MINNEAPOLIS — Rick Spielman was easy to spot Saturday morning.
He was the only guy wearing a Minnesota Vikings coat on the Nebraska sideline.
The general manager of the NFL franchise was in a familiar place, walking the same turf he did when the Vikings were playing home games at TCF Bank Stadium while U.S. Bank Stadium was being built down the road.
Well, not the exact same turf.
“They replaced it after we left,” Spielman said of the Minnesota Gophers team that now inhabits the stadium.
Spielman was getting an up-close look at his adopted son, Nebraska receiver JD Spielman, during pregame warmups. The Spielmans' story has been well documented, and now JD was returning home to show Minnesota fans what they were missing.
The younger Spielman didn't give interviews leading up to the game. But it surely meant plenty to the family.
With the Vikings playing in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, the team was scheduled to fly out of Minneapolis at 1 p.m. Saturday. Or, about halftime of the Nebraska-Minnesota game.
The elder Spielman, normally on those charter flights to Viking road games, had no problem staying behind and flying commercial later Saturday.
With his schedule, Rick said, he had only seen JD play in person three times.
There was a moment of concern when JD went to the bench at one point to have his ankle looked at and retaped. Rick Spielman was close by to ask if everything was OK; JD nodded yes, and Rick gave a thumbs-up before going on his way.
Rick Spielman later watched from the press box as JD racked up six first-half catches for 84 yards, becoming Nebraska's freshman record holder for all-purpose yards, receiving yards and catches.
Rowing the boat: P.J. Fleck’s “Row the Boat” mantra is everywhere at TCF Bank Stadium. Literally.
It’s painted on the Gophers’ equipment boxes on the sideline. It’s on the banner the student section unfurls when Minnesota takes the field. In the tunnel under the stadium that leads from the Gophers’ locker room to the field, there is an entire wall adorned with oars that have been decorated by supporters of the program.
Even the icons used to mark timeouts remaining for each team on the stadium’s large video board are oars. Goldy the Gopher, Minnesota’s mascot, “rows” a platform across the end zone to end halftime.
The entire ethos of the mantra comes to a head during Minnesota’s pregame video when Fleck, the Gophers’ head coach, explains the meaning of the term.
Thick skin: Stanley Morgan and De’Mornay Pierson-El weren’t dressed before the game. Literally.
The wide receivers were out 90 minutes before kickoff catching passes shirtless. Pierson-El took it a step further, wearing just a pair of shorts along with his cleats while Morgan was in sweatpants.
They both outdid strength coach Mark Philipp, who took the field in a T-shirt and shorts earlier in warmups.
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