Duluth native C.J. Ham spoke with Augustana football coach Jerry Olszewski earlier this week and said, “Coach, if I don’t get called up, I’ll be there.”

Ham, a running back on the Minnesota Vikings practice squad, was there, attending Minnesota Duluth’s 41-38 victory over his alma mater, Augustana, on Saturday night at Malosky Stadium.

“It’s unbelievable being back,” Ham said. “I’ve been meaning to catch a game for the longest time, so to be able to do it in Duluth is just awesome. I definitely miss it. Just seeing these guys and the energy, I miss college football so much. I’m friends with all these guys.”

Ham attended the game with his wife, former Augustana soccer player Stephanie Ham. Ham’s parents, Cortez and Tina, were not in attendance. Instead, they had babysitting duty, watching their 3-month old granddaughter, Skylar.

While C.J. Ham didn’t intend to stick out, the 2011 Duluth Denfeld graduate sure did in his bright purple hoodie that read, “Engineered to the exact specifications of the Minnesota Vikings.”

“Now it’s a business, but football is still football,” Ham said. “It’s still fun.”

Ham could be seen before the game warming up an Augie quarterback. Ham only played at Malosky Stadium once, as a redshirt freshman for Augustana in 2012.

Ham compared being on an NFL practice squad to being a redshirt in college. You do everything with the team, just don’t play on game days or travel.

There was speculation Ham might get called up from the practice squad after Adrian Peterson tore his meniscus, but the Vikings instead signed former Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman.

While Ham was likely disappointed, he wasn’t showing it on Saturday.

“Nothing really changes for me,” he said. “The Vikings are trying to win a Super Bowl. I’m glad to still be there, and I’m going to continue to be me.”

NFL players make a reported minimum of $6,900 for each week they’re on the practice squad. Not too shabby. To think Ham was with the other Vikings football team last fall, preparing for the likes of Upper Iowa, to now being on the cusp of an NFL career, makes the past year all the more surreal.

“It feels really good to be back in my hometown, watching my college team,” Ham said. “They’re playing hard and having fun. They supported me and picked me up throughout this process, so it’s nice to come back and support them.”