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‘This is our dude’: Marshall football team thrilled to see Trey Lance at Vikings-49ers joint practice

Aside from getting to watch Lance in action, the Marshall football program also got to chat with former Vikings linebackers Chad Greenway and Ben Leber for a few minutes. Both former players offered words of encouragement heading into this season.

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance, left, signs an autograph for Marshall, Minn. sophomore Derek Hiskem during a joint practice with the Minnesota Vikings at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minnesota, on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. Lance, 22, a Marshall native, was a college star at North Dakota State.
Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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EAGAN, Minn. -- While hundreds of Minnesota Vikings jerseys blanketed the bleachers on Thursday at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, on the field level, there was a noticeable smattering of orange and black near the back of one end zone.

That’s where 115 people related to the Marshall High School football program stood for the duration of the joint practice between the Vikings and the San Francisco 49ers. They loaded up the buses in Marshall around 6:30 a.m. and arrived in Eagan around 9:30 a.m.

Just in time to see hometown kid Trey Lance take the field.

“It’s really cool,” Marshall football coach Terry Bahlmann said. “Not too long ago Trey was with our program and now we get to come up and see him at the highest level. Just a great deal for our program. I’m very happy our kids get a chance to experience something like this.”

The logistics came together pretty quickly over the past week. After figuring out the exact schedule of the joint practices, the Vikings reached out to the Marshall football program offering to pay for transportation to the Twin Cities.

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“For these kids to be able to see someone like Trey Lance, who was literally in their shoes, that can go a long way for them,” said Madison Cortese, who serves as the youth football manager for the Vikings. “Even though he’s technically on the other team, he’s a Minnesota kid, and to be able to showcase that is pretty cool for us.”

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Former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, left, chats with Marshall, Minnesota, football coach Terry Bahlmann at TCO Performance Center in Eagan on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. With the help of the Vikings, who paid for transportation, more than 100 people from the Marshall football program made the trek to the Twin Cities to watch San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance during a joint practice with the Vikings. Lance, a Marshall native and a college star at North Dakota State, is the franchise quarterback for the 49ers.
Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press

Aside from getting to watch Lance in action, the Marshall football program also got to chat with former Vikings linebackers Chad Greenway and Ben Leber for a few minutes. Both former players offered words of encouragement heading into this season.

Meanwhile, the support for Lance was endless. Whenever he did something of note Thursday, there was an audible cheer from the back of the end zone.

“We made sure they didn’t wear their 49ers jerseys today since the Vikings are picking up the tab,” Bahlmann said with a laugh. “But I’d bet there’s a lot of 49ers jerseys in their backpacks ready to come out.”

Marshall senior quarterback Tyler Maeyaert beamed when talking about the experience as a whole.

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“We showed up here not knowing what to expect, and it’s exceeded our expectations,” said Maeyaert, who also serves as a captain. “We all play football down in southwest Minnesota so this type of facility is obviously a lot different. It’s nice because we’re learning a lot, we’re seeing a lot, and most importantly, we’re having a lot of fun.”

Asked about his memories, Maeyaert still remembers being a middle schooler watching Lance play, awestruck by the things he could do on the field. He wanted to be just like Lance when he grew up. Every kid in Marshall did.

“Everyone knew who Trey Lance was,” Maeyaert said. “You could see flashes of it back then. He was out there throwing the ball like 60 yards down the field, and it’s like, ‘Wow.’ Now he’s out here doing the same thing in the NFL, and it’s like, ‘Yeah, we saw that on Friday nights. We all knew he could do this.’ ”

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That connection isn’t lost on Lance. He still has a lot of pride in his hometown.

Which explains why he spent 15 minutes signing autographs and snapping pictures on Thursday before the 49ers public relations staff shuttled him away from the fanfare.

“He’s still fresh in everyone’s mind,” Bahlmann said. “This is our dude. A kid from Marshall is making it big time. It’s pretty surreal.”

Though it was a no-brainer for Bahlmann to accept the offer from the Vikings to attend Thursday’s practice between the Vikings and 49ers, a coach at heart, he noted that his initial concern was not wanting his team to miss a day of its own practice. Luckily for him, Eagan High School offered up its field, and that’s exactly where the Marshall football team headed after things wrapped up at TCO Performance Center.

“This group has to get better every day, and I think after we watch this, we’ll have a very good practice with a lot of energy,” Bahlmann said. “We probably won’t get home until about 8:30 p.m. Even though it’s a long day, it’s worth it for our kids. This is a lot of fun.”

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