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Daily Norseman Interview with Anthony Barr at Hyundai Youth Football Camp

Eric Thompson of Daily Norseman chatted exclusively with Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr during his youth football camp held at Winter Park.

Anthony Barr was kind enough to chat with us between drills of his youth camp on Sunday morning.
Anthony Barr was kind enough to chat with us between drills of his youth camp on Sunday morning.
Eric J. Thompson

When I entered the Winter Park field house on Sunday morning just after 9:00, the entire field was covered in purple-clad youngsters going through drills. The Hyundai Youth Football Camp had just begun. There were 250 kids from the grade school to junior high age range scrambling all over the field running offensive drills and passing routes. Scattered throughout were a couple dozen coaches in royal blue shirts from ProCamps, a company that utilizes local high school and college coaches to help run camps hosted by professional athletes. Somehow they were organizing all the chaos, shouting out instructions to their respective groups of campers for about ten minutes until they quickly rotated to the next station. Family members of the campers packed the sidelines, most of them holding up their devices to record some keepsake footage of their children's big day.

And right in the middle of everything was a larger-than-life figure in bright Vikings gold. He darted back and forth between the groups, helping out with the drills and talking to the campers, literally working up a sweat on a warm July morning in the crowded field house. Anthony Barr, Vikings star linebacker and host of the camp, was definitely in his element. He was a natural with the kids, lightheartedly participating in drills like this one where campers tried out their "swim moves" on him:

I asked a Hyundai representative how they got the camp up and running on time with all these kids. "Oh people were lined up outside at 6:00 AM," she explained. The Hyundai Youth Football Camp was free of charge and open to the first 250 children to sign up, so the campers that made it in were beyond excited to get the chance to learn some football basics from one of their favorite players. (And their parents, many of whom were clad in Vikings gear themselves, were beyond excited about the photo opportunities.)

And to be perfectly honest, I was excited too, because I had the opportunity for an exclusive interview with Barr in between drills at the camp. Our Q&A about the camp and the upcoming Minnesota Vikings season is below.

Daily Norseman: Tell us a little bit about how this camp and your partnership with Hyundai came about, and what kind of skills are you teaching the kids at the camp today.

Anthony Barr: It's been in the works for a little while, and when the opportunity like this presents itself you want to try and make the most out of it. It's fun to spend some time with the community and the kids. You want to make yourself available to them and show them how much you appreciate them. And today we're just working on some fundamentals. Right now they're going through offensive drills. Handoffs, slant routes, tight end release and cut drills. Just basic things that will hopefully stick with them for a while and make them better players in the future.

DN: You know what the age range is for the kids here today?

Barr: I think from about 7 or 8 to 13 and 14. Around there.

DN: It looks like you're already getting in a good workout today. These kids are putting you to work!

Barr: Yeah man, I'm already sweating! You know, kids never get tired so you try to match their energy and stay right with them as best you can.

DN: So how do you feel physically heading into the season? I know you've been nicked up the past couple years, especially towards the end of both seasons. Are there any precautions you're taking getting ready for this season and getting your body ready for a 16 game (and hopefully more) season?

Barr: I've been really diligent with the process as far as training, nutrition, and really regular everyday upkeep. You're gonna get banged up and bruised up throughout the course of the season but you try to limit those as much as possible by staying in the training room, staying in the weight room, and staying strong. But I'm feeling good. I'm confident I can play a full 16 games plus. I think we're all excited to get back to camp on the 28th.

DN: Speaking of camp, I know you have taken days off here and there in the last couple Training Camps. Do you anticipate participating in 100% of camp this year or will you limit things again?

Barr: I'm going to do what my coaches and trainers ask me to do. Whatever plan they have for me going into camp is what I'm going to execute. I won't question anything they have to say because I know they have my best interests at heart.

DN: You're a big part of the defense that was really a strong point of the team last year. Your side of the ball has really taken a leap under Mike Zimmer and George Edwards since they arrived and you were drafted. What needs to happen this year to make that next step into becoming one of the best, if not the best, defenses in the NFL?

Barr: We just have to be more consistent. We gotta stop the run more consistently. If we can do that, I think the rest kind of takes care of itself. We have a great group of guys on the defensive side of the ball. They all care. They all want to be great. It's just a matter of executing play in and play out and not having those lulls throughout the course of a game.

DN: And now that defense has some new toys to play with after the draft with guys like Mackensie Alexander, Kentrell Brothers, Stephen Weatherly, and Jayron Kearse. How much contact have you had with the rookies so far heading into camp?

Barr: I'm not the most vocal person, but Mackensie in particular has come up to me and asked questions and picked my brain a little bit. I'm more than willing to share any information and give him any thoughts, any experiences I have and try to guide him through his first offseason and his first camp. It's going to be a shock, and it's a lot to handle your first year. But all the guys we brought in are quick learners and really hard workers, so we expect a lot out of them.

DN: Well you'll be used to Mankato, but now you have the brand new stadium opening up. I'm curious how much you've seen of US Bank Stadium so far. Have you seen the locker rooms, got a full tour, anything like that? And how important is it to you guys to have that first game there on Sunday Night Football against the Packers?

Barr: I actually haven't seen it. I haven't checked it out yet.

DN: Really?!

Barr: No, I've driven by it a couple times but I haven't gone inside. I think I kind of want to wait though until I actually play in there to check it out. I've heard it's great, it's a beautiful place. Nothing but good things. And as far as the first game, I know I can't wait, and no one else can either. I expect our fans and the stadium to be rockin', and we all know what's going to happen.

DN: Well the first thing I think you're going to notice is that everything is much bigger. I still can't get over the size of that place. Are there any personal goals or milestones you have for the season? Like a certain number of sacks, tackles, or interceptions? Or is it just strictly a team mindset?

Barr: You always have personal goals, whether you share them or not. I think everybody has them and everybody wants to attain certain accomplishments or certain things. But I tend to put those kind of things to the wayside because team goals are so much more important. I do have my personal goals--I don't care to share those--but we do have some very lofty team goals.

DN: Let's talk quick about your alma mater. First it was you getting drafted out of UCLA, then the next year obviously your old roommate Eric Kendricks, and now this year Myles Jack. Does Jim Mora have any linebackers left at UCLA or did the NFL just clear him out?

Barr: We had a couple more coming out this past year. We actually had two drafted this year, Aaron Wallace also went in the 7th round to the Titans. So we got a nice stable full of linebackers man. They've done a nice job of recruiting and coaching those guys up and putting out good prospects. They always do a good job with that.

DN: So you think the Bruins will be alright in the Pac 12 this year?

Barr: Yeah, you know I think they have the most important position locked up. Their quarterback and their offensive line, I think they're pretty solid on those two fronts. It's just a matter of getting everyone else back on board. They're going to have a young team this year. It'll be a learning experience for the quarterback but I expect them to make a big leap and lead the team to victory.

DN: Alright I'll let you get back to the drills, Anthony. Looks like these kids are waiting for you. I really appreciate the time today and we'll see you in Mankato.

Barr: Thanks a lot man, I appreciate it.

After we wrapped up our chat, Barr went right back into the drills. A while later they held a "fastest camper" contest, where each of the participants ran a 40 yard dash in their age group to see who had the most speed. Barr cheered on every heat and congratulated everyone as they ran past the finish line. Here is one of the final heats:

The races were incredibly entertaining with each participant giving their all while the other campers cheered them on. Barr then hosted a Q&A with the campers, which featured hard hitting questions I didn't even get to like "What's your favorite food?" (Lots of seafood), "What's your favorite sport besides football?" (Soccer), and "What position would you want to play besides linebacker?" (Quarterback). There was even some dancing.

Yes, dancing. Barr can do a pretty mean Running Man Challenge.

Not only was the camp a blast for everyone involved, it helped an important cause. Hyundai Hope on Wheels was part of the Youth Football Camp. The organization pairs with local Children's Hospitals and has funded more than $115 million in pediatric cancer research since its inception. (You can see a picture of the custom Hope on Wheels vehicle in the embedded gallery above.)

Five of the kids in the camp on Sunday were actually cancer survivors, but there was no ceremony or recognition for them. Instead, each of them simply got to feel like normal kids and enjoy the camp with their peers without any special treatment or fanfare. The parents of these children were elated to watch their kids just have fun and play football without any reminders of their previous struggles.

It was already easy to root for Anthony Barr for his exploits on the field. But after watching him help run these camps--Barr had already hosted a camp for 300 kids at his hometown Loyola High School in Los Angeles--it's virtually impossible not to root for him.

Thanks again to Anthony Barr for being generous enough to chat with us, and special thanks to Hyundai for sponsoring the camp and giving us the opportunity to cover it.