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Minnesota on the clock after Super Bowl handoff from Houston

U.S. Bank Stadium is set to host Super Bowl LII in 2018. Don Davis / Forum News Service

HOUSTON — Houston handed the Super Bowl off to Minnesota on Monday, and Marilyn Carlson Nelson had a handoff of her own.

As New England quarterback Tom Brady was leaving his Super Bowl MVP news conference, Nelson, a co-chairman of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, gave him a hat reading "Bold North," a theme for the big game Feb. 4, 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"I said, 'Why don't you do one more (Super Bowl) in Minnesota next year?'" Carlson Nelson said. "He turned around and said, 'I love Minnesota,' so that was great. The only way we can top (Sunday's Super Bowl) is if (the Patriots) come back, and the Vikings beat them."

New England won Super Bowl LI on Sunday night at NRG Stadium, overcoming a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to defeat Atlanta in 34-28 in overtime for the biggest comeback in the game's history. Less than 12 hours after securing his fifth championship ring, Brady spoke in downtown Houston shortly after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell put Minnesota on the clock for Super Bowl LII.

"We had a spectacular week here in Houston with the game (Sunday) night," Goodell said. "I can't think of a better way to finish out the week. ... (Houston) set a new bar for this event. ...This is an incredible group representing Minnesota. They're a well-organized, well-oiled machine, and I know they're going to do a fantastic job for us and even raise the bar higher."

Minnesota host committee CEO Maureen Bausch, Carlson Nelson, co-chairs Doug Baker and Richard Davis, and Vikings owners Zygi, Mark and Lenny Wilf were on stage Monday with Goodell and members of the Houston delegation. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner tossed the first Super Bowl LII football produced to the Minnesota group.

One could say Minnesota literally is on the clock. There are now 35 clocks throughout the Twin Cities and the state counting down in seconds to Super Bowl LII's kickoff.

Also Monday, bridges were lit throughout Minnesota to commemorate the state now being next in line to play host to the big game.

"Welcome to the North," Bausch said. "We're going north, so bring your parkas and we welcome you as warmly as you could possible imagine. Our celebration is throughout Minnesota.

"This is a Minnesota Super Bowl, not just one city, it's the entire state. ... We will start our 52 weeks of giving on Wednesday, and with the help of the NFL and all of our partners in the community, we will give out 52 grants to places in Minnesota that need help."

The only other Super Bowl in Minnesota was Super Bowl XXVI on Jan. 26, 1992, when Washington defeated Buffalo 37-24. The Vikings moved into U.S. Bank Stadium for the 2016 season, and Mark Wilf had plenty of superlatives Monday to describe what fans can expect to see there.

"We've got all the confidence that as high of a bar that Houston set, Minnesota will exceed it," Wilf said. "The showpiece of the entire week is going to be our stadium, which we think is the finest sports and entertainment venue in the world."

The Minnesota delegation showed a video to commemorate the handing off of the Super Bowl. It features images from throughout the state of fans and celebrities throwing a football around.

Locations in the video included the Minnesota State Capitol, the Mayo Clinic and the Spam Museum in Austin. Sports figures shown included Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves, Matt Dumba of the Wild and Vikings hall of famers Carl Eller and Bud Grant.

The video closed with Grant, the legendary coach, saying, 'Welcome to beautiful Minnesota." Grant has been named an honorary chairman for the game.

In terms of preparation, committee members said they are in good shape a year away from the game.

"The NFL has told us we're ahead of schedule," Bausch said. "We're hoping that they're not just being nice."

Vikings executive vice president Lester Bagley, a member of the executive board of the committee, said fund raising is ahead of schedule. Since Minnesota was awarded Super Bowl LII in May 2014, Bagley said nearly $40 million has been raised from sponsors, more than halfway toward the goal.

Bagley said the NFL estimates more than 100,000 fans will come from out of the area to the Twin Cities for events during Super Bowl week.

While the game and most of the festivities will be in Minneapolis, at least two key NFL events will be in St. Paul. They are Super Bowl Opening Night at the Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 29, 2018, and Taste of the NFL at a site to be determined on Feb. 3, 2018, the night before the game.

Arizona Cardinals all-pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a Minneapolis native, hopes to be playing in the game. Regardless, he plans to be on hand.

"It's going to be cold," Fitzgerald said with a laugh. "The skyways are going to get a lot of usage. But I'm really excited. They have done an unbelievable job with that stadium there, and I couldn't be more proud of my hometown."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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