Retired pro football players and ‘odd couple’ amount their accord added than ever
Kenny Onatolu, at left, who played with the Minnesota Vikings, and Dave Tollefson, aforetime with the New York Giants, allotment Nebraska ties and a accord that aboriginal blossomed a decade ago on the football field. Onatolu is the columnist of a children’s book, “Two of a Kind,” about two best friends, one white and one black.
Kenny Onatolu, no. 55, went to aerial academy in Papillion and played football at unO afore arena for the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL.
Dave Tollefson had a six-year NFL career, mostly with the new York Giants. Tollefson grew up in burghal California but affiliated an Omaha girl.
Onatolu’s children’s book about his accord with Tollefson, alleged “Two of a Kind,” is adequate a additional beachcomber of sales and readership.
This was not your archetypal bumpinto-each-other-in-the-grocery-store moment.
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Roughly 50,000 admirers watched from the amphitheater seats. A brace of actor added on TV. In December 2010, the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants tussled in a analytical NFL bold when, by chance, two small-college overachievers lined up contiguous afore a punt.
Dave Tollefson absitively to extend an allurement to Kenny Onatolu. The 300-pound Giant looked at the Viking linebacker.
“Yeah?” said Onatolu, puzzled.
“You alive in Omaha?”
“I alive appropriate by you. We should get together.”
That’s about the time Minnesota airtight the ball. Tollefson’s job was to block Onatolu. Keep him abroad from the New York punt returner. Tollefson did added than that.
“I aloof affective a authority of him, “Tollefson says now. “Like captivated my accoutrements about him.”
The comedy assured and Onatolu, who never got abutting to the punt returner, fumed at officials, allurement for a amends banderole that never came. Ten years later, Big Dave still action about it. Soft-spoken Kenny still all-overs his head.
“I’m cogent you the truth,” Onatolu says. “He captivated me.”
There began a accord that, in the deathwatch of George Floyd’s afterlife in Minneapolis, these two retired athletes amount added than ever. The white man from burghal California and the atramentous man from burghal Nebraska accept generally discussed their differences. Lately they’ve challenged and animated anniversary added to accomplish a difference, arch conversations that educate.
“It’s what I’ve been cat-and-mouse for — accessible dialogue,” Onatolu said. “I anticipate bodies aloof don’t apperceive what’s activity on.”
Said Tollefson: “We’ve always swept this beneath the rug as Americans.”
They started alive out calm afterwards the 2010 season. Fabricated sense. Tollefson was new in boondocks — he affiliated an Omaha girl— and didn’t apperceive any NFL peers. They accepted anniversary other’s football past. Both played Division II football: Tollefson at Northwest Missouri State, Onatolu at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Kenny didn’t get drafted. Didn’t alike get an NFL workout. In 2008, he was authoritative $250 a anniversary on a convenance band in Canada, cerebration about abandonment for good. Again four Edmonton Eskimos linebackers got hurt. “They were ashore with me.”
He shined the blow of the division and started accepting calls from the NFL. He active with the Vikings and, one year afterwards about retiring, he played abutting to Brett Favre in the NFC championship game.
Tollefson could relate. Afterwards aerial school, he spent two years alive architecture afore landing at Northwest Missouri State. The Packers drafted him 253rd. One of his convenance duties was to breach in Brett Favre’s shoe insoles — their cleats were the aforementioned size. On abscessed feet, he fabricated the Green Bay convenance band and boring started aggressive the ladder to a six-year NFL career.
Tollefson knew adamantine work. But accepting Kenny to be his conditioning accomplice took article extra.
“It was like a courtship,” Dave said. “I had to run him bottomward and accomplish him like me. Me and Kenny are like the odd couple.”
Kenny wears Sperrys. Dave wears Air Jordans. Kenny watches his money and the clock. Dave not so much. Onatolu would appearance up at Dave’s abode at 9 a.m. alone to acquisition Dave aloof accepting out of bed. “He’d get so mad at me.”
But in the weight
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