His goal was clearly stated even before the season kicked off: make the Pro Bowl.
“That is realistic,” Duluth native C.J. Ham, a fullback for the Minnesota Vikings, said in a St. Paul Pioneer Press story back in September. “If I’m doing my job, success will come.”
Ham did his job and then some and this week was named to his first Pro Bowl, the NFL’s end-of-season all-star game featuring the best of the best. Ham was named as a replacement for Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
What a run it’s been for Ham. A two-year starter at Denfeld, he was all-conference, all-section, and honorable mention all-state before graduating in 2011. He caught on with the Vikings in 2016 despite going undrafted out of Augustana University in South Dakota, where, like in high school, he also was a standout in track.
Ham’s numbers weren’t particularly eye-popping this season, although he did set career highs with 17 pass receptions and 149 yards. But his role with the Vikings is primarily as a blocker for star running back Dalvin Cook. There Ham shined. He helped Cook gain 1,135 yards on 250 carries, earning Cook a Pro Bowl nod as well.
In a game in December, Ham memorably wore cleats decorated with a picture of his mother Tina, "You Are The Strongest Person in the World!" and "I Love You Mom!" It was a reference to his mother’s courageous battle back home in Duluth with pancreatic cancer.
The Vikings haven’t had a fullback in the Pro Bowl since Jerome Felton in 2012. Like Ham, Felton made his mark blocking for a premiere runner, Adrian Peterson, during his MVP season.
Duluthians can watch the Pro Bowl Sunday with pride. One of our own set a lofty goal and achieved it. C.J. Ham will be lined up with the league’s best for the 2 p.m. CST kickoff. It’s a reminder to all of us back home that hard work pays off.
Congratulations, C.J., from your hometown and from all of Minnesota. Enjoy your moment in the Orlando sun. You earned it. You deserve it. We’ll all be basking in it with you while wishing you even greater successes.