While many NFL coaches are enjoying some vacation time before training camp, Brad Childress is among four coaches who are spending time this week visiting U.S. military troops overseas as part of an NFL-USO tour.
I just talked to Childress for about 20 minutes and the Vikings coach described the response that he and his colleagues have received as "overwhelming."
Childress is at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan today with Philadelphia's Andy Reid, Carolina's John Fox and Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis. They began the tour by visiting Ramstein Air Base, which is approximately an hour outside Frankfurt. They originally were supposed to depart for Afghanistan after a day in Germany but their C17 airplane hit a bird on takeoff and had to return to the base.
Childress said many soldiers don't recognize the coaches at first because they are dressed in loose fitting clothes but once they realize who they are everything changes. "It doesn't make any difference whether it's New Orleans fans, we have a ton of Minnesotans here," he said. "I sat today with two guys from Duluth. There are people from my hometown of Aurora, Ill. It's just unbelievable what they are doing here."
Of course, many of the soldiers want the scoop from Childress on if Brett Favre is going to return for a 20th NFL season. Childress said he already has been asked that question "thousands and thousands" of times and thus has come up with a standard reply of: “You know what? That’s part of my night job, I’m going to do that when I get home.”
Childress also said his focus has been on visiting with the military personnel and while he's glad to talk about football he is taking some time away from his usual exchange of text messages with Favre. "[I'm just focusing on] football as far as it's concerned with the followers here in Afghanistan and there's plenty," Childress said.
I'm working on a story about Childress' visit for the Saturday paper. That story will appear on the website later today and includes a surprise and emotional reunion that Childress had with his son, Andrew, today. Andrew is in the Marines and Childress has talked openly about his concern about his son serving in Afghanistan.
Childress actually did not recognize Andrew at first -- he had lost some weight and was clean shaven -- but the coach was thrilled when he realized his son was standing in front of him. "It was emotional as hell," Childress said. "It was just a great feeling holding him in my arms."
The coaches, by the way, are expected to begin their trip home on Sunday.