Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham met with his agent Wednesday, March 18, and while news had already broken that the team was giving the Duluth native a four-year extension, Wednesday was the first day of the new league year, when players could officially sign.
“Obviously, putting pen to paper is the most official way,” Ham said.
Sports agent Blake Baratz met with Ham at his home in Rosemount, Minn. The paperwork was signed coronavirus style, with plenty of hand sanitizer and Lysol disinfectant, and the ceremonial handshake was replaced by an elbow bump, which Ham posted on Twitter Wednesday.
“Just trying to make light of some situations, but it’s definitely a different time,” Ham said. “We had to get it done somehow, and fortunately, he was able to come over and we took the safest precautions to get it done.”
A Minnesota Vikings motto in recent years has been a promise to pay players who produce, and that appears to be the case with Ham’s deal.
According to overthecap.com, Ham’s new deal is worth $12 million, with $3.9 million fully guaranteed, including a $3 million signing bonus for the Duluth Denfeld product.
Ham, 26, made $645,000 last season, when he made his first Pro Bowl.
“It’s definitely a blessing to receive that type of money, and it’s definitely going to be life-changing for our family,” Ham said. “We’re extremely blessed.”
Ham had always talked about providing for his family, his wife Stephanie, and daughters Skylar and Stella. Now, he has more than enough money to be financially stable.
“I sure hope so,” Ham said, drawing a laugh. “You hear the horror stories, but yes, it definitely will. My family is excited, but more so to have me here playing football close to home, right here in Minnesota.”
Most of the horror stories Ham referred to involved pro athletes who weren’t nearly as well-grounded as Ham appears to be. The first thing mentioned on Ham’s Twitter page is “Follower of Jesus,” followed by “Husband” and “Father.” Ham, who is active in the Boys and Girls Club, certainly appears to be one who walks the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk. He said his family keeps him down to earth and level headed.
Ham said his approach to the game will not change now that he has his big contract. He said his mindset is the same as when he was an undrafted rookie out of Augustana University, an NCAA Division II program in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Ham’s basic principle is to keep working hard and good things will happen.
“Really, every year, I just go out there and try to do my job to the best of my abilities and help the team win games,” Ham said. “I just contribute in any way I can.
“At the end of the day, you love to play football, and growing up in Minnesota, growing up a Vikings fan, it means the world to me to be able to continue my career here.”
Ham, a 5-foot-11, 248-pounder, is valued for his blocking and versatility, in addition to being an integral part of the Vikings’ special teams.
Last season Ham rushed seven times for 17 yards, good for only 2.4 yards per carry, but keep in mind the Vikings often use Ham in short-yardage situations, where they’re only looking for a yard for a first down. Need a half yard, and Ham will get you a yard, or two.
Ham was also valuable as a check down receiver out of the backfield, catching 17 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Ham helped Dalvin Cook and the Vikings average 133.3 rushing yards per game, sixth-best in the NFL, a year after they ranked 30th at 93.3 yards per game. For that, Ham made the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla., as an alternate, replacing San Francisco’s Kyle Juszczyk after the 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packer for the NFC Championship and Juszczyk couldn’t participate.
“I knew I had a very good chance, and when I got the call the following day, on Monday, about going to the Pro Bowl … I’m not going to say I was surprised, but it was definitely rewarding, and definitely a dream come true,” Ham said. “It was a lot of fun, just being able to bring my family. My entire family came out there with me, my mom, dad, in-laws. Just to be able to share that moment with my kids, going to Disney World, that was the most fun.”
Those moments are especially important for Ham and his mother, Tina Ham, who is undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. Sunday will be the one-year anniversary of her diagnosis.
“She’s doing well,” C.J. Ham said. “She keeps fighting, and these last couple months she has been feeling well. We’ve definitely expressed to her (with the coronavirus outbreak) that it is very important that she takes the necessary precautions to keep herself safe, and we have to take the necessary precautions around her, making sure we’re not putting her at risk.”
Mom must certainly be proud.
Ham was asked if he could have ever pictured 10 or 15 years ago being in the position he is now, playing in the NFL and earning millions of dollars. Ham said the first part of that story is true, that he did picture it, but the second part never came up.
“When I was a kid, it was never about the money. It was just about the love of the game, and today it still is,” Ham said. “As a kid, no matter what sport I played, I wanted to play at the highest level. Playing basketball, I wanted to be the next Michael Jordan, and then I got into football, and I wanted to be the next Jerome Bettis. It was things like that.
“Just being able to play in the NFL now, I have to continue to remind myself that this is definitely a dream come true, and even though it is my job, and how I support my family, I still love the game so much.”