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Fall 2002 Cover

Fall 2002

Interview with Sean Salisbury

Former Vikings quarterback Sean Salisbury is now a regular part of ESPN's NFL coverage and co-hosts on ESPN Radio.
Golden Kuppe
Jake Kuppe is leading the charge for Gopher football
Marathon Man
Superman doesn't fly without his red cape. Chris Lundstrom doesn't run without his red bandana.

Interview with Sean Salisbury

by Wally Langfellow
Fall 2002

Sean Salisbury, former Viking now with ESPN
Former Vikings quarterback Sean Salisbury (1990-94) is now a regular part of ESPN's NFL coverage and co-hosts on ESPN Radio with Dan Patrick. Salisbury uses those platforms to voice his many opinions. We caught up with Salisbury to talk about the state of his former team.

WL: Are you surprised by the struggles that the Vikings have gone through this year?
SS: Not at all. I didn't expect them to be very good at all this year.

WL: What do you think about Mike Tice?
SS: He's got everything it takes to be a good football coach. He understands players. He understands offense. He's learned behind two of what I consider the best (Green and Billick). But you have to have players. The Vikings have players at certain positions, but they've got a lot of depth problems and a lot of postions they need to fill. You have to have the nucleus of 12, 15, 18, 20 good players, and the Vikings just don't have that.

WL: What did you like and dislike about the Dennis Green regime?
SS: The only thing I didn't like was that I didn't start every single game (laughing). There's nothing I didn't like. I thought he was fair. I've never been around a coach who could take the adversity that Denny or the football team was going through off the field. No matter what was going on around you, Denny knew how to get you ready to play. To me if I'm a general manager, Denny Green would not be broadcasting any more past this year. Let 'em fish for one year, then I'd hire him.
WL: You don't see him not coming back to the NFL?
SS: Heck no.If he doesn't get hired it'll be because he doesn't want to do it. I can't fathom that there's not going to be four or five jobs. If you're a team that fires a coach, other than getting Bill Parcells or Bill Walsh, and neither one of them are coming back right now, why wouldn't you go get Denny?

WL: You've been outspoken about the Terrell Owens Sharpie in the shoe incident, do you see Randy Moss in the same light?
SS: Aside from the fact that they're probably the two most gifted receivers we have in the league, there's no more gifted reciever that's ever walked on a football field than Randy Moss. Terrell Owens may be the best right now because he works the middle of the field. But I have never seen, covered, played with, or watched a guy that has the combination of athleticism as Randy Moss. And I mean this as a compliment, but I'm not so sure that he knows how to run routes just yet. I really don't.But he's so gifted, that his whole life he could line up and whip you without really having to whip you with preciseness.

WL: Why have the Vikings struggled to get the ball to Moss like they had in the past?
SS: Part of it is that Randy has got to play 75 snaps a game and want to takeover. And in talking to Mike Tice, Randy has never been better as far as practicing and wanting to win. But if I'm a defensive coordinator, there's no way I'd ever let that guy be in man to man coverage, 'cause there's not a player in the league that can stay on him man to man when Randy wants to beat you. Period.
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Golden Kuppe
Leading the charge for Gopher football

by Brad Miller
Fall 2002

Gopher right tackle Jake Kuppe
When asked if Jake Kuppe would play a big part in the Gophers' success this year, Minnesota Head Football Coach Glen Mason said, "Jake Kuppe is a big part of anything."

What an understatement. At 6'7 and 350 pounds the Gophers' mammoth right tackle was listed as the Big Ten's largest player last season. He was also a large part of an offensive line that ranked 14th in the nation last year in rushing. But as one of only two returning starters this season, Kuppe finds himself as the anchor of a young and inexperienced line.

Quiet leader
"Jake is unquestionably the leader of this unit." said Gophers co-offensive coordinator and tackles coach Mitch Browning. "He obviously has a lot of experience. He's a hard worker and leads by example. He's been a lot of fun to coach, and we will sorely miss him after this season."

And what of Kuppe after this season, is he good enough to play on Sundays next year? Browning says yes, but not without improvement in a few areas. "He needs to develop NFL quickness." Jake has the size, and the desire, but he just needs to get all the working parts in sync, especially his footwork and quickness in pass protection."

Kuppe himself says he wants to give the next level a shot, and agrees with his coach. "I definitely need to get quicker in order to become a better pass protector. If I can improve on that, I think I have a good chance to make it. I've already played against some of the best talent at the college level, and I hope to improve enough to play against the best at the NFL level."

As far as this year goes, Kuppe will lead like he always has, by example. "I'm not a very vocal person, so I let my play do the talking for me. If you do your job, others will see that, and respect you for it."
Kuppe didn't make an immediate impact at the U of M, but it didn't take him long to crack the lineup. Like many freshman, he red shirted his first year. In his second season, (red shirt freshman year) he played in eleven games, starting one and earning his first letter.

The start came against Penn State in Happy Valley, a 24-23 Gopher win that Kuppe says is one of the greatest moments in his college career. "That game against Penn State and the win at Ohio State, the following year were definitely the highlights of my college football career."

In his sophomore season, Kuppe moved into the starting lineup, starting all 12 games at right tackle, and earned his second letter. Last season Kuppe was one of the anchors of the best offensive lines in the nation. He moved to left tackle and started all but one game, missing the Murray State game due to back spasms. He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media. This season he moved back to right tackle.

Minnetonka's gentle giant
Kuppe made a name for himself at Minnetonka High School. As a senior, he was named to Super Preps All-Midwest region team, and was a Prep Star All-American. He was first team all-conference and all-metro, and honorable mention all-state.

But football wasn't the only sport at which Kuppe excelled. He was a three year starter on the hardwood, and a standout shot putter on the track and field team. He helped lead the Minnetonka basketball team to a state championship in 1998. A team that included standouts Shane Schilling and Ryan Keating. Keating is now the starting quarterback for perennial division three powerhouse St. Johns, and one of Kuppe's best friends. "Jake works hard. A lot of people say he doesn't work hard because he's so big, but that's not true. I hope and pray that Jake will be able to make some money in the future playing football. He deserves it, that's for sure."

Keating has fond memories of Kuppe in high school, "He was a better basketball player by far. He was an average football player, but he turned himself into a great one. I think he was the best center in the state. Joel Pryzbilla was a better defender, but at that time, Jake was a better offensive player."

In fact, basketball was Kuppe's favorite sport growing up. "I was more passionate about basketball. As a kid, I devoted more of my time to hoops." Kuppe, who moved from Bloomington to Minnetonka in the 8th grade said Michael Jordan was his favorite athlete. "I hated the Bulls, but I loved Michael." Kuppe was no slouch on the hardwood either. His best season was his sophomore year, when he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. In fact, he received offers to play basketball at North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Northern Illinois. But he knew by his junior year in high school that football was where he would ultimately succeed. "I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to play big time college football."

Minnesota born and bred
The summer between his sophomore and junior seasons Kuppe turned heads at the Gophers Football Camp. Entering his senior season, he was being coveted by Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, but he committed to the Gophers on September 1st. "I grew up a Gopher fan, and deep down I knew I wanted to stay home. I liked Coach Mason right off the bat. I knew he was going to turn this program around, and I wanted to be a part of that."

Playing in front of his friends and family was a big factor in his decision as well. "They celebrate the good times, and are supportive during the bad." Jake has his priorities in order off the field as well. He's scheduled to graduate in December and will earn a degree in elementary education. He already works with youth programs in Minnetonka and would like the opportunity to coach football at his alma mater some day. "I love working with kids, and when my football career is over, I will be a teacher. But I would also love to coach football at Minnetonka. I've made some amazing relationships with teachers and coaches there, and would love to return some day."

Imagine this, fifteen years from now, after a stellar NFL career, Minnetonka's
favorite son returns home to coach his former high school team. Of course, the trip doesn't have to be that far. The Vikings could always use a big body.

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Marathon Man
Superman doesn't fly without his red cape. Chris Lundstrom doesn't run without his red bandana.

by Bruce Leonard
Fall 2002
"The whole bandana thing started last year before the New York City Marathon," says a bemused Lundstrom. "I had this really long hair and it started to flap down in my eyes. So, I put on the bandana to keep it out of my face and that went pretty well, I've been wearing it ever since."

Chris Lundstrom
Fashion sense aside, the 26-year-old Minnesota native has become a rising star in the world of long distance running. His transition from marathon unknown to marathon somebody took place at the aforementioned New York City Marathon, the site of the 2001 U.S. Men's Marathon Championships.

Lundstrom proved to himself that he could compete with the top U.S. runners, crossing the finish line third among Americans and 16th overall in the personal best time of 2:18:08. Not world class just yet, but not bad for someone running in his second marathon. "The New York City Marathon was such a huge breakthrough for me," says Lundstrom. "I felt I was right on pace the whole time and everything was feeling so natural and easy. It's as close to a perfect race as I have run."

Perfection, that's pretty much how Lundstrom feels the union is between him and the sport he loves. He believes he was born to run. "When I first started running in 8th grade at Northfield, I immediately loved it and knew I would be good at it. Then I went to college at Stanford and helped the Cardinals win an NCAA cross country title. As I've gotten older, nothing's really changed. I love the training, the endless miles, and all the work that goes into preparing for a marathon."

Lundstrom's decision to return to his home state and train with Team USA Minnesota has fueled his ascension on the marathon map. Head Coach Dennis Barker says Lundstorm is making great strides. "Chris' biggest strength is his mental ability to stick with it for long distance races. The main thing that I'm working on is his consistency, and to help him cover the distance quicker. He was a good 5k and 10k runner in college, and now it's just extending that a little bit further."

That approach is working. Lundstrom has lowered all his times and considers himself to be a much more consistent runner and is in the best shape of his life. Still, he says, he hasn't had that race where he's felt on fire. "After New York, I expected every race to be a huge breakthrough, and when that didn't happen it was frustrating. But I've gotten faster and hopefully I'll have another breakthrough race at the Twin Cities Marathon, (this year's site for the U.S Men's Marathon Championships). It would be pretty incredible to do well with your home state cheering you on."

In the not too distant future, the Olympic Trials loom. While he would love to win a spot and run for the U.S. team at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece, Lundstrom doesn't obsess over it. "If I continue to train hard, and get my time down below 2:15, I'll have a shot at it and everything will take care of itself." says Lundstrom. "The main reason I run is for the enjoyment. If I don't run, I'm not a happy person. Running has always given me peace of mind."

And just maybe something gold, silver, or bronze to wear with that red bandana.

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