The first time Nicklas Rasmussen saw a football game on TV, he was hooked.
It was 2007, he was about 13 years old and the Vikings were playing. "I just fell in love with the team," he said. "I've been a fan ever since."
While that might not sound too odd, consider that Nicklas was a kid in Vallensbaek, Denmark, a suburb of Copenhagen, and there weren't a lot of friends around who were into the Minnesota Vikings, much less American football.
"I said, "I'm going to learn the rules and follow a team,'" he recalled on Monday while attending a training camp practice.
That's right. The now-18-year old is in Mankato this week -- along with his family -- watching his favorite team and hoping to catch a glimpse and perhaps an autograph of his favorite player, Adrian Peterson.
The Rasmussens are in the midst of a monthlong summer vacation in the United States with stops in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Portland, Ore; and Orlando, Fla. But the planning, his mother, Helle, said, was all done around getting Nicklas to training camp so he could see the Vikings.
Training camp is the last stop on the tour; the family will start the journey home today. The Rasmussens arrived in Mankato late Saturday, after the night practice at Blakeslee Stadium ended. They did some shopping at River Hills Mall on Sunday, an off-day for the Vikings, but Monday morning couldn't come fast enough for Nicklas.
"I couldn't sleep," he said.
"You were really excited," his 15-year-old sister, Camilla said to him, laughing.
Wearing a purple Peterson jersey that he received as a church confirmation present, along with some matching purple socks, Nicklas said he tries to watch the Vikings every week, which is no simple task in Denmark. Except for the rare occasion when the Vikings are being aired live on TV, he pays for an Internet broadcast.
Nicklas said American football is growing in popularity in Denmark. He and his soccer-playing friends have started playing flag football together and even pulled an all-nighter Ñ on a school night, no less Ñ to watch the Super Bowl live (the eight-hour time difference made for a 2:30 a.m. kickoff). His friends have adopted different teams, too, like the Cowboys and the Packers.
"I have a teacher who is a Packers fan; he's very annoying," Nicklas said, sounding like a lot of other Vikings fans hanging around Blakeslee Stadium each August.
Also, like a lot of Vikings fans, he's cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season and believes they'll improve from last year's 3-13 record.
"I told my friends 8-8 or 9-7," he said. "But it's a tough division."
Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter @puckato.