The Minnesota Vikings are taking their youth football camps around the state for the first time this summer. A stop at the home of the two-time defending state 5A champion Owatonna Huskies seems like a natural destination.

Newly hired Vikings Youth Football Manager Madison Cortese, who grew up in Pittsburgh Steelers territory, was thrilled with the turnout in Owatonna with nearly 250 kids signed up, "It's a phenomenal reaction. This is a huge number for us. In the Twin Cities area it's usually a little lower because they see the Vikings so much, they know they have another opportunity to see a camp. But when we're here, you don't see us all the time, so everybody shows up. It's a great reaction. We're happy to be here."

The Vikings are holding a handful of these camps across Minnesota this year, but Cortese says they look to add more every year. She says working with the local coaches is essential, "We work very closely with Jeff Williams and all of the head football coaches at each location. They're gracious enough to open up the fields for us and then we take everything from there."

"The goal of the camps is just to provide a free opportunity for kids of all ages, both boys and girls, to learn football and have fun. That's really all we're here to do." Cortese says the team has hosted camps in the Metro for years but wanted to expand on that. The instructors have a wealth of football knowledge, "We have some college football players. We have some former NFL players. Some former professional scouts for the Vikings. And then some guys that oversee youth of high school football leagues back in the Twin Cities metro area."

The camp is free, and so is a healthy lunch at the end of the event. Cortese says, "Our Minnesota Vikings Foundation just launched Vikings Table a couple weeks ago. The goal...is to help with children's education and health and part of that is healthy meals. The Table is here today to provide all the camp participants with a healthy lunch on their way out, free with the courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings Foundation."

Williams, the longtime Owatonna High School coach, is happy to see the Vikings showing a strong interest in promoting football at the youth levels. The high school staff has hosted its own youth camp for over 20 years. This year's event is August 5-8. Click here for camp details.