As of Thursday morning, Vikings fans had donated more than $150,000 to Morstead’s “What You Give Will Grow” charity — the latest in a growing trend of NFL fan bases showing appreciation for players on other teams.
In this case, a Vikings fan apparently first suggested on Reddit that they should make donations to Morstead’s charity out of respect for the way he played through the pain of torn cartilage in his ribs in Sunday’s playoff game — and even came out to line up as a defensive tackle on the Vikings’ final two-point conversion kneel-down after their stunning game-winning touchdown.
As donations grew on Sunday and Monday, Morstead promised to return to Minnesota to personally deliver a check to Minnesota’s Child Life Program — which he now plans to do during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
— Thomas Morstead (@thomasmorstead) January 18, 2018
“I mean, that is incredible. I’m totally blown away. I will book my flights tonight. I will be there the week of the Super Bowl,” Morstead said in a video thank-you message on Twitter. “You guys should all be proud of yourselves. That’s a group effort, and it’s gonna affect everyone in your community in a positive way. And I’m just totally humbled by this.
“I may be forced to root for you guys all the way through the Super Bowl now. I’m just totally blown away. Thank you very much. And Who Dat!”
Morstead’s experience is similar to what happened with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, whose charity received more than $300,000 in donations from Buffalo Bills fans after he helped them earn a playoff berth by knocking out the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17.
Last month, fantasy football owners donated money to Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley’s charity as a thank-you for his efforts in helping them win their fantasy titles.
Morstead, a former Pro Bowler and a former recipient of the Saints’ Walter Payton Man of the Year honor, said his foundation’s executive director texted him on Sunday night and told him they must be getting a lot of donations because of the exposure of the game. Then the director texted later, “Holy crap, these are all from Minnesota addresses.”
“It’s very cool,” Morstead said Tuesday, joking that, “I wish they were all bitter today because we had won. But it’s nice to see people doing nice things.”
Morstead suffered the rib injury while making a tackle on the opening series Sunday. But he continued to play through the pain — feeling a little better after a pain-relieving shot kicked in. He nailed punts of 56 and 54 yards after the injury.
“It was pretty simple in my mind: ‘This is either gonna be a really good or a really bad punt. Either way it’s gonna hurt like hell. So I might as well try to make it as good as I could,'” said Morstead, who originally thought he had broken ribs.
“My ego was shot a little bit when they said my ribs weren’t broken, which would have sounded cooler,” Morstead said. “But the doc was like, ‘Hey, don’t worry. It hurts just as bad.'”
As for how Morstead wound up on the field lined up as a defensive tackle on that final play, he said it was kind of random. Morstead said he lingered on the field longer than most players – soaking in the atmosphere of the Vikings’ celebration because he has found in the past that it “kind of helps you get a little closure.”
Then when he hit the locker room, he heard fullback John Kuhn saying that they needed 11 players back out on the field to line up for the formality of the two-point conversion.
“So I just turned around. I didn’t expect I was going to be the first guy leading the troops out there. We were just trying to get the game over and be done with it,” Morstead said. “Once we got out there, Case Keenum said, ‘Hey we’re gonna take a knee.’ I said, ‘You better,’ because I was already hurting.”