I like the offensive line.”
Sandhoefner didn’t play the sport himself, blaming his “fat and weak ankles,” self-deprecating humor which immediately elicited loud laughs from his cohorts.
Showcasing a Kalil jersey, and a makeshift poster complete with cards and 8×11 photos of the Vikings’ massive left tackle, Sandhoefner’s level of fandom was virtually unmatched by fellow autograph seekers.
Oh, and the actuarial science major is assuredly better at fantasy football than you.
“I’ve won 80 percent of the leagues I’ve been in over the last five years,” he said.
Veterans In The Autograph Game
Carter Hendrickson and Mitchell Bigaouette could teach a Ph.D. course in accruing autographs.
The 12-year-old boys, both from Mankato, snag players while they’re biking to and from the facility – as opposed to joining the heckling crowds gathered alongside the fences.
The favorite signature on Hendrickson’s Vikings football? It isn’t a skill player, but tackle Matt Kalil.
“I’m an offensive lineman,” he said. “I’m going into 7th grade.”
For Bigaouette, he’s all about completing the set.
All the Notre Dame alums who now wear purple – i.e. Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith, John Sullivan – have scribbled their namesakes onto his miniature golden Fighting Irish helmet.