Viking Tries: Pro Bowl Skills Showdown

Justin Byer, Sam Cleasby, and Sofie Vogel

Since 1951, the best of the best from the NFL have come together in a classic all-star game known as the Pro Bowl. Players from the AFC and NFC go head to head in a highly contested match with an emphasis on entertainment value. The unique draw of the Pro Bowl does not come solely from the match itself, however; a key aspect is the fan-favorite Skills Showdown. Players from both conferences compete against each other in five activities aimed to showcase the specific skills of each player. The challenges include a throwing, catching, and defensive evaluation, as well as a relay race, and last but not least, a dodgeball match. Viking decided to put our football skills to the test and have a go at our very own Pro Bowl skills challenges, competing in Viking versions of precision passing, best hands, and our own addition of a punting competition. Our athletic and competitive nature did not disappoint.

In our first event of the Pro Bowl skills challenge, we competed in a farthest punt competition. Even though not everyone has a background of punting or football in general, the competitiveness was still apparent, and everyone was feeling the thrill of competition. Most of the partaking personnel in these challenges have a background of athletics or partake in a sport. Initially, everyone had the same mindset: wanting to be the best and wanting to win.

Although the Viking staff was ready to bring their A game, we unfortunately faced challenges that inhibited our ability to perform at our peak. For example, many were not dressed in the right attire, and the wind had a lot of influence on where the football landed and how far it rolled.

We completed two rounds of this event. Josh Lai (‘20) and Justin Byer (‘21) had the furthest distance punts, both reaching 52.5 yards, followed close behind by Sam Cleasby (‘20) with a 52 yard punt.

“It was pretty easy,” Lai said. “I got that on my first try; I never skip legs.”

The second round was about the same in terms of results, with Lai and Byer in first place, and seniors Dexter Gormley and Lincoln Bloom finishing last.

Gormley and Bloom both denied to comment on coming up short.

“I’m an aquatic athlete, so my performance on the field doesn’t concern me,” Gormley said. “I’m more worried about my arms and the throwing and catching competitions.”

“Wasn’t my best day,” Bloom said. “In 7th grade I hurt my toes so I’m still recovering from that injury, but I’ll be back at it again next year ready to win.”

In our experience partaking in the skills challenges, we had a fun time competing with other athletes from other sports.

“I had fun because I was able to show my talents,” Byer said. “I believe a big part of my success was due to my natural athleticism and understanding of football.”

After the punting event, we moved onto the best hands competition. Our Viking adaptation consisted of a two-handed, sideline, one-handed, and spectacular catch (in which we leaped over a trash can while catching a ball).

The quarterback, Kevin Cullen, followed each player around four locations on the field while the competitor would have to complete the course consisting of said catches. The player could not move on to the next spot until the catch was completed successfully. Much like the real Pro Bowl, we based the outcome of each player on the time taken for them to complete this course. Luke Thieman (‘21) came out on top with a stunning time of 17.15 seconds.

“My hands are like glue, sticky and dominant in arts and crafts,” Thieman said.

While he was able to walk away with another victory, this one was quite close, as Justin Byer (‘21) clocked in at 17.91 seconds after receiving a point reduction for doing a backflip.

“I’m just great with my hands in a speedy and orderly fashion,” Byer said.

This event ended up being a huge success and we believe, accurately reflected the Pro Bowl version of the hands challenge.

The final event was the quarterback accuracy challenge. While we did not have access to the equipment or funds that the NFL has, we competed in a comparable challenge in which we attempted to hit the crossbar on the field goal posts from 20 yards out. The lineup of competitors quickly began firing balls, none of them making contact in the first round. In the second round, the first few Viking members continued to miss until the infamous Luke Thieman (‘21) stepped up and nailed it. None of the remaining members were able to match him in order to take it to overtime, bringing Thieman the victory.

“I was just out there dropping dimes,” Thieman said.

While we initially thought this challenge would take us a while to complete, it was clearly not hard enough for this staff of dominant athletes, as it only took us two attempts to declare a champion.

Overall, the Viking class had a great time testing our athleticism and skill in participating in our very own Pro Bowl Skills Showdown. Although our accuracy in replicating the real Pro Bowl was hindered by obstacles in obtaining the proper equipment needed, we felt that our competition was accurate in showcasing the football skills of the Viking class.

Through adapting each challenge to highlight the same skills showcased in the Pro Bowl, we were able to evaluate throwing precision, hand eye coordination, and even punting skills. While the Pro Bowl does test specific abilities of players, we think that it mainly serves as a fun way for football players to showcase their niche skill sets while entertaining those around them.