By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Vikings Jeff Locke is enjoying quite a season as the team’s punter. He also visits kids every Tuesday morning on his off day to talk about the importance of sports, school and nutrition.

This week he invited those students to Winter Park.

It’s more than football to Locke — he creates an emphasis on school work.

“Just learning how to work together. We emphasize that at the curriculum we have at ACES, too,” he said. “They have to work in groups, work in teams, to come up with answers and solutions.”

The kids are hoping for a bright future, and what they want is to provide a reality check — and an injection of hope — in the inner city.

“We certainly see our kids connected and inspired by the value that Jeff has on working with them in the morning, in that they’re important enough that he’s getting up every Tuesday morning to come and be a part of their day,” Monroe Elementary School principal Bryan Bass said.

Locke says you don’t change lives as much as you try to point them in a direction,hoping something sticks, like commitment to nutrition.

With the platform of an NFL Facilty, Locke’s program had some newfound energy this week, and credibility.

“I think events like this definitely get them excited, where they get to come to a Vikings facility, where pros practice, see Victor the Vikings, meet current players,” former Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson said.
Locke wants to impart something about his craft– that, like life, it takes practice and repetition.

“A lot of it is just the work we put in during the week,” Locke said. “A lot of kids just tune in on Sundays and think that it’s kind of just how it works — we just show up and play. We kind of explain to them the actual process during the week — how much work there is, the pressure, the stress, watching the film, lifting the weights.”

It’s about being a part of a village that raises children, Locke says. The Vikings are one part, but the more important part, to be sure, is the influence of the parents.

“My mom says I have to have my grades up first,” student Cage Linton said at the Winter Park event. “It goes: Family, school, sports, friends.”

Mike Max