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Brock wants to be a Viking
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Brock Lesnar shed the trappings of pro wreestling to try to become a pro footballer. Once knwn as "The Next Big Thing" Lesnar now has to convince skeptics, including the Minnesota Vikings staff, that he has what it takes. (MPR photo/Erin Galbally)
Brock Lesnar wants to be a pro football player. The only problem is he hasn't played since high school. That was years ago. Now the former pro wrestler known to tens of thousands of fans as 'The Next Big Thing,' is practicing with the Minnesota Vikings. Lesnar's hoping to play for the team this fall. So far the only person who thinks he can do it is Lesnar himself, but that may be just enough.

Mankato, Minn. — Brock Lesnar is used to the limelight.

"The camera likes to follow me where ever I go, but that's OK. You know, I guess I have a pretty face so everyone wants me on camera. It's great," says Lesnar.

Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Lesnar stands 6 foot 3 and weighs in at about 290 pounds. His buzz cut hair rings a massive head and a cauliflower ear. His neck is thicker than many people's legs and the rest of his body is proportionally huge.

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Image Lesnar #69

It's the first week of Vikings training camp in Mankato. It's lunchtime and Lesnar's already put in three hours under the hot summer sun. He's number 69 on the roster, and only just this morning he made his first tackle.

"For me it was something I needed for the day, something I needed to show the coaching staff and more or less I guess I just fell into it," says Lesnar "More or less I was working hard and I need that."

After the morning session Vikings head coach Mike Tice called the tackle Lesnar's 'first kiss.'

But there's a long way to go before Lesnar and Vikings develop a more lasting relationship.

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Image Training

Lesnar has a basic contract with the team, which only assured he would be welcomed to turn up for training camp. Lesnar's arrival has prompted a lot of interest and a lot of skepticism. It's almost unheard of for an athlete to make the NFL without college ball experience.

Another of Lesnar's many challenges is to become a team player after years of taking on all comers. In March he retired from professional wrestling, where he was a dominant force. He says it's hard to compare his time with World Wrestling Entertainment with life as a rookie football player.

"I was in the entertainment busines," explains Lesnar. "Probably the only thing I can compare the WWE to here is the physicality. Getting in and out of the ring every night for 280 days a year, that's hard on a man's body and I'm feeling some of those aches and pains I used to feel. I'm 27 year old. I'm not a young man anymore. In this league I'm not young."

Lesnar grew up on his family's farm in Webster, South Dakota. When he was very young he delighted in picking up heavy objects. He did it so often he developed two hernias by the age of 5.

By the time he graduated from high school he could life a four door Chevy off the ground. At the University of Minnesota he made his mark as a wrestler. He won the NCAA heavy weight title in 2000 and attracted the attention of the pros.

Soon he was taking on the Rock and Hulk Hogan. He says he wishes he could have made the switch from wrestling four years ago. But now with a bank account filled with money from his days with the WWE, he says he felt confident attempting the jump.

"I've been in all 50 states and 30 different countries. Been on top of the world, been on the bottom of the world and now I'm just happy doing my thing," says Lesnar.

The move has been bitter-sweet for wrestling fans like 8-year-old Taylor Olson. He traveled with his family from Fargo to watch Lesnar practice with the Vikings.

"It's going to be no fun watching wrestling now," says Olson.

If his football career doesn't take off, Lesnar may return to the ring. But those who have tracked his athletic career say its possible Lesnar's success on the football field will mean he'll once again be dubbed the next big thing.

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