The Minnesota Vikings' Carl Eller will be here Sunday to take part in a musical tribute to his old friend, the late Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey.
Eller will bring to the Kennedy Center, at 3 p.m., a resonant voice that will give a reading of William Wordsworth's "Character of The Happy Warrior" while the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra pauses.
"I'm very honored," said the defensive end who grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C. "It is one of the things I can do as an expression of what my association with Mr. Humphrey meant to me.
"It is an exciting poem. It has a lot of things in it I feel. He was a very close friend . . . very dear to me. I related to him very closely."
The poem begins:
Who is the happy warrior? Who is he That every man in arms should wish to be?
It is the generous spirit, who when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought:
Whose high endeavors are an inward light
That makes the path before him always bright:
Who, with a natural instinct to discern
What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn:
Abides by this resolve, and stops not there
But makes his moral being his prime care . . .
Eller has had some dramatic training, appearing in cameo roles in films and on television. In the bicentennial year, he appeared with the Minneapolis (symphony) Orchestra and read "Portrait of Lincoln." The television networks have told him they want him on their sports telecasts the day he retires.
"I like narration," Eller said. "I did a bit for a young people's concert in connection with an animation called 'Freddy the Football.'
"But I don't think I'll retire from football for at least another decade (he has spent 14 of his 36 years with the Vikings)."
Like any true admirer of Humphrey, Eller has not chucked the common touch in favor of intellectual pretensions. To reach him, one dials area code 612, which of course, he could not maneuver to his designs.
But after that, simply dial D-E-F-E-N-S-E and there will be the response, "Carl Eller Liquors."