ST PAUL—Stefon Diggs savored a few morsels of solace Thursday, Feb. 1.
The Vikings wide receiver received the loudest cheers when introduced as a participant in the Land O' Lakes Farm Bowl at 3M Arena at Mariucci. Then he and California dairy farmer J.J. Nunes beat five other pairs in a series of farm-like activities to bring awareness to where food really comes from.
Diggs has rallied after going from the high of the Minnesota Miracle catch to beat the Saints in the NFC divisional round to the low of the blowout loss to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game one week later.
"It could have been a little better, I think, but I'll take this right now," Diggs said of a tractor trophy that looked a lot like the Lombardi Trophy. "... I don't like to lose at anything, boss."
Diggs and Nunes, who runs a dairy farm with 2,500 jersey cows, beat teams featuring teammate Kyle Rudolph, former Viking Greg Jennings, Steelers great Jerome Bettis, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and former St. Louis Rams lineman Jason Brown, who retired to become a farmer in North Carolina.
Diggs said the farm tasks — which included changing a tractor tire, moving hay bales and hauling feed bags through a course — were harder than he anticipated.
"I'm over there messing up and my guy (Nunes) was getting me on the tractor," Diggs said. "If he was my coach, I wouldn't be playing next week."
Diggs didn't screw up as bad Rudolph or Jennings.
During the tractor tire change, the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Vikings tight end and only slightly smaller farmer Darin Johnson of Wells, Minn., struggled to dislodge the wheel.
"Being as big as we are, I thought we'd get that off quicker," Rudolph said.
The hay bale station included backing up a Polaris ATV and a trailer between cones. If the trailer hit a cone, it would draw a penalty flag. Jennings, the only football player to drive, backed into the cones.
Sideline reporter Jordan Sparks, of American Idol fame, tried to console Jennings, who wasn't having any of it.
"Kids, don't let anyone tell that's OK," Jennings replied. "That's not OK."
The above-average element was how the event shed light on farming. "A lot of people don't know where food comes from and there is a lot of work that goes into it," Nunes said. "It's a great program to educate."
The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service