Fall 2021 SS Magazine

20 NFL players to watch in 2020: Minnesota Vikings FB C.J. Ham

Through Sept. 13, the first Sunday of the 2020 NFL season,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting one Christ-following player each day for 20 days.

The fullback position isn’t glamorous and it’s rarely flashy. Yet, as Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham has proven, good fullback play leads to team success.

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Ham is coming off of a Pro Bowl year in 2019 and played a crucial role on a team that finished 10-6 and advanced to the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The fourth-year pro caught 17 passes for 149 yards and one score while rushing seven times for 17 yards — all career highs.

Still, it was what he did as a blocker that earned him respect around the league. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook had by far his best season as a pro, rushing for more than 1,100 yards and making the most of the running lanes Ham helped to open.

Minnesota’s front office certainly recognized Ham’s value. He was set to become a free agent during the 2020 offseason but the team signed him to a four-year, $12.25 million contract extension in March.

Ham hopes to replicate the success of 2019, starting with a Week 1 showdown against NFC North rival Green Bay. He says he and his team will be ready.

“It’s super nice to have that familiarity from last year, so that everybody can come in and play fast and really get back rolling, especially with how everything has shaken out. It’s nice to be able to come back and get on the field and just start running around and playing right away,” Ham told the Duluth News Tribune last month.

Cook knows the rapport he’s built with Ham will serve Minnesota’s offense well in 2020.

“Me and him are at a point right now where we feel things on the field, and we don’t even have to talk about it,” Cook told the Duluth News Tribune. “We’re going into our fourth year being around each other, and our relationship is like that of one of your best friends. I lean on him. I can call him any time and he’s going to pick up. He’s like a brother, and that just carries over to the on-the-field play.”

A Duluth, Minn., native and undrafted rookie in 2016 out of Division-II Augustana (S.D.) University, Ham has had to earn his spot with the Vikings. His showing as a running back in Minnesota’s 2016 preseason earned him a spot on the practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster in December.

By the 2017 season, after a switch from running back to fullback, Ham’s efforts paid off when he made the 53-man active roster.

And even while the 27-year-old has worked to make his way in the NFL, Ham knows that he can rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross as he remembers the promise of Romans 5:8.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” — Romans 5:8

“That verse has really come to light in my life,” Ham told Sports Spectrum Magazine for the Fall 2020 issue. “It’s really impacted me in the fact that it wasn’t when we were done sinning, it was while we were still sinners He made the sacrifice for our sins. And it really just encourages me every single day, knowing that I’m not a slave to my sin anymore. He paid the ultimate price for that.

“He felt all the pain of the entire world’s sin and He brought that on to Him. We are set free from the law and we no longer are a slave to that feeling of what sin brings to us, but we can just live freely in His grace.”

Ham says he is a follower of Jesus on his social media pages and references his favorite Bible verse. He has been active in his community since his arrival with the Vikings, surprising underprivileged families for Christmas, hosting fundraisers and, since the COVID-19 outbreak, teaming up with Saint Paul Parks & Recreation to encourage young people to stay active without organized sports.

He had even planned to hold a faith and football event with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes before it was canceled due to COVID-19.

For Ham, all of it stems from his love for Christ.

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