Brainerd Youth Athletic Association football players have Nik Speliopoulos to thank.
About a month ago the Lowell Elementary School fourth-grader accompanied his mother, Jodi, to a grocery store where she spotted a "Future Minnesota Vikings" application.
She encouraged Nik to fill out the application, from which eight youth football teams get to play before a Vikings game at the Metrodome.
A few weeks ago, Speliopoulos received confirmation that BYAA had been selected. Speliopoulos, about 20 Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union teammates, and about 30 other BYAA players, will play from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Sunday before the Vikings-Carolina Panthers game.
"He approached me the first day of practice, and said, 'Coach, I want to sign up to play at a Vikings game," Speliopoulos' coach Mike McConkey said. "I filled in the BYAA info, and he sent it in.
"I didn't think anything of it. Only eight teams in the state get to play but the Vikings called me last weekend and asked if we would like to participate and I said 'Yeah.' That started the ball rolling."
In all, about 165 Brainerd players, coaches, family and friends will board charter buses early Sunday morning and head to the dome.
"The initial thing was to bring your team," said McConkey, who coaches MMFCU with Tony Sailer, Jim Kalthoff and Matt Berg. "We figured (MMFCU) had about 20-some kids. Why not bring more?
"So we're going to bring members of the other three heavyweight teams. We're literally having them all participate with us."
This isn't the first time Speliopoulos has won an opportunity to be part of an event at the dome. He was the mascot "TC Bear" at a Twins game.
"We like to do drawings," Jodi Speliopoulos said. "Two years ago we entered a thing for the Twins' mascot, and he was drawn for that as well. He went and asked permission to register for this, and his coach said like, 'Yeah, sure, whatever, it's never going to happen.
"Nikolas looked him straight in the face and said, 'Coach, just so you know, I usually win these things,' and his coach looked at me like, 'Really?' and I went, 'Yeah.'"
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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