Cullen Loeffler (Jon Dahlin/Viking Update)
Cullen Loeffler was hoping he would be named to the Pro Bowl, but NFC Pro Bowl coach Mike McCarthy picked Don Muhlbach as his long snapper. Loeffler still will go to Hawaii, courtesy of kicker Pro Bowl kicker Blair Walsh.
Several Vikings – Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, Blair Walsh and Jerome Felton – will be heading to Hawaii this week for the Pro Bowl, but they will be joined by a teammate. Thanks to a promise made by Walsh, long snapper Cullen Loeffler and his wife Jardin will be joining their Vikings teammates in Honolulu.
Because long snappers aren’t voted on for Pro Bowl roster spots, when the Pro Bowl teams were announced, the long snapper positions were listed as TBA (To Be Announced). Loeffler was hopeful that he would be named to the roster, as was Walsh – who would be off the hook for the cost of picking up the hotel/airfare tab for his friend and teammate.
But last week the NFL announced that Don Muhlbach of the Detroit Lions would be representing the NFC on field goals and extra points. In the modern era of social media networking, Loeffler thought he would find out – one way or the other – through Twitter or Facebook channels. Instead, it was sitting in front of his computer and looking at a football-themed website that broke the news to him.
“I saw it on ProFootballTalk.com,” Loeffler said. “I was just surfing around a few websites and I saw that they had taken Don Muhlbach. There was some initial disappointment because it’s every player’s dream to get picked to the Pro Bowl. But that went away pretty quick. Don has never been there before either, so I felt good for him.”
Loeffler, who was quick to point out that the wind chill factor at his home in Texas was 68 degrees – about 90 degrees warmer than at his home in Minnesota – had remained hopeful about the prospect of being selected to the NFC team because in recent years the practice had often been to send the snapper for the Pro Bowl kicker because they share the same level of success.
“I was a little surprised,” Loeffler said. “Had Jason Hanson been named to the Pro Bowl, I would have expected Don to get named as the long snapper. On most teams, the punter serves as the holder. So, unless the same team’s kicker and punter get selected, the holder is usually different – either the punter or a quarterback who has holding experience. Most Pro Bowl quarterbacks aren’t holders, so that doesn’t happen often. There’s nothing I can do about that decision, but I was a little surprised when I saw the news.”
Fortunately for Loeffler, Walsh made the promise that his long snapper would go to Hawaii whether he was selected to the team or not – although Walsh confessed to Viking Update, “I sure hope they name him as the long snapper so then I’m off the hook on that.” But Loeffler admitted the sting was taken away before it could happen if he was snubbed from the Pro Bowl roster.
“Blair told me that same day that he found out he was going that I was coming with regardless,” Loeffler said. “That was a great feeling because he didn’t have to do anything. That just speaks to the kind of person he is. It meant a lot to me and my family that he thought of us at a time when he was being honored by the league for the job he did.”
While Loeffler won’t have to show up for what passes as practice at the Pro Bowl – make no mistake, it’s not like the two-a-days Loeffler used to have in Mankato in early August – he’s looking forward to the week in Hawaii as much as anyone who will be playing in the game. As a father of two young children, he and Jardin haven’t had a chance to get away on their own since their daughter (Landyn) and their son (Senate) were born.
He may not be playing, but he’s going to soak it in as much as he would if he was snapping for Walsh kicks next Sunday.
“This will be our first vacation with just the two of us since the kids were born,” Loeffler said. “I’m sure we’ll hit all the touristy things that Hawaii has and we might try the outdoors types of things like snorkeling or surfing, but what I’m looking forward to is just a chance to relax and get some time alone with my wife and enjoy the week.”
While Loeffler was understandably let down by his exclusion from the Pro Bowl roster, it sounds like he has a pretty sweet consolation prize waiting for him. There’s no reason to feel sorry for him, especially considering that, compared to some spots in Minnesota, Loeffler will be kicking back somewhere with an air temperature about 100 degrees warmer than what Vikings fans are going to endure over the next couple of days.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.