Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Journey of a Young Kid's Dream: Five Years of VC

Vikings Corner turns five years old today and it's time to reflect back on the journey!

Updated: June 13, 2017 10:30 a.m.
By: Daniel House

Some people say good things come with time – I beg to differ. Sometimes you just have to chase them with everything you have. For me, my vision developed as a young elementary school student.

A Sunday afternoon of Vikings football turned into a young, 7-year-old, red-headed kid logging onto the computer and blasting out a four sentence recap. The content was like a rough draft journalism “lede,” but it was a start. I pressed print and shared it with my parents. I was so proud of every small piece of writing I would produce. As I progressed through elementary school, my love for writing continued to grow. At the same time, my love for football reached an all-time high. In second grade, my guidance counselor asked me to be a ball-boy/manager for the local high school football team he coached. I would go to the football practices, arrange drills, keep water bottles filled, and sort equipment. In between, I became lost in the game of football.

The strategy, formations, and the feeling of the humid two-a-days engulfed every part of my mind. The afternoons I spent with my friend and managing partner, Bryan, are days I wouldn’t trade for anything. Bryan was a manager with special needs and I developed a close relationship with him. To this day, football is a game that has connected us for 13 years. It’s why I love sports and how it can bring people together for life. He calls every week when I’m at college to make sure I’m doing well. His classic “hey buddy,” on the end of the line is something that never gets old. It brings so much perspective to my life. He and the football coach always encouraged me to chase a career in sports because they saw my passion at a young age.

Every summer, I kept coming back to practices and learned more from the WFCA Hall of Fame coach. Between breaks in class, I would go into his office and watch VHS tapes of the previous game on the TV next to his desk. He taught me the responsibilities of each player, the ways to coach them, and more importantly, how to lead.

My journey started with a career portfolio. I remember looking at it in his office one day. It was a file where students wrote down their desired career every year.

Since kindergarten, my desired profession was NFL player. After careful consideration, the head football coach told me I should explore another avenue in case the NFL didn’t work out. Instead, he witnessed my love for writing and told me sports journalism might be the right career. From that day forward, third grader Daniel House found his vision. It was the nudge I needed!

In 2002, my parents continued to fuel my passion for football. I remember my dad walking into the room and telling me we were going to Vikings training camp in Mankato. I don’t think I slept the entire night before leaving for the two-day trip. When I arrived, I still remember sitting in the bleachers watching my idols play on the field and seeing the coaching strategies. From that day forward, the trip to Mankato grew in scope. It went from two days, to five days, and eventually, two weeks. When school was out for the summer, all I wanted was for July to appear on the calendar. 16 years later, the trip continues, but with new meaning.

I kept the sports journalism idea in the back of my mind when the high school football coach suggested it. Years later, my eighth grade Language Arts teacher started a project where each student created a website. Of course, my website covered the Minnesota Vikings. I designed the website and made business cards. I also produced merchandise and promoted the "VC" brand. I remember my teacher telling me I should continue this project outside of the classroom. At that moment, I knew I would take the small stories I wrote for my family and share them with the public. I spent my entire freshman year of high school preparing to launch a website. On June 13, 2012, the journey started – Vikings Corner was born.

I turned the living room debates I had as a young kid with my dad and grandpa into a reality. My grandpa was the man who brought the Vikings into my family. Growing up in rural Minnesota, my dad and grandpa would stop all of the work on Sundays for one thing: Vikings football. He brought the tradition to my family, but more importantly, he taught me how to work and chase my goals. As I was launching my website, my grandpa was fighting leukemia. I remember the resolve and fight he showed throughout the battle. It is something I’ll carry with me forever. He never had a bad day and always had time for somebody else.

I made a visit to the hospital one day and dropped off all of my Vikings articles from my the newly-launched website, Vikings Corner. He read every single story with a special twinkle in his eye. He finished and looked my dad and I in the eye. With a wink, he said, “kid, you’re going to work in sports someday. You have what it takes. Keep writing.” He gave his patented giggle and we went back to watching golf on the television.

A month later, he lost his fight with the horrible disease. However, that moment still sticks in my mind today. Every article, feature, or event I cover has the same passion, energy, and drive I saw on that day. I find strength and motivation from those words and the many I moments I spent with him.

Despite writing articles for about 100 people and 150 Twitter followers, I kept producing content. I reached out to a mentor as a 16-year-old and he told me to “keep the content coming.” Little did I know, those words were some of the wisest I ever received. As the website grew, I had an opportunity to cover the Minnesota Vikings at training camp as a freshman in high school. I interviewed players, watched practices, and wrote stories on the day’s events. The time I spent going to Mankato took on a whole new meaning. It was a real-world professional opportunity to learn from others and gain experience.

I remember my first interview as a journalist in Mankato. I asked Chad Greenway if I could speak with him after practice. He smiled, came over and spoke with me for five minutes. As the interview ended, he shook my hand and said, “how old are you?” I responded, "16." He said, “no way, keep it up. You did a great job.” That moment provided me with so much confidence. I can’t thank the players, coaches, and Vikings staff who gave me that first opportunity. It was exactly the motivation I needed to keep writing.

Eventually, Vikings Corner started to grow to the point where I applied for a business license and sold advertising space. I had people from all corners of the globe reading my content, including players, agents, scouts, fellow journalists, fans, and many others. I used it as an opportunity to meet people across the world and chase the passion I developed back in elementary school. I read articles, studied film, and learned from others to continue improving. I can’t possibly list all of the mentors who have provided me with advice. However, you know who you are and the great impact you have made on my life. In addition, all of the podcast appearance invitations, the interactions on Twitter, and the friendships built on this website mean more than you know. 

Five years later, the website is still going strong. I’m now a journalism student at the University of Minnesota in the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, continuing to grow every day. I have so much more to learn! In addition to Vikings Corner, I cover Gopher football and basketball for GopherHole.com.  

I never imagined I would write features for a sports agency, work with ESPN on a project, interview Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, attend NFL events, cover an NCAA tournament game, or go to Gopher football practices. Those opportunities are what make this journey so much fun. It has taken hours of hard work, passion, and dedication to bring content to all of you. The process is what makes the journey so special. I get to do what I love and share it with others at 20 years old.

Every day, I look to “change my best” and bring the most unique and innovative content to every article. The words of encouragement and criticism I get in person and online mean so much to me. Along the road, there were times I could have quit, but I understood that success wasn’t a straight line. I also had so much support from my family, friends, and mentors along the way.

To any young kids who have a dream, chase it. Make the sacrifice, be confident, take advantage of opportunities, be professional, and most importantly, express gratitude. If someone does something for you, be appreciative and thankful. Write them a thank you and take time to show you truly care. In addition, understand "no" means “next opportunity” and don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t succeed. I’ve been told “no” a million times, but I understand it’s part of the business. Keep your
confidence, poise, and strong work ethic in everything you do! Finally, always continue to grow and never think there aren’t areas to improve. I have learned so much from people who have offered their advice and criticism. It made me a stronger person, leader, and writer!

The days of Vikings Corner might be numbered due to future opportunities on the horizon. However, I wanted to use this post as an opportunity to reflect and thank all of you for fueling my passion.

All of the hard work, time, and money I put into this is because of your support.

You helped a young, passionate, 15-year-old start a journey that continues five years later. It’s just the beginning and I can’t wait to see where the road will take me! I’m certain it will involve football and its X's and O's!

Now, it’s time to get back to work!

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