(Introduction from Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier) As I depart from the podium, I have the fortune of introducing the one guy who did a great job at kicking off our season for us, who is going to be inducted into the Ring of Honor, great player here with the Minnesota Vikings for so many years, Matt Blair, played in six Pro Bowls, played in a couple Super Bowls, but one of the things that impressed me the most was when Matt came out and spoke to our team in training camp, when we kicked training camp off and we’ve done this two years going. Jim Marshall did it for us a year ago. Matt did it this year and both guys did a terrific job, but Matt mentioned something to our players on that night and of course he’s a great player as we all know. He talked to our players about visualizing success and he talked to them about not getting caught up in the past but just focusing on the moment and that was really something that was part of our approach with our team as we opened training camp, so without me even talking about what direction I wanted to take our team in that first meeting, it was so apropos to listen to him speak to our team and talk to them about success and visualizing success. I said, ‘Man, that’s one of the reasons he’s a great player.’ He told them a little bit about his history and why he was a great player, little bit about his background and as you listened, I think everyone in that room, every player on our team had great respect for him not only as a player, but as a man as well, and for all of the great things he did on the football field representing the Minnesota Vikings, his character off the field really spoke to our players. We’re grateful that we’re going to be able to honor him on this Thursday night as he enters the Ring of Honor. Congratulations Matt, and thank you for all you have done for the Minnesota Vikings. Thank you.
Q: Are you taking credit for the 5-2 start?
A: I just think from the past experiences, very important, and Ponder is doing a better job because in the past, last year, it didn’t work out as good. Now he is moving around more and buying more time so he can throw the ball and again, you come the first year, you learn a lot, but you always put that in your mind so when it happens again in that situation, you jump to it and do something different and hopefully you’re successful at it.
Q: Have you thought about what you’re going to say Thursday night?
A: Yes, I’ve been working on it since, I think it was July 27 or 28 when they told me about this and I’ve been working at it, but I just got a little note from Deb (Jones), they gave me three, now it’s down to two minutes, so I’ll have to change it up a little bit. But I’m ready.
Q: Can you talk about the speech you game to the team before training camp?
A: In general, yes, there are ways that you can win, but you have to pay the price, and I told them, basically, what I did was when I played is that you watch film, you look at the plays, you look at what you need to do as a linebacker, running back, wide receiver, and I said, ‘Just visualize it. Look at the film, visualize it. Keep it there. Continue thinking about it, and when they call you to run the play, you can do it within seconds.’ In the NFL, especially a linebacker, if you don’t know where to drop back on the pass route, they’re going to throw the ball real quick and they’re going to catch the ball. You want to drop in the right position. That is key. You have 1/100th of a second to make that decision. If you visualize that, you know what to do, then you know where to go. That is something I told them. You have to focus, you have to leave things that you do in life, you have to let it go and come to practice and you practice at it every day, every play. You just do it over and over and over in your mind and physically you do it, and I just said, ‘You guys, it takes your entire heart to make it happen. It’s not just today. It’s your heart, and you give it all. You focus on it and you’ll accomplish it.’ And another thing I told them I tried to do is you write your goals down, what you want to do, and if you don’t write those down, you’ll forget about it, but if you write them down and check it every day and I’ll share this with you, I was a rookie playing against the St. Louis Cardinals. Jackie Smith, tight end, I was starting and I made a few mistakes. Roy Winston came back in the game right before halftime with two minutes left and Bud (Grant), when we went into the locker room and I thought I wasn’t going to start anymore. When he said you players that started the game, you go back out there and start again, that excited me, that just blew my mind away because I got a second chance and I went out there and I covered Jackie Smith and I did everything to try and keep him from catching the ball and he didn’t catch anymore balls that second half. After the game, the media came to Bud and they asked, ‘What did Matt Blair bring to the game?’ Bud said, ‘Lack of experience.’ From that day on, that’s when I decided that I needed to do a little bit more and that’s what it’s all about. You try to tell the players, here is what you need to do. You’ve got to get the experience, and the experience will pay the price and you can have fun in this game if you do it right.
Q: What does this honor mean to you?
A: They gave me two minutes, I hope I don’t get emotional for two minutes and not say anything, but it’s very humbling to be put in with great players, the Tarkentons, the Ellers, the Carters, the Marshalls, the Grants, those guys are just legendary and to be among and be the 20th player for the Ring of Honor? It’s like you being picked to be the best writer in the world. That’s what it feels like.