EAGAN — At the end of his 10-minute press conference, Kaare Vedvik clapped his hands, thanked the media contingent for coming and said “I’m excited.” It showed. The native of Norway had a smile on his face for the entire presser.
Vedvik spent his first day on the practice field working as both a punter and kicker, booting high hanging footballs left and right in a coffin corner drill (if they still call it that) early in the workout and then hammering long majestic field goals later on. Two of the field goals, which appeared to be in the 60-yard range, drew loud cheers from the contingent on hand.
With kicker Dan Bailey and punter Matt Wile standing a few yards away, it was hard not to wish that they were mic’d up for the day.
You won’t find too many players who can be acquired and threaten multiple players’ jobs at once but that’s exactly what Vedvik is doing. It is presently unclear whether he will be the kicker or punter or both.
“If he’s good enough, I don’t have a problem with [doing both], but I don’t know,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I think everything is a possibility at this point.”
The 25-year-old – specialist (?) — might not yet know exactly what position he’s going to hold as a Minnesota Viking but part of the reason for his enthusiastic disposition is the path that he took in order to be this close to his NFL dream.
It started with a Super Bowl broadcast.
Growing up in Norway, the only connection Vedvik had to American football was that The Big Game was televised there. It caught his eye. Turns out that his country pays for students to study abroad, so when Vedvik got the opportunity to travel to the United States or Australia, he chose the place where he could try football.
“I just remembered I watched and was like, ‘Wow, that looks amazing,'” Vedvik said. “Growing up I was super passionate about sports and being active, and I just love to compete, have a passion for it. I played soccer growing up, mainly, and I did some track. I played hockey at some point, and I was like that’s a sport I would love to try.”
He ended up in McPherson, Kansas.
Like something out of a Disney movie, his host high school discovered that he could kick a football remarkably well.
“They saw that I played soccer and I had ability to kick a football, so they asked me, ‘Hey, can you kick for us?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, of course,'” he said. “Throughout the games in Kansas, they said that they think that I had the chance to actually play at a higher level. At that point… I made the choice to actually pursue it and see that I could back for college and actually play the sport and get an education out of it.”
A standout in those kicking competitions, he was offered to play at Marshall, where Vedvik was asked to learn to become a punter. Following a solid junior season averaging 40.0 yards per punt, Marshall’s starting kicker suffered an injury, which forced them to look for answers. Since Vedvik kicked in high school, he gave it a shot, making 10-of-16 field goals and 41-of-42 extra point attempts.
He was given a spot in training camp with the Ravens in 2018, where he performed admirably, averaging 46.8 yards per punt and 40.0 net yards — enough to put him on the map as an NFL punter.
But in a strange turn of events he was assaulted in Baltimore, leading to several weeks in the hospital. Vedvik did not get an opportunity to punt or kick anywhere in 2018 but upon his return to Baltimore for camp this season, showed an exceptional ability to kick long field goals, nailing several 50-plus attempts and averaging 55.0 yards per punt.
“I went into focusing on myself and focusing on what my goals are and keeping that structure,” Vedvik said of his year without a team. “That’s what is important about that whole year. When you go from being in a very structured position as a college athlete and student-athlete and going into the Ravens, to doing basically not a lot. You feel like you’re not a part of the team anymore. Then managing your goals and keeping your focus becomes super important.”
Now it appears one of the Vikings’ jobs is his to lose — it’s just not clear which one. Zimmer made it clear on Sunday that he is a fan of Bailey, who held the kicking job last year and came into camp uncontested. But Bailey’s camp hasn’t been strong to this point. Wile had a strong 2018 as the Vikings ranked 12th in net yards per punt and fifth in return yards per punt.
The Norwegian specialist’s status will come down to how he performs in the final few weeks of camp and three preseason games. And he seems pretty pumped about that.
“I go out there with a smile on my face and I love what I do,” Vedvik said. “Through that I have fun, and I think through having fun you get confidence. It’s a blast, I’m happy to be here, it’s a beautiful area, I’m excited, and it’s a beautiful facility. And it’s Minnesota Vikings, a lot of Norwegian history here so, it’s going to be fun.”