“I’ve had a joy playing professional football and living a dream. College football is outstanding, but there is nothing better than high school football, playing Friday night under the lights in front of your people, your classmates and friends and your parents, your family, for your community,” Cousins said. “It’s special, and those are my best memories on the football field.
“Every time I talk to a high school football player I encourage them to cherish the moment, because even if you get to play beyond that, there’s nothing like those times with your buddies playing high school football,” Cousins continued.
Cousins said if his pro team’s bye week allows him to return to Holland, Michigan, he makes it a point to attend his alma mater’s game “because it means something to me.”
“When I’m done playing, I’d probably like to go be a high school quarterbacks coach at a local school somewhere and help out, because I just love it,” Cousins said. “So I’m glad the Vikings are willing to have them here and have some fun games here.”
Vikings Executive Director of Social Impact Brett Taber thanked Shakopee Head Coach Ray Betton, Eden Prairie Head Coach Mike Grant, Chaska Head Coach Bryan Dahl, Apple Valley Head Coach Chad Clendening, Rochester Mayo Defensive Coordinator Bob Sheehan and Mankato West Head Coach J.J. Helget, the players, administrators and Minnesota State High School League Associate Directors Bob Madison and Jody Redman for attending Thursday and their roles in the upcoming games.
“The Minnesota Vikings are truly committed to the growth and development of youth and high school football across the state and across the region,” Taber said. “The Vikings Prep Spotlight series offers us a tremendous opportunity to bring recognition to these great teams and the excellence of high school football that exists in the state of Minnesota. More importantly, we’re excited about the opportunity that this event creates to recognize these communities, the schools and make a tremendous experience for these high school athletes. We hope it’s a memory that they never forget.”
Speaking of memories, Grant — whose connections to the Vikings go back to 1967 when his father, Bud, was hired as the franchise’s second coach — was able to reminisce about his time as a ball boy and practices at Midway Stadium and training camps in Mankato.
“This is my first time out here, so to see this unbelievable facility, what a change,” Mike Grant said. “I know that’s what my dad always talks about. He just says, ‘Remember Midway Stadium?’ I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to be part of the Vikings in a small way. The Vikings are the flagship of all football in the state, and for all of our kids to have a chance to be here, even today to be around [practice], I think it helps build football in the state of Minnesota.”
Betton recalled coaching in an all-star game with Mike Grant and laughed about his impersonations of Jerry Burns, Bob Schnelker and other Vikings coaches.
Betton said his team and the community are excited to participate in the Vikings Prep Spotlight but will keep their focus on the games between now and then.
“It’s going to be a joy, a lot of fun out there,” Betton said. “Our plates are full. Our boys know it, but the community is very excited.”