MINNEAPOLIS - What would you be doing if you didn’t play sports? What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite penguin? Will you sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider?
Some of Minnesota’s top professional athletes were put to the test by little kids on Tuesday at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital. Kids battling illness and their families, got to meet and ask questions to some of their favorite athletes. Even Gopher football coach PJ Fleck jumped in for a cameo after his team held practice.
It was the Minnesota Sports All-Access Kids News Conference.
The event featured Kyle Rudolph and Adam Thielen from the Vikings, former Twins player Corey Koskie, Wild players Jason Zucker and Marcus Foligno, Lynx center Sylvia Fowles and United player Ike Opara.
“The talent across the Twin Cities sports scene that was sitting up there answering questions, and they’re all here for the patients, this hospital and that’s how special this hospital is to the Twin Cities,” said Rudolph, who was most recently the Vikings’ nominee for NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Rudolph said it’s an event they’ve done before, and the concept stuck after doing it during Super Bowl week. He also had Brett Favre come in as a kickoff to last football season.
Thielen might have gotten the toughest question of the afternoon: “Which teammate would you least want to date your sister?” Without hesitation, his answer: “Stefon Diggs.”
“I think it’s just fun. You’re getting so many odd questions. We’re so used to the typical questions about games or camp or summer, the season, win streaks, losing streaks, whatever it is. It’s fun to get out of that realm and just have some fun. Answer questions from kids about who knows what,” Zucker said.
The athletes were also asked about their favorite cars, and what ultimately brought them to Minnesota.
They even got questions from kids who weren’t able to get out of their hospital beds and down to Wilf Auditorium. It’s a day of perspective for the athletes, who are all in different seasons and embarking on new adventures.
Thielen and Rudolph are days away from hosting the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Opara and the United are having one of the best seasons in Minnesota soccer history, Zucker and Foligno are getting ready for Wild training camp and Fowles just helped lead the Lynx to another appearance in the WNBA playoffs.
The top moment of the afternoon might have been when a little girl requested they sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
All six grabbed their microphones and gave the little girl a thrill she’ll never forget.
“I was just trying to make sure I knew the words. It’s not too hard, so that was a lucky one. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a Justin Bieber song or something like that,” Zucker said.
At the end of the day, it’s all about perspective.
“Seeing the smiles on their face, being able to take their mind off maybe what they’re going through, you can lift yourself up from just seeing how good they feel. At the end of the day, you put your worries aside and realize I’m in a good place. I hope the best for every single one of the kids who were there today,” Opara said.