Brad Goskops had been in line for eight hours by the time the gates opened to a Vikings official autograph session on a sweltering Tuesday. The Mankato resident has been coming to the team's annual training camp at Minnesota State University for 15 years and has a basement of Sharpied-up memorabilia to prove it.
Every year tens of thousands of fans storm the Vikings' summer home to nab autographs from their favorite players. But today Goskops has the drop on them all. The Vikings votary was the first in line at 3:30 a.m. to ensure he'd get a signature from highly touted rookie offensive tackle Matt Kalil -- another token for his purple shrine of a "man cave."
"It's weird, some days it's midnight and [you could] be 30 people back," he said, adding that he's not "crazy" enough to show up that early.
Today, Goskops' predawn arrival threw off the curve; the next autograph-seeker didn't settle in behind him until 6:30 a.m., he said. By 10:30 a.m., however, the line stretched nearly the length of the campus' Blakeslee Stadium.
Since on most days only one position group signs autographs for a 30-minute window, landing an autograph from fan favorites can be a chore. Christian Anton and Kyle Kubiak waited in line dutifully since 9 a.m. for Kalil's inscription, but their work isn't over. The 18-year-olds plan to troll nearby restaurants between morning and afternoon practices. Everybody's gotta eat, right?
"Each year we usually run into some offensive lineman getting a huge pizza or something," Anton said.
Other fans take to loitering outside of player-only areas, hoping to snag signatures as they come and go.
That ploy worked for Paul Johnson last year. The 25-year-old was unlucky in the lottery system the team uses to deal with the high demand for All-Universe running back Adrian Peterson's John Hancock. Instead, he caught the stud rusher as he left a team meeting.
"I go a little nuts with it," he confessed. "It's my major hobby."
Intense? Sure. But for many Vikings faithful, braving sunburn or a little idle time is well worth a memento from their football heroes.
"The things we do for an autograph," Kubiak said with a laugh.