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Vikings fans resume annual quest for autographs

Signing season

Training camp is opportunity for Vikings fans to seek autographs.

By Robb Murray, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 8/1/2011]

Stephanie Langhofer was 10 years old the first time she came to training camp.

She’d only watched Bud Grant and the rest of the Minnesota Vikings on television before tugging on dad’s shirt and asking for a close-up view. So he obliged and took her to training camp. And since then, she’s never missed a camp.

So on Sunday night, when the team finally arrived in Mankato to begin its two-week training camp, Langhofer was there, three-ring binder filled with memorabilia and autographs in hand, tracking down players and coaches to get as many John Hancocks as she could.

Donovan McNabb rolled by on a Trek bike, all smiles and polite rejections to the legion of game jersey-clad fans holding out footballs and Sharpies, hoping he’d stop pedaling.

Every year at this time, for more than 40 years, the Minnesota Vikings have come to Mankato to gear up for the NFL season. And every year, throngs of fans are here to greet them.

On arrival day, the hard-core fans come out. Around the entrance at Gage Hall are people from all walks of life holding footballs, horned hats, pennants, keepsake scrapbooks or trading cards, all hoping a grid iron hero will oblige for an autograph.

A few minutes before 4 p.m., and 10 minutes after just about all the players and coaches reported for their 4 p.m. meeting — a white Escalade pulled in and parked in the lot between Otto Arena and Morris Hall.

Seconds later, out popped running back Adrian Peterson, who strolled through the crowd, declined to sign autographs (he didn’t really have time), and hurried off to a waiting golf cart that carried him away.

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