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Continued: Vikings' Kluwe, Loeffler not quite birds of a feather

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 29, 2012 - 6:47 AM

 

They finish each other's sentences, sometimes taking glee while doing so. Sometimes they both start laughing at an inside joke that just flew over your head. The affection between them is obvious.

Not surprising.

As Chris Kluwe says, during the Vikings season he sees Cullen Loeffler more than he sees his wife. Kluwe is the punter and holder for kicks. Loeffler is the team's long snapper. They are football's version of a baseball battery, each dependent on the other for success. They have been NFL teammates since Kluwe's arrival in 2005. So is it any surprise that they kind of sound like an old married couple?

For example: Loeffler was asked about how often the two hung out together.

Loeffler: "Not much. Because he's been Mr. Advocate over here."

Kluwe: "Ah, the political stuff ..."

Loeffler: "See, he's the political sounding board now."

Kluwe: "That's because I don't take time to shoot that many helpless animals."

They both laugh.

It's hard to keep these guys on topic. But what's interesting is to see two people, so different in so many ways, with such a close friendship. Yes, there are familiar ties that bind them. They are teammates. As two key members of the Vikings special teams, they are dependent on one another and spend the majority of practice together. They are both married, both fathers.

But then?

Kluwe grew up an urban kid in the Los Angeles area, while Loeffler grew up in a small Texas town. Kluwe is a veritable Johnny Mnemonic -- well-known gamer, constant tweeter, inveterate blogger, political activist, part-time musician.

Loeffler: "If he had a nice computer and a gaming station, he might be able to live forever."

Kluwe: "I can't wait to cybernetically augment myself. It's going to be great."

Different folks

Loeffler likes to hunt and fish. He has dabbled in metallurgy. He doesn't tweet and hasn't joined Facebook.

"I would love to get to a point in life where I never have to see a computer or a phone and just, almost, homestead," he said.

There's more. Kluwe, 30, has become an outspoken advocate for gay marriage, his fame sparked by a post on the website Deadspin, his subsequent challenge to debate former Vikings teammate Matt Birk on the issue, and his decision to pose shirtless for a pictorial in Out magazine.

Loeffler, 31, is more reticent to talk about political and social issues, but he is no stranger to politics. He was friends with Jenna Bush, daughter of former President George W. Bush, at the University of Texas and once attended a Christmas dinner at the White House as her guest. Loeffler's father, Tom, is a Republican former U.S. congressman from Texas.

While Kluwe seems genetically programmed to express his opinion, Loeffler keeps his to himself. But let's be clear: The two have some disagreements when it comes to policy.

But what's neat is that, at a time when polarization is the norm, these two go against the mold, in a refreshing way.

"I respect him for sticking to his beliefs," Loeffler said. "I think there is a fundamental problem -- no, I shouldn't say that ... I think there are issues today in America where there are a lot of people who will complain and complain and complain about issues but never voice their opinion. I respect [Kluwe] for holding steady to his beliefs and fighting for what he believes in. That's a very American quality.''

Odd couple

The differences don't end at politics. Music? Loeffler goes classic country. George Strait, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard. Two years ago, he and his wife went to a Don Williams concert at the Medina Ballroom. "We were the youngest in the room by, like, 25 years," he said.

Kluwe likes Tool and System of a Down. And Tripping Icarus, the band for which he plays the bass guitar.

Kluwe went to UCLA, getting A's in classes he liked, doing just enough to get by in others. His major was political science and history.

Loeffler majored in finance at Texas, earning Academic All-Big 12 honors four times.

Kluwe loves authors L.E. Modesitt Jr., Robert Jordan, David Weber and, lately, Kurt Vonnegut. Loeffler favors Jon Krakauer and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

They became teammates right before the start of the 2005 season, when Kluwe was acquired off waivers from Seattle.

"I called him Colin for most of the first year because I didn't think Cullen was an actual name," Kluwe said. "But as we worked together, we got to know each other. It's like anything else. The more you're around a person the more you get to know about 'em."

In this case, that was a good thing. They both have strong work ethics and are very competitive. They both laughed about a bowling outing that turned into a competition to see who could throw the ball the fastest.

Fast friends

Years later, the friendship has solidified. The two families spend time and the occasional holiday together. This, they say, will last long past football.

Loeffler: "Absolutely, for sure."

Kluwe: "I'll be sending him letter bombs and he'll defuse them."

Kluwe has led crusades before. When long snappers were excluded from EA Sports' "Madden" football games, Kluwe headed a push to get them included. When Loeffler was lost for the season because of a back injury last November in Atlanta, Kluwe went to Twitter to call out the Falcons' Kerry Meier for the blindside block he threw on the long snapper. Kluwe was one of the most vocal players in criticizing replacement officials earlier this season.

The two have joked about Kluwe going into politics in the future, with Loeffler as an adviser.

But seriously, in hours of trading opinions over the years, the two have found some common ground.

"I don't consider myself liberal," Kluwe said. "More libertarian. I'm about individual freedoms. Everyone should have the same chance to succeed in life. But whether you succeed should be up to you. You have to have safety nets but not people on the dole. Because that takes away a person's willingness to do stuff. That's not living."

Said Loeffler: "Basically he's red without the heavy social issues. We both believe in hard work and responsibility."

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