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FLASHBACK: Brock Lesnar's Minnesota Vikings NFL training camp coverage - 5 years ago
Aug 13, 2009 - 1:53:02 PM
BY WADE KELLER, MMATORCH SUPERVISING EDITOR
The following is a flashback to Wade Keller's article five years ago this month covering Brock Lesnar at the Minnesota Vikings training camp.
[photo by Wade Keller (c) MMATorch]|
When a 27 year old former NCAA wrestling champion and former top WWE attraction who never played college football begins his first NFL training camp, the sports media pays attention. Lesnar has been the subject of local coverage in Minnesota on TV, radio, and print; national stories on ESPN and major sports websites; and wire service stories picked up by newspapers everywhere from Arizona to Boston.
Lesnar admitted to local media that he was nervous about his first training camp workout this week. "I was telling my girlfriend on the way down that I'm finally starting to feel like a competitor again," he said. "It kind of went away from me a little bit in the entertainment business. This is a good feeling. I missed this feeling."
Lesnar led the defensive players in sprints during his first practice on Saturday morning and earned praise from starting defensive tackle Chris Hovan. "He's coming along," Hovan told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I can tell he's got a certain technique. He's got phenomenal strength. The guy's built. He's got just a great attitude toward football." Hovan is a big wrestling fan who requested to room with Lesnar during training camp. Hovan and teammate Jim Kleinsasser are known for holding Monday night wrestling parties in one of their basements. Lesnar has been moved to defensive tackle, the same position Hovan plays.
On Monday, Lesnar was "silenced by fellow former Gopher Adam Haayer and Cory Withrow," according to the Star Tribune, but the next hour he made his first tackle and a few minutes later he lost his helmet during a pass rush. "He made his first tackle; so he got his first kiss," head coach Mike Tice said. "He grew up some. We were pleased. He's been working hard, and I thought it was important for him to get a little taste today and see what it's like. I'm sure his head was spinning some, but he was able to make a tackle."
Lesnar has been a bit of a quote machine for reports lately, making writing stories about him even more appealing to an already curious media brigade. He said regarding his first tackle: "I more or less just fell into it. But that's how it goes. I was working hard." Regarding how he's holding up: "I'm 27, which, in this league, I am not a young man. After two-and-a-half days of camp, I felt like I was 60 years old when I woke up this morning." Regarding being called a rookie: "I really wouldn't call myself a rookie. I am more like a water boy right now."
While Lesnar has tempered his anti-WWE comments lately compared to several weeks ago, he still prefers not to have that be the focus of media interviews. During an interview on the nationally syndicated Tony Bruno radio show on Thursday morning to discuss his signing with the Vikings, Lesnar got upset when Bruno made one too many pro wrestling references for Brock's liking. After covering the basics such as why Lesnar left WWE, Bruno asked Brock if he planned to bring any foreign objects onto the field with him. Lesnar kept his cool but let the host know he was agitated and said that he was there to talk about his pro football career, not pro wrestling.
Pro wrestling continues to seep its way into most stories on Lesnar so far, which makes sense because without his WWE background, he wouldn't be the subject of media attention. The Arizona Republic last Friday included the following news item: "The Minnesota Vikings signed pro wrestler Brock 'The Next Big Thing' Lesnar to play defensive line for them, but the team has not confirmed that it is close to deals for the Junkyard Dog, Jimmy Superfly Snuka, or Hulk Hogan. Apparently Rowdy Roddy Piper failed his physical."
St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sansevere wrote: "In the pro wrestling world, he was anointed The Next Big Thing. Now, as he begins a totally new career, nobody is calling him anything but a long shot. Lesnar hasn't played football since high school and is as raw as they come, but there is something about this former champion of wrestling that intrigues Tice." The story also notes that Lesnar signed for the league minimum of $230,000, "but he gets that only if he makes the final roster, which would be stunning. But Lesnar has been stunning people most of his life."
-Within WWE, for what it's worth, there's a general feeling that Brock Lesnar won't make the Vikings and will end up without the six-figure minimum salary. His best bet remains making the special teams squad, in which case he would get his minimum salary. If he does get cut, given the financial issues he has due to tax issues, despite (or more so because of) his seven-figure income last year, there is curiosity within WWE what he plans to do if he gets cut. He won't be welcome to WWE despite his increased name value from his NFL tryout unless he makes amends for some of the things he has said about wrestling. Several sources within WWE believe Lesnar won't return to WWE for a while, even if his NFL career fizzles, and that he's more likely to play semi-pro ball or look for other ventures to earn a living. They also think he will eventually return to WWE once he realizes that the money he'll make is worth his sacrifice in lifestyle.
-Brock Lesnar and Rena "Sable" Mero are engaged. Lesnar appeared on a Minnesota sports television show on Aug. 1, and when a clip was shown of him walking with Sable at Vikings' training camp, he introduced her as "my fiance, Rena." When asked if she was also a pro wrestler, Lesnar responded, "Yes, she was." Rena accompanied Brock Lesnar to the first day of training camp on Friday. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the couple was mobbed about by about 30 autograph seekers. "They're a lot more polite than wrestling fans," Lesnar said of the football fans.
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