MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — He was a star running back at Nebraska, a second-round pick by Detroit, and somehow fell into the Vikings’ lap when the Lions released him halfway through last season.

But even while he tries to make an impression here in training camp, football isn’t the only thing Ameer Abdullah is passionate about.

On the field, Abdullah is fighting for a roster spot among a crowded group of running backs. Off the field, he’s fighting for things that are much more important.

This summer, Abdullah started hosting a YouTube video series called ‘Stepping Into Vulnerability,’ sharing his feelings about self-love, mental health, and embracing vulnerability.

“As I’ve matured and grown and gone through this process of the NFL– in my fifth year now– I’ve understood that thoughts become things,” Andullah said. “When you start to think badly on yourself, it snowballs.”

“I think vulnerability really is our greatest strength,” he said.

Abdullah went through a tough injury during his second year in the NFL.

“I was a complete mess,” he said. “So when we can really tap into our emotions, then you can step back and say, ‘Okay, I know how to really apply myself to situations.'”

“I learned vulnerability from children,” Abdullah continued. “I put on a project where I went and I exposed myself to dancing. I’ve never danced before professionally, and what these kids showed me was that no matter if you mess up, it’s fine. And they weren’t afraid of messing up and wondering what their peers thought. And that showed me like, wow, I should apply this when I go back to the Vikings.”

Abdullah also took a trip this spring to Washington DC with students from Minneapolis and several teammates to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Holocaust Museum. He said it was a powerful experience and one more Americans need to be aware of.

“It can be easy to give up,” he said. “But when you see the Atlantic slave trade, people didn’t give up. When you see segregation, Jim Crow, all these things that have happened, time and time again, these people had the resolve to pull themselves together, galvanize, and come through.

Abdullah says he doesn’t see himself as an advocate, but he is all about awareness in these issues he cares about– he could never just stick to sports.

“The times can change but until you are really aware of what’s going on and what’s happened, you can’t change the future,” he said.

Abdullah is also an executive producer of films. One, called Hell on the Border, will be released on Netflix in November. Another film project will be premiering at Coachella.

David McCoy

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