King Turkey Day speaker Chuck Foreman delights crowd, many of whom were clad in Vikings purple – The Globe

WORTHINGTON — As keynote speaker Chuck Foreman hobbled onto the podium to address a large crowd on King Turkey Day on Saturday afternoon, he dropped one of his crutches.

“That’s not how I drop soccer balls,” he said, while the crowd giggled.

And to be sure, as for the former Minnesota Viking running back great, the KTD committee certainly didn’t drop the ball when asking Foreman to visit Worthington.

Foreman, who is recovering from ankle surgery, said the people he met Saturday during the culmination of the KTD celebration made the trip from his home in Twin Cities to southwest Minnesota worthwhile.

“It’s so great to be here,” he said. “Because I can feel love. A lot of love goes a long way and that is the aura I feel here today.”

The crowd stopped him to applaud.

The speaker on King Turkey Day was former Minnesota Vikings Walter Eugene "lining" foreman "The Spin Doctor" Address the crowd on Saturday afternoon.

King Turkey Day speaker, former Minnesota Viking Walter Eugene “Chuck” Foreman “The Spin Doctor” addressed the crowd Saturday afternoon.

Tim Middagh / The Globe

The 71-year-old Foreman, who helped lead the Vikings to three Super Bowls during an astounding NFL career in the 1970s, was visibly touched by the reception he received.

“The thing about getting older is that you have more experience,” he said. “You see a lot of different things. You see what it was and what it is, how it used to be and what it can be. And I see a lot of good things here. That’s how you feel with me.”

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Foreman grew up in Maryland and was a football star at the University of Miami. The full-back was picked by coach Bud Grant in the first round of the Vikings in 1973.

Of course, Purple Nation has never looked back. And it turns out the feeling was mutual.

“It was probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Foreman said. “Because not only did I join a great football team with a lot of great people, but the people of Minnesota were just so hospitable. And I feel the same today.”

Foreman had previously visited Worthington to show up in person. But he had never been asked to address a crowd like the hundreds who gathered near Government Square on Saturday.

The speaker on King Turkey Day was former Minnesota Vikings Walter Eugene "lining" foreman "The Spin Doctor" signs an autograph for Jeff Brink, a longtime fan of #44, at Saturday's celebration in Worthington.

The speaker on King Turkey Day was Walter Eugene “Chuck” Foreman “The Spin Doctor”, the former Viking from Minnesota. signs an autograph for Jeff Brink, a longtime fan of #44, during Saturday’s celebration in Worthington.

Tim Middagh / The Globe

“It’s no mistake that every time I’ve been to Worthington,” he said, “it just seems to get better and better. They make a person feel at home and make them feel special. It’s a great feeling because nowadays…”

Foreman paused, then added:

“It’s just so nice to feel loved, you know what I mean?”

The event, part of Turkey’s 83rd annual King’s Day celebrations, began with a rousing performance of the national anthem by the Worthington High School Choir. Several dignitaries were introduced before Foreman, including KTD President Susanne Murphy and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

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Everyone was greeted with applause on a wonderfully sunny Saturday afternoon.

Walz managed a few chuckles when he alluded to the weather.

“I’ll be held accountable for everything else, so I’ll take credit for this beautiful day, too,” he grinned.

The smiles came throughout the ceremony, especially when the guest speaker was on the microphone.

“It’s an honor to be here with you today to share your big day,” Foreman said.

He also shared some thoughts about Vikings past and present.

“Your Minnesota Vikings have good players and great people,” he said. “All the (former) players I know are always around the country doing something.”

Though the Vikings haven’t been to the Super Bowl in decades, Foreman said there is hope for the future.

“We’ve had a good run here in Minnesota,” he said. “I’ve met (new head coach) Kevin McConnell and his staff and I think we’re in good hands. I think we’re in a good place and I think we’re going to go to bigger places.

This drew even more applause from the Worthington faithful, some of whom wore purple Viking jerseys.

Foreman had posed for countless photos and autographs with fans young and old earlier in the day. In the long history of KTD guest speakers, Foreman is one of the few sports personalities to be invited as a guest of honor.

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“We’re really excited to have him here,” said KTD volunteer Lisa Schutte, who was instrumental in initially contacting Foreman and helping him during Saturday’s celebrations. One of the photos Foreman posed for was with Lisa’s father, Fritz Korthals.

“He was always a Chuck Foreman guy and I was a Fran Tarkenton,” smiled Schutte, a native of Worthington. “We were big fans. That’s a lot of fun for all of us.”

Interacting with the Viking legend, she said, will not be soon forgotten.

“He’s a very respectful person,” said Schutte. “Truly an excellent role model.”

Foreman took his time generously throughout the day. Then it was time to go, pick up the messed-up crutches and get on with the day.

Once again, Foreman scored with the crowd.

“Thank you again for having me,” Foreman said. “Again, I want to stress, and I want you to take that home with you, and I mean that with all my heart.”

Foreman paused again.

“Anyone who knows me knows I don’t play around when it comes to expressing myself,” he said. “And I mean it like this: There’s something special about being in a place where you feel you belong. How can a stranger fit in? Because of the aura you radiate here. Because it is something special.”

While few in the crowd may remember seeing Foreman play, given that his career ended some four decades ago, KTD officials hope his performance was memorable — for everyone involved.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve managed football,” Foreman said. “But I still feel loved. And respected. And appreciated. And that’s a long time ago. So, once again, I want to say a big thank you for having me. When I go home I will have very good memories of the day.”

Scott Manch can be reached at [email protected]

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