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A lighter story today...
'All the stars are aligned': How linebacker Blake Cashman found his way home to the Vikings

Cashman, an Eden Prairie native and former Gophers star, returned home in March, signing a three-year contract with the Vikings. That deal realized a dream he'd held since attending games at the Metrodome as a kid. He sat in the stands with family and friends, many of whom are now planning to watch him in the Vikings huddle at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"I'm sure there will be a game where you're seeing 30 Cashmans in the stands all sitting together," Cashman told the Star Tribune. "It won't be hard to identify that's my family."

"That's what makes this opportunity so great," he added. "Now that I'm here, I get to hopefully be here for three years. Never know what can happen after that. I get to share that experience and journey with them because everybody is here as well."

Not everybody will be in No. 51.

"I'll get one," father Steve Cashman said, "but I'm not going to wear it."

The elder Cashman last wore his son's jersey on Nov. 10, 2018, when Blake recovered a fumble and ran 40 yards for a touchdown in a Gophers victory over Purdue. Steve Cashman saw only the end of the play from a TCF Bank Stadium concourse, where fans had stopped him to ask if he knew Blake.

"I was just furious," he said. "I hear the crowd going crazy and I look through the corridor and I can see him running up the 20-yard line about to score. I'm like, 'I can't believe I just missed that.' "

Purple roots with a hint of green
Cashman, the oldest son of Corinne and Steve, spent his childhood in the shadow of the Vikings' old Eden Prairie headquarters at Winter Park. He and his brother, Austen, had friends who mowed the lawns of Vikings players like Adrian Peterson. Austen, a year younger than Blake, was on the same youth football team as Antoine Winfield Jr., the former Gophers safety and son of former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield Sr.

At their youth games, Blake recalled throwing a football around with his dad and Winfield Sr. Afterward, they'd visit the Winfields' home for barbecues well before Blake and Antoine Jr. won games together for Eden Prairie High School and the Gophers.

"As a little kid, it was really cool to know a player on the Vikings and his family," Cashman said.

For a brief period of their fandom, the Cashman boys adopted the Packers, too, when Brett Favre was the quarterback.

"Blake loved the gun-slinging mentality," Austen Cashman said.

"I don't want to get into that," said Steve Cashman, whose family first owned Vikings season tickets in 1966 at Metropolitan Stadium.

Corinne Cashman came to be known as "Blake's mom" after many practice drop-offs and uniform pickups. She said this spring she was again recognized on a pickleball court by that name.

"It's been a joke within our family," she added, "that what I'm known for within the community is being Blake's mom."

Competitive spirit in his spine
Blake Cashman's teams at Eden Prairie High went 48-3 and won four state titles. He was an all-state cornerback and linebacker as a senior.

Despite the success, Cashman was an unranked recruit. He walked on to the University of Minnesota's football team as a safety. But Mike Sherels, the former Gophers linebacker coach, saw a fire in Cashman while recruiting him, even when then-Gophers head coach Jerry Kill didn't offer Cashman a scholarship.

"A lot of kids you bring in for a meeting with the head coach, and everybody is expecting a scholarship offer," Sherels said. "You kind of see a deflation in their eyes. There was none of that with Blake. It was like, 'Good, all I wanted was a shot.'"

Then the first game came. The Gophers lost 23-17 to second-ranked TCU. They never led.

It was Cashman's first loss since he was a sophomore in high school. But winning was not in the Gophers' locker room culture at that time.

"All these guys are standing around … happy, OK, not a big deal," stepfather Kory Thomas said.

Cashman was angry. "He was like what are you guys [doing]? It's a loss. You're not upset?," Thomas added. "The competitive spirit is just in his spine. It does not go away."

Kill moved Cashman to linebacker before his second season.

The transition was bumpy at first. After one bad practice, Sherels told Cashman he can't get so down on himself. If he improved in certain areas, he'd get playing time. Two weeks went by, and Cashman still wasn't playing much.

He approached Sherels and said he'd done what was asked, why wasn't he playing more?

"I'll always respect him a lot for this and it speaks to where he is now," Sherels said. "I looked at him and thought back to the past week and said, 'You're right.'"

A week later, Cashman had a breakout game against Purdue with two sacks.

"It was like, 'Whoa, OK. There's something here.'" Sherels said. "He got a little opportunity, and he carved out a huge pathway for himself. That right there really embodies who Blake is."

Two years later, he was the team's senior leading tackler named second-team All-Big Ten.

'Skol Vikings'
When he was in fourth grade, Cashman randomly drew himself in a Jets uniform, Corrine recalled, despite there being no family connection to the team. Then he was drafted by the Jets in 2019′s fifth round. But injuries undercut the start of his NFL career. Shoulder, hamstring and groin ailments led to three straight years on injured reserve. He still trained like a walk-on, and hadn't yet learned the power of rest.

Cashman appeared in 14 of 49 games over three years. Then the Jets traded him to the Texans in 2022.

He always hoped to play for the Vikings. Cashman thought "maybe a one-year" deal at the end of his career, but at that point, his career was teetering.

Then came the gift of health. With health came improvement, and then a starting job under first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans. He appeared in 30 of 34 games over the last two years, including a career-high 13 starts last season and a team-leading 106 tackles (56 solo). He even relayed Ryans' defensive play calls when injuries hit others.

When free agency rolled around in March, Cashman said he had many suitors, including the Vikings, Texans, Broncos, Packers, Steelers and Falcons.

He agreed to the Vikings' offer just hours into the NFL's legal negotiating window.

He broke the news to his family by texting: "Skol Vikings."

"This is like the best-case scenario," Cashman said. "I'm loving it so far. The opportunity is there, and I really like the role the coaches have envisioned for me. All the stars are aligned for what I have been working towards my entire career."

Creating boundaries
Cashman said he's already sculpted his boundaries with friends and family over five NFL seasons in New York and Houston. They know he doesn't do anything starting Wednesday of game week through that week's kickoff. No dinners in the city. No hosting friends on the couch. Nothing that could take away from his ability to perform on Sunday.

"My family knows that's how I operate, my rules. They respect that," Cashman said. "I don't expect anything to change aside from maybe those mutual friends or those randos heckling me for tickets."

Cashman said many have reached out to wish him well. Some come with inquiries about what their new Vikings connection can get them. Austen Cashman said he received about 300 messages within the first days of his brother signing with the hometown team.

"It's great, the fever around [Blake]," Corinne Cashman added, "but the misconception that everything in the organization is free, when it's not even free for Kory and I. Just having to re-educate people that it's his job and seeing a game takes a ticket, and that you get off Ticketmaster."

Cashman family members living from Colorado to California will need some login codes for the streaming services that carry Vikings games.

"Every person that was watching a little bit now has come from every corner of the earth," Austen Cashman said. "They're shooting a text and supporting him, a further reach than he realizes. He sees a lot and has to handle a lot of that, but we're excited, and I know he'll give everything he has."
[-] The following 3 users Like purplefaithful's post:

Very interesting story. Family ties pull hard with some, good for him to put up boundaries. You have to, its his life.

Hometown kid comes home to play under the big lights.
Family first had Vikings season tickets in 1966? That's saying a lot.

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