EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Teddy Bridgewater was 14, the last of four kids still at home, when his mother Rose Murphy told him she had breast cancer.
Antone Exum's mother, Barbara, was diagnosed a week after Exum's grandmother had died from cancer. Not wanting to worry her two children with the news, she went through treatments in silence, finally telling her kids two years later that she'd beaten the disease.
Those three players, along with defensive end Everson Griffen, appeared at the team's 4th annual Breast Cancer Awareness luncheon with stories to tell about how the disease had affected them personally. Griffen, who got married over the summer, said at the event his mother-in-law has been in remission for years. Felton's sister has been in remission since January, Bridgewater's mother beat the disease in 2008 and Exum's mother has been cancer-free since he was in ninth grade.
All 32 teams take part in the NFL's breast cancer awareness initiatives each October, but the Vikings have become a team with some poignant stories about the disease now that rookies such as Bridgewater (whose mother blew the Gjallarhorn before Sunday's game) and Exum (whose mother was an honorary captain and did the coin toss for the game against the Detroit Lions) are on the team. Exum talked at length about the importance of early detection, saying his mother was able to avoid chemotherapy through two mastectomies after she was diagnosed.
"I can't speak enough about (early detection). That's what saved my mom," Exum said. "She got checked, found out she was diagnosed with cancer, but they were able to catch it at such an early stage that they didn't have to do chemo and things like that."
Exum said his mother has been texting him all week about how much fun she had at the game on Sunday, teasing him that she'd become a NFL captain before he did. Bridgewater, who goes with his mother to visit breast cancer survivors when he's at home in South Florida, was fighting a stomach bug on Tuesday, but said being part of the event was an obvious way to use his platform to raise awareness about the disease.
"It’s been a huge part of my life because my mom went through the entire process," he said. "I know how much of an impact you can have in someone’s life by being supportive of them."
Current players such as Brandon Fusco, Joe Berger and Marcus Sherels -- as well as retired Vikings such as Bob Lurtsema, Stu Voight, E.J. Henderson and Rickey Young attended the luncheon -- which recognized 10 Minnesota breast cancer survivors and their caregivers.
"It was pretty cool, just to talk with these women," Felton said. "It's a really good cause, obviously, and just to show support for them kind of gives us strength. What we do is easy compared to them."