MANKATO -- The Mavericks of Minnesota State Mankato will report for football practice next Sunday and will have a first official practice the next day. There will be no need to find temporary quarters in a smaller locker room at the Taylor Center, or to schedule practice based on when the practice fields or Blakeslee Stadium might be available.
That’s because the Vikings have abandoned Mankato after 52 summers as home for a hunk of training camp, leaving coach Todd Hoffner’s Mavericks with the big locker room, the office space and first call on practice time.
Is the coach pleased not to be encumbered by the Vikings for the first 10 days of the Mavericks’ preparation for a new season?
“Not at all,’’ Hoffner said. “This is a big loss for Minnesota State as a university, it’s a big loss for the Greater Mankato business area, and it’s a big loss for us as a football program.
“The access to the personal development we had with the Vikings here was a tremendous advantage for us, as players and as coaches. As a coach, I could walk out there every day, watch how they were coaching, watch how the coaches prepared behind the scenes.
“I really believe that every time the Vikings were here for two or three weeks, we could pick up things that made us better as a coaching staff.’’
Hoffner also saw the presence of the Vikings as building interest in football, in general, in the Mankato area.
“It brought a heightened exuberance for our sport,’’ Hoffner said. “Coming up to watch the Vikings practice made people realize, ‘Football’s almost here,’ and the next thought might be, ‘When do the Mavericks play their first game.’
“Having the Vikings here was more than a good thing for us; it was a great thing. There’s no doubt about it. We’re hurtin’ for certain.
“The advantage the Vikings’ connection to Mankato gave us is gone. We’re in the same circumstance as everyone else in our league now.’’
Hoffner said that when the Mavericks were recruiting in other states or perhaps a D-I transfer was deciding where to land, the fact the players were familiar with Mankato – through mentions of the Vikings being there in August on ESPN and elsewhere – was beneficial.
More importantly, he said it was the energy that it brought to the players:
“Having the Vikings here, watching them work out, maybe meeting and talking to a player … I’m convinced we had players saying to themselves, ‘If I work harder than anyone, maybe I can get there.’ ‘’
Hoffner paused and said: “Obviously, our players had a great example of exactly that every day the Vikings were here in recent years with Adam Thielen. He played here and did work harder than anyone, and now he’s one of the better receivers in the NFL.’’
Thielen played four seasons (three for Hoffner) for the Mavericks and was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2013.
“I’m not exaggerating,’’ Hoffner said. “There’s a void in Mankato without the Vikings being here this summer. Here at the university but also around the city … there’s an emptiness.’’