The hottest ticket in town this week isn't for a concert, a play or a movie. It's for a football game – more than 1,000 miles away.
In one of the more unusual scenes of the season, Vikings players are scrambling to meet ticket demands for their road game Sunday in Houston. The Vikings have nine members of the team that are native Texans – starters Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder, Brian Robison, Charlie Johnson, long snapper Cullen Loeffler, backups Brandon Burton and Andrew Sendejo, practice squad player Joe Banyard and injured reserve lineman DeMarcus Love.
The Vikings haven't played in Houston since 2004 – making Loeffler the only Texas player on the team to have played a regular season game at Reliant Stadium. The Vikings haven't played a game in Texas at all since 2007, Peterson's rookie year. It's been a long time coming and the requests have come hot and heavy for football-rabid Texans wanting to cheer one of their own in their home state.
As would be expected, Peterson received the most requests and has been working on it since October to accommodate those friends and family that want to see Peterson's NFL debut in Houston. He had to secure upwards of 100 tickets, which was a long process, but one that he accomplished with the same ease with which he has piled up 100-yard rushing games the last two months.
"Actually it was pretty smooth," Peterson said. "I started like two months ago and got two suites that hold like 30 family members. Then I had to get 40 more tickets, so I'm going to have over 100 family members there. It'll be fun just to go there and leave with a win."
The game will be a homecoming for Sendejo as well, who played his college ball a stone's throw away from Reliant Stadium and has a crowd of his own heading to the game Sunday.
"I got 22 tickets," Sendejo said. "I'm from San Antonio, which is three hours away. But I went to Rice (University), which is right down the street from Reliant, so my family has been used to making the drive to Houston a lot. I also have a lot of friends and people that are still around the Houston area from my college days. I've been asked by a bunch of people for tickets and I told them I wasn't sure what I could get or if I could get them. My family has been looking forward to it.
"I tried to tell people that we have so many players from Texas that the veterans are first in the pecking order to make requests," Sendejo said. "I got as many as I could. I bought some tickets off of the other guys, so I feel pretty good that I was able to get 22 of them."
Things were just as tough for Burton, who is from Houston. Not only did he get hit up by family members and friends, but from high school coaches and teammates as well. Like Peterson and Sendejo, he was inundated with requests and had to cajole some teammates to get their allotment of tickets to come close to his own goal.
"I got family coming up – friends, cousins, high school coaches, pretty much everybody has been asking me for tickets," Burton said. "I had about 35 people ask me, but I knew right away that couldn't happen. I ended with about 20. That's nothing compared to what A.D. has had to do, but I had to do some scrambling to get as many as I could because there was competition for them. It's great to be heading home for the first time as an NFL player and I'm really looking forward to it."
Loeffler's home is about four hours from Houston, but that doesn't mean he won't be represented as well. He was among the Vikings players trying to lock down tickets for the game and said that he figured out pretty early on that there are going to be a lot of Vikings fans at the game – not necessarily those cheering for the team, but for individual players on the team.
"I got about 20 tickets and have about 30 people coming to the game because some of them are from the Houston area and already had tickets, but they want to support the Vikings," Loeffler said. "For a lot of the guys, it's the first time playing in the NFL in Texas. We haven't played in Houston in eight years and haven't played in Jerry's World (Cowboys Stadium) yet, so there's reason to be excited. I have a brother who lives nearby so we're going to get the family together for a couple of hours of Saturday. It's interesting to see how guys have been scrambling to get tickets because for most road games, guys may need a couple, but here you have a bunch of guys looking for as many as they can get."
Perhaps the luckiest player on the team in the mad rush for tickets is guard Charlie Johnson. His family can't make it to Sunday's game because of a prior commitment, but, having played at Reliant Stadium once a year in his five seasons with Indianapolis, it's been nothing new for him. In fact, he has advised his friends to explore other options, because, with or without the scramble for tickets, he figured they could probably get better seats on their own.
"My parents aren't going to be able to make it," Johnson said. "Being in Indy, I played there every year, so my family has seen me play there before. A lot of my friends from down there have learned that they should probably get tickets on their own so they're not up in the 600 section."
It won't be like Steelers fans waving Terrible Towels or loud Packers fans who make themselves known by chanting "Ku-u-u-uhn!" every time fullback John Kuhn touches the ball, but from the looks of things, the Vikings will be represented at Sunday's game, even if they had to pay to pack the stands.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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