Eleven Years Ago, We Lost Korey Stringer

09 Dec 2001 : Korey Stringer's family poses next to their beloved's retired jersey during the game at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Korey Stringer died in the summer during training camp. The Vikings beat the Giants 28-16. (Mandatory Credit : Elsa/Allsport)

A lot of sports fans have moments in their lives where they can immediately recall where they were or what they were doing where something specific happened. For many fans of the Minnesota Vikings, August 1, 2001 is such a day. . .for all the wrong reasons.

I can remember that I was getting into a GOV in order to make the drive from Fort Rucker, Alabama to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery in preparation for my upcoming deployment to Bosnia. Due to the amount of running around I had been doing for that, I hadn't been tracking Vikings' training camp quite as religiously as I normally might have. I got out onto the road and, after some fiddling with the radio, managed to find an ESPN Radio affiliate to accompany me on the drive

It was then, during one of the breaks for The Dan Patrick Show, that Dan Davis said that Vikings' offensive tackle Korey Stringer had passed away in the early hours of that Wednesday morning from complications of a heat stroke he had suffered the day before.

The official press release from the Vikings looked like this:

Korey Stringer passed away at Immanuel St. Joseph's-Mayo Health System in Mankato, MN at 1:50 a.m. on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 due to complications from heat stroke. Stringer completed the morning practice session with the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday, July 31 and walked to an air conditioned shelter following practice. There he developed symptoms of heat stroke including weakness and rapid breathing. The Vikings' athletic trainers were present and immediately attended to him. An ambulance and paramedics were called and the hospital was alerted as the ambulance was en route to Immanuel St. Joseph's. Within five minutes a full team of physicians and emergency room staff met them upon arrival at the hospital.

Stringer was unresponsive at the time of arrival and had an extremely high core temperature of over 108 degrees. Stringer developed multi-organ system failure throughout the day and night requiring the attention of multiple specialists and staff. He never regained consciousness and despite all efforts his heart failed at 1:50 a.m. The hearts and prayers of all the Vikings' family are with the Stringer family.

Stringer had become a favorite among Vikings fans in the Minneapolis community, as he had established many community service programs with local schools and libraries. He was a Pro Bowler in the 2000 season, and had started 91 of his 93 career NFL games. With the departure of Todd Steussie to Carolina that off-season, Stringer appeared to be poised to make the move from right tackle to left tackle for a team that had made it to the NFC Championship Game the previous season.

Then, suddenly, rather than Stringer protecting young Daunte Culpepper's blind side, we got an emotional press conference featuring then-coach Dennis Green, wide receiver Cris Carter, and wide receiver Randy Moss. Personally, it didn't really hit me until I saw clips of the press conference later on and saw Moss. . .hard, gruff, tough, unflappable Randy Moss. . .break down and cry at the podium while talking about what Stringer meant to him, saying that he didn't know how or when he'd get over his death. Moss and Stringer had become very good friends in the three seasons they played together, and Moss looked like he had gotten his heart ripped out. Carter and Green were both very emotional as well.

Stringer's loss was a big one for the franchise, but it was something that allowed Vikings fans to step back and take stock of things as well. Yes, we all love the Vikings and the National Football League, but during the other 165 or so hours that comprise a normal week, there are things that are infinitely more important than football, and events like the death of Korey Stringer are reminders of that fact. It also tells us that we need to take greater precautions in our own lives, as there are many, many people that suffer heat strokes every year in situations that have nothing to do with football, or with any sort of athletic activity at all.

That was part of the legacy that Stringer left to the National Football League, and the Vikings were among the first teams to adopt a new approach to monitoring heat stress, a program that they have continued for the past eight seasons, by using a device known as the CorTemp temperature pill.

The amazing ingestible CorTemp Core Body Temperature Monitoring System does exactly what is says on the tin, continuously reading your body temperature while it slowly drifts from esophagus to colon, transmitting the readings to an accompanying handheld. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings football teams use the CorTemp system, manufactured by HQ Inc., to ensure their players don't overexert themselves during practices.

(Description courtesy of DVice.com.)

No team deserves to go through what the Vikings did with Korey Stringer. . .and hopefully, with the new CBA making camps a little less intense than they were in the past and the advances in technology like the one I just described, nobody will have to deal with it again. Because every Vikings fan remembers where they were when they heard the news, and they certainly remember how they felt when they heard it.

Rest in peace, Korey Stringer. We know that you're still gone, but in the hearts of Viking Nation, there is no chance that you will ever be forgotten.

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