Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham, who played college ball at Augustana University, will be one of the celebrity athletes leading clinics this week at the free Hy-Vee/Sanford Legends For Kids program in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He talked to Sanford Health News about the program, life in the NFL and the “Minnesota miracle.”
You have been a part of the Legends for Kids program for a while now. How do you think the Legends program benefits kids the most?
I think Legends is an awesome initiative. I have been a part of it since my days at Augustana University, and now to be back as a celebrity is really cool. For the parents, it is a great opportunity to have their kids learn from a high level of professionals and current college players. I would say it’s a good bang for your buck, but you don’t have to pay anything. It’s free.
From playing at Augie, getting married, having a child and then sharing the field with former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, how quickly did that first year move for you and how did you handle that quick of a change?
Everything happened so quickly, I had to grow up extremely fast. I wouldn’t take anything back at all. It truly has been a dream come to true to be paid to play football. I watched Adrian Peterson growing up, and everybody in high school wanted to be Adrian Peterson. To get the opportunity to share the field with him and witness how he works has made me a better player and, more importantly, a better professional. In all honesty, to be married and have my wife and my daughter is even a bigger blessing and I am thankful for that.
Being a Minnesota native and lifelong Vikings fan, can you put into words what last year’s run meant to the team and the city, and what are you all focusing on to push you over the hump this year?
It was a fantastic season, to be able to make it the NFC championship game is an accomplishment in itself. There are so many great players in this league that have played for so long and never made it to that point, but as a team I think it makes us hungrier. We are focused on the same thing as last year, going out there and doing our job on all sides of the ball: offense, defense and special teams. We go out and do our jobs we know everything will fall into place.
What’s your memory of the ‘Minnesota miracle’ (historic 61-yard touchdown catch against New Orleans Saints)?
Man, even when I think about it, I get lost for words. It’s one of those things that can’t be described in words, you had to be there and feel the energy in the stadium. There was nothing else like it. The first thing I did was look for penalty flags because you just never know with something like that, you got to think there’s a weird penalty somewhere. When there were no flags, I was just in disbelief like much of everybody else in the stadium, for that to happen in an NFL playoff game was amazing and I was extremely happy to say the least.
Have you had the time to take a step back and soak in what you have accomplished? Like an “I’ve made it” moment?
I guess that’s something I realized early on in the process, to enjoy those little things. I am now going into my third year and all my focus is on getting better. I am hungry to be successful, and everyday I am working at getting better and continuing to get better.
Do you have a favorite player you’ve gone up against?
One of the biggest highlights for me was on punt team. I was lined up across from Julius Peppers, and I was like, “Damn, I get to block Julius Peppers right now.” Like that’s a very long time pro who has had a ton of success, so that was for sure a highlight for me.
Didn’t you break a couple face masks this year?
Just one, I didn’t know it at the time. I had a lead block on Tony Jefferson of the Ravens and it was a pretty big hit. So after third down I went off to the sideline and Danielle Hunter told me my face mask was broken and I had no idea. Life of an NFL fullback.
What advice would you give to a young athlete?
Go out there and have fun. At the end of the day everybody wants to work hard and be successful, but none of that means anything if you are not enjoying it. Whether you’re pee-wee, high school, college, NFL or whatever, go out and enjoy it because football, and any sport for that matter, doesn’t last forever.
- Register your child for the free Legends clinics
- Legends clinics: Skills training from celebrities
- NBA’s Robert Parish among sports icons coming to Legends
- Olympic hockey’s Jocelyne Lamoureaux part of Legends
- MMA wrestler Logan Storley from Webster, SD, to help lead Legends