For a lot of young football fans, the opportunity to compete on a professional football field is a dream of theirs. Who doesn’t remember going in the backyard setting up a scenario: A minute left, playing for your favorite team in the Super Bowl, down by five. You drop back looking for your receivers, but the pocket breaks down and you scramble. Looking downfield you find that your receiver shook his defender and is streaking across the endzone. You lob the ball into the corner as time expires and…touchdown!
This past Sunday, I got to live a dream of competing on an NFL field as my football team — the Fargo Invaders played at U.S. Bank Stadium — home of the Minnesota Vikings.
The game marked a close to our 2019 football season as a reward for our players. We had won the Northern Elite Football League this past August and were now taking the field in a showcase/celebration of the season. This would also mark the last game that our head coach Brent Lundgren would coach for the Invaders. Lundgren has been the face of the team for a number of years and has been on the coaching staff for each of the team’s three titles. This also marked the final game that I would be the offensive coordinator for the Invaders as I will be replacing coach Lundgren next season.
This game was really exciting for me as several friends were able to be a part of the festivities. My friend, Chris, got to suit up for us and play a couple of plays, while his family came down to the game. Several of my former college players are now on the team and I got to experience coaching them at one of the best stadiums in the NFL. It also was a great opportunity to see what it was like to roam the sidelines as a coach.
In all honesty, I think like most football fans I would have liked to have played. But a few years back, I made the decision that coaching was where I fit best in football and my playing days, albeit short, were behind me. But as a child, I always wanted to run out wearing the purple and helping the Minnesota Vikings win a Super Bowl.
So, we took on the Fox Valley Force, a team hailing from Green Bay, Wisconsin (yep…). The rules were very different due to the game being an exhibition. We had 22-minute quarters with a running clock and the only time it could be stopped was under two minutes in the second half. This caused a bunch of anxiety for me as I wanted to make sure that everyone on the offense got their opportunity to step foot on the field and play. This caused issues with the natural flow of the game as we were looking to give the guys an experience (while also getting a win).
While the game wasn’t our best showing, we did manage to take home a 14-7 victory. A run-in by our quarterback and a deep pass with one of my former college wideouts gave us the win. It was exciting and for the most part, players and coaches had a great time. I am glad I got to experience this and I hope there is more of it to come.
Zach Stich is the managing editor of The Fergus Falls Daily Journal. His column appears Fridays.