First graders’ letters -- ‘keep on trying’ -- boost Vikings’ Blair Walsh after his missed kick

Max Birdwell, 4, kicks a football from the hold of Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh during the player's visit to Northpoint Elementary on Thursday.

Max Birdwell, 4, kicks a football from the hold of Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh during the player’s visit to Northpoint Elementary on Thursday.

(Jerry Holt / Associated Press)

Blair Walsh probably already knows that puppies are cute.

And he may or may not find himself handsome.

But, chances are, the Minnesota Vikings kicker didn’t consider himself the best football player in the universe earlier this week, after missing a 27-yard field goal attempt that likely would have won a playoff game for his team on Sunday.

And a reminder that football is just a game probably didn’t hurt either, considering the way some Vikings fans treated Walsh on social media after the 10-9 wildcard loss to Seattle.

That’s just the kind of encouragement Walsh received in the mail this week after a group of first graders from Northpoint Elementary in Blaine, Minn., sent him letters of support after learning in class about empathy.


“People like you, kids like you are willing to do kind things like that for somebody you don’t even know,” Walsh told the first-graders during a visit to the school Thursday morning. “It really meant a lot to me and I just want to say thank you.”

Northpoint teacher Judie Offerdahl said Walsh’s miss became a teachable moment in empathy. The kids expressed themselves in many different ways. Several students reminded Walsh that everyone makes mistakes, with some of them citing examples of times they were in similar situations (messing up a cartwheel, not connecting on a game-winning shot or kick).

“I know it can be hard to get through things that make you sad,” Sophia Doffin wrote. “But you have to try and try again.”

Some of them offered some personal encouragement for Walsh in their letters, telling him, “You are the best player in the universe,” and “We still think you’re awesome.”


And some packed in multiple uplifting messages, that really didn’t have much to do with each other but surely made Walsh feel good just the same. For example, Tasha Lee wrote: “Keep on trying. Puppies are cute.” And William Ofori offered: “You are handsome. Don’t worry - it’s just a game.”

Walsh told the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “It was pretty unbelievable. It really made a difference in my life. … It’s really important because these kids don’t know me.”