No penalty for this clipping: Vikings' C.J. Ham a hit in return to Denfeld
It's unlikely many people can claim a Minnesota Vikings player is responsible for their hairstyle, but Denfeld High School's Kong Xiong can.
Denfeld students delighted in a surprise treat during Friday's spirited auditorium pep assembly: watching 2011 Denfeld graduate C.J. Ham, who signed a rookie contract with the Vikings in 2016, shave Xiong's head.
In town to visit family, Ham was invited to the school to be part of a Key Club fundraiser for a Denfeld family who lost its home to fire in December. The club raised more than $1,000 for the family, using the carrot of Key Club president Xiong's commitment to losing his hair the day before the school's formal winter dance. "It was pretty cool," Xiong said of the experience, noting his date was "sad" about the new look. "She liked the hair. But we're just going to have to deal with it."
Ham, who even took the time backstage to ensure Xiong's head was completely shorn, said he enjoys returning to the school and appreciated the warm reception from students and staff.
"It's a very humbling feeling," he said. "Sometimes you don't realize how much of an impact you really have on young people. ... I want to do as much as I can for them."
Ham, a 5-foot-11, 235-pound running back, was called up to the active Vikings roster from the practice squad toward the end of the season. He didn't see playing time, but he reveled in the experience, he said Friday.
"Putting those pads on against Green Bay, getting those game jerseys. It was an amazing feeling," he said.
The activation meant locking him into offseason and preseason training. He said nothing is promised with a first contract, and "it will be a battle to make it onto the roster. But I feel so blessed to have the opportunity."
Ham signed as an undrafted free agent following a career at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he totaled 2,662 rushing yards, 949 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns in 43 games.
"He's just a wonderful man," said school secretary Claudia Anderson, speaking of Ham, who served as her office cadet his senior year. "He's a very giving person."
Ham is just one example of a community of generous Denfeld Hunters, students and alumni alike, said school counselor Geri Saari.
"You tell them you need help and they just start filling in," she said.