By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN When people hear that Aaron Neumann works for the Minnesota Vikings, they typically want to know, “What are the players like?”
Neumann’s answer is simple: “They’re guys.”
To him, the Vikings are coworkers, and seeing them practice and interact with one another is just part of the job.
“I don’t get that starstruck anymore like I used to,” he said.
That’s not to say the players aren’t interesting, though.
“An NFL locker room is an eclectic group you’ll never see anywhere else,” Neumann said. “They have different backgrounds, different cultures and come from different economic regions. It’s people from all over the country who come together for one reason to play.”
Neumann has been a full-time assistant equipment manager for the Vikings 17 years, but he’s been with the team even longer.
Friends in football
Back when Neumann was a football player at Holy Trinity High School in Winsted, his uncle, Larry Neumann, was the Vikings’ assistant athletic trainer. Larry helped Aaron get started as a ball boy, so he could help with training camps and home games.
In college, Aaron began working for the Vikings on a more routine basis. He also kept his own football career going, playing three years at Concordia University in St. Paul.
Aaron has made friends with many of the players through the years, and one of them Everett Lindsay was a groomsman in Aaron’s wedding. (Lindsay played for the Vikings from 1993 to 1998.)
Another of Aaron’s good friends is Ryan Longwell, who was with the Vikings from 2006 to 2011.
“I’ve seen lots of players come and go,” Aaron said, adding that he is a big fan of the new head coach, Mike Zimmer.
When Aaron first started working with the Vikings, everyone was older than him. Now, he thinks of them as “kids.”
According to the Daily Norseman, the Vikings are one of the youngest teams this year, with an average age of 25.58. Only eight players are over 30 the oldest being Cullen Loeffler at 33.
Socks and shoes
As part of his job, Aaron is involved in all practices, and attends games. After practice is over, he collects all the laundry and gets the equipment ready for its next use.
“We have three very large industrial washing machines,” he said.
Once a week, he goes through all the uniforms to check for tears, sending them out for repair if needed. During the off-season, Aaron is also responsible for ordering new socks, shoes, shoulder pads, and other gear.
In his years as assistant equipment manager, Aaron said equipment has become more streamlined and less bulky.
“Helmet technology has gotten so much better,” he added.
For Aaron, the best part of the job is game day.
“We work all week for that one three-hour game on Sundays,” he said.
Aaron travels with the team for away games. Usually the trips are short, but last September he spent a week in London when the Vikings played the Steelers.
During off-season, Aaron keeps more regular hours, which allows him to spend time at home in New Prague with his wife, Tammy, and their two sons, Frank, 7, and Joe, 4.
“My sons love the Vikings,” he said. “They love to come to work with Dad,” Aaron said, explaining that they sometimes get to sit in on practices.
In addition to being with family, Aaron also likes watching football on TV. Although he hasn’t seen a Vikings game on TV in years, he enjoys watching other teams to see what they’re doing, and get ideas for equipment.
“I watch it differently than the average person,” he said.