This past year I have been able to spend time with Jeff Locke, punter for the Minnesota Vikings. I have leaned off the gridiron he is an avid golfer, plays soccer and video games. Jeff is a cool, down to earth guy with a passion for others; weather it is teaching my young nephew and his cousin soccer skills, meeting my friend and her son who are big Viking fans at training camp or giving back to the community.
When Jeff came to the Minnesota Vikings in 2013 he donned the #12. The rookie didn’t wear the number long because a few weeks later when the Vikings signed quarterback Josh Freeman he wanted the #12 jersey. Now I know you don’t see many people wearing a punter’s jersey, however one of Jeff’s biggest fans, my dad, had just received his #12 jersey when the story broke about the change. The NFL shop offered my dad a discount if he wanted to order a new jersey with Locke’s #18. (He did) Jeff’s #12 jersey now hangs by the jerseys of the Minnesota Vikings Purple People Eaters (Eller, Larsen, Marshall, and Page) in my dad’s collection.
What many people didn’t know is the #12 came with a price tag of $10,000. Locke sold the rights to the number #12 and willing switched to #18, which he wore at UCLA.
What to do with $10,000? You might think the 24 year old (at the time) would spend it on a new toy of some sort, golf green fees or maybe a vacation. This was not the case for Jeff, he donated it! The $10,000 was donated to the Minneapolis VA Medical Center in November of 2013.
This summer Jeff played in the Tee it Up for the Troops Longest Day of Golf. As an avid golfer he played from the crack of dawn until sunset. As a golfer this was something he had no problem doing.
Why post this today? I saw a post last week that Jeff wrote on Sportsblog.com and it explains more about why the military is is near and dear to this punters heart.
At a time when the Minnesota Vikings have been going through some bad press due to player misconduct, I think about the player that doesn’t get drafted in Fantasy Football or have hundreds of people wearing his jersey, and the friend who will kick around a soccer ball with a group of kids simply because he enjoys the game or do something to make a positive impact in the lives of other people.
Taffy was part of my life as I looked for a new job, dated a guy name John, and said good-bye to one year and rang in the New Year. She knew the moments I needed to be unconditionally loved and when I needed to take it easy.
In 2008, Taffy, Tom, and Lou Ann moved to California. It was hard for me to see her go, but I had hoped to go visit and see if she remembered me. (No doubt she would) I never got the chance to go visit Taffy in California; to this day when I go by the house they lived in I remember my little friend and think of how she would wait on the deck for me to arrive.
When I wrote #3 my Fabulous '14 list that I wanted to have time with friends and did not even occur to me that this would be the year I have my 25 year high school reunion. Where does the time go? I graduated from Bethlehem Academy in Faribault, Minnesota in a class of 34 in May of 1989.
It was before our 15 year reunion when my classmate Jay's dad passed away. I said we are starting to bury our parents and we need to make sure we get together more often because soon we would start burying each other. Unfortunately we have lost a few more parents and even one of our own classmates, Mark Dee, in 2011. Hearing of Mark's passing reminded me of the soft spoken guy who earned the nicknamed "Doc" because of his initials. Mark was one of the kindest people I knew growing up. His quiet, gentle demeanor was occasionally broken with a funny quip about the topic at hand; often a little joke about someone nearby, but never harmful or cruel. Though I never saw him after high school graduation the memories I have of him are all good. The night of our 25th year class reunion we raised a toast to Mark.
We spent the evening catching up on who is doing what for work and where life has taken us, who has kids (Yikes) driving and even heading off to college; who has gotten divorced, and reminisced about stories that looking back made us laugh.
Many classmates run into each other from time to time, but distance often separates us from getting together more than we should. Some people choose not to attend reunions for whatever reason, but no matter what happened 25+ years ago in the hallways of our high school we need to continue to celebrate the lives we have.
Though many people in the group Saturday night I've only see about every five years at reunions, the invention of social media such as email and Facebook should help bridge the gap of time and distance. I don't want to wait another five years to get together...let's grab coffee, cocktails, lunch, dinner, breakfast, or where ever life takes us!