Father’s Day means different things to different Minnesota Vikings.
For Chad Greenway, who lost his father in December, it’s the time of year when he puts on his annual fundraising Gridiron Gallop 5k for kids and adults.
But the most unique situation on the team for Father’s Day might belong to rookie Tyrus Thompson. At 6-foot-5, 324 pounds, he is one of the giants on the offensive line, not the biggest but certainly big enough already to hold his own as he battles for a starting spot at right guard while making the transition from offensive tackle in college.
But at 23 years old, Thompson entered the NFL as a married man with two kids. It’s a fairly unique situation and one that had him missing his kids after two weeks away from his home in Texas.
“This is the longest I’ve ever been away from my wife and kids,” Thompson said after the final day of mandatory minicamp that ended four weeks of offseason practices.
The NFL will change young men, physically and financially. Thompson admits he has more money than ever after signing a four-year, $2.4 million contract with $128,808 guaranteed. Still, some things remain the same.
“As a person, I’m the same guy. I’ve got a little bit more money in my pockets than I’ve ever had. It’s just been a great learning experience, just learning from these guys and living out the dream I’ve had since I was a little kid,” he said.
The veterans on the offensive line have been a huge help to the rookie, especially those that were lined up on either side of him, center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt, as he competes for a starting job.
But after the offseason competition comes a rewarding five-week respite in which Thompson could return home to see his wife and kids again. His 5 p.m. flight back to Texas on the final day of minicamp showed his eagerness to return to family.
“It’s going to be great. I love my kids. I’m going to see if my wife even remembers (Father’s Day),” he joked. “Nah, she was talking to me about it. She was like, ‘What do you want to do for Father’s Day.’ But I’m not a kind of guy that is really into doing all kinds of stuff. I just want to see my family and that’s good enough.”
Thompson has a 2-year-old son, King, and a 1-year-old daughter, Aria-Elyse. He got back for a weekend here or there to visit them in between offseason workouts, but he said it felt like six weeks away. Technology like Facetime helped keep them connected when he was away, even if his kids didn’t understand how to work the buttons.
“She’ll put the kids on there and they’ll be trying to hang up on me. They’re just 2 and 1, they see the red button on the phone and they just want to press it,” he said with a hearty laugh befitting of a loveable and loving 324-pound father. “They’re doing good. My parents are helping my wife take good care of them.”
When Thompson is at Winter Park, it’s all business. He has job security to earn to keep money flowing for his family, and he said the fact that he is a 23-year-old married father of two doesn’t change things around his teammates.
“Guys got kids. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you’ve got to perform on the field and that’s all those guys really care about at the end of the day. You’re going to have some rookie dues,” he said as he held Loadholt’s helmet to take inside after a recent practice. “But it’s nothing crazy. This is the same old, same old stuff.”
Growing up, Thompson’s situation was a little different, too.
His father was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army until Tyrus, born in Germany, was about 5 years old. For him, military life was normalcy, but his dad’s military background helped reinforce the lessons he was taught.
“It’s just things that he taught me and my little sisters how to persevere through things when things get tough – because things get tough in life in general so you’ve just got to push through those things,” he said.
That should help Thompson during his NFL quest, but it might have also played a factor in finding his wife. In marrying her, he married into another military family. His mother-in-law was a sniper.
Thompson willing dished what he got his own mother for Mother’s Day (flowers) and what he got his wife (sent her chocolate-covered strawberries), but when it came to what they got his mother-in-law, he said that was “private.”
Having a former sniper as a mother-in-law is “cool,” he said, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal to him because he grew up in the military environment.
There was no family outing to the movie “American Sniper,” however.
“I watched with my wife and my wife didn’t like it too much either,” he said. “Some of those things can be kind of tough on military people when they see stuff.”
Discussion of his mother-in-law’s days on the job don’t come up, but he definitely takes a back seat when it comes to marksmanship.
“I go shooting sometimes, not a bunch, and she made fun of my shooting,” he said. “That’s alright.”
For Thompson, Father’s Day will be a low-key activity. He’s just grateful to be with family after spending much of the last two months in Minnesota.
“It’s just great seeing them smile, seeing they’re healthy. They’ve got food and a shelter and it’s just good to see them healthy,” he said.
As for the previous generation and buying a gif for his own dad, Thompson said he’s a “pretty cheap guy” and “they know me pretty well.”
But five weeks from now, Thompson’s wife, Olivia-Elyse, and kids will be closer. They won’t be down in Mankato often, but when training camp starts, they will at least be joining him in Minnesota.
“They’re going to have a little place up here (in the Twin Cities),” he said. “I’ve still got to have football be football, handle my business first and then in my free time after I study my playbook a little extra, in my free time, I’ll be with them.”
The thought of that put a big smile on a big, young man with big responsibilities ahead.
Sunday slant: Thompson in unique situation
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