Growing up, Paul Johnson and his friend Christopher would go to TGI Fridays with their families, but it wasn't to eat the two would trade sports cards.
"Our collections were so large we had to get a separate table away from our families," Johnson recalls. "I'm aware it was an odd spot, but we loved it.
Johnson has been collecting cards for as long as he can remember. Whether it was hockey, baseball, or football cards, it was what his friends talked about.
"My parents would give me cards for Christmas," Johnson says. "When it came to trading, I would look up the actual value and compare it to my sentimental value I placed on a specific card."
Johnson remembers his countless trips to Shinders and Stemps Drug Store in Chatfield.
"I would save up my allowance and bike down to get some more cards," he says.
When Johnson attended St. Olaf, he says his love for collecting was rekindled. His girlfriend at the time, (now wife) Kristin Johnson would help him logically reason through some decisions about his hobby.
"I couldn't walk into a Target or a Walmart without buying cards," he says. "Kristin would have to take me aside and literally explain to me how we were not going go to get anymore cards."
After receiving a Denard Span autographed card, Johnson became interested in collecting more than just cards. He wanted to focus on collecting rare memorabilia and autographs.
One way Johnson added to his collection was by attending Minnesota Vikings training camp in Mankato the last three years.
"I look forward to it every year," he says. "But, I also dread it. I normally do not get much sleep."
Johnson is a die hard Vikings fan and has been going to games since he was little. In 2011 he moved to Mankato and always wanted to go to Vikings training camp.
He remembers the first couple of times he went to watch the team practice.
"I found out if you want to get some autographs, you need to get in line early," he explains. "If you want multiple autographs from your favorite players you can't even watch the practices."
Johnson would get to Mankato and wait in line at 3 a.m. and camp out for several hours. He says all the autograph fanatics are always there and know each other by name.
"I love the thrill," he says. "The whole experience is just fun."
Of all the autographs Johnson has collected, one sticks out because of how he went about receiving it.
Johnson had an Adrian Peterson canvas and found out where Peterson parked his brand new Escalade. So, Johnson and a group of fans waited for the Vikings meeting to finish.
Since Peterson is likely a first ballot hall of famer, the demand for his autograph is very high. So, according to Johnson, only a handful of fans get to meet with Peterson during training camp.
"When Peterson came out to his car he initially said he is signing the next day and drove away," he says. "But, he spun around for some reason and I ended up in his lap because fans were going crazy and pushing me frantically. I literally could have honked his horn if I wanted to because I was basically on his lap. I apologized and he ended up signing my canvas."
It was one of the most favorite experiences he has ever had, Johnson says. His family even got the whole event on videotape.
"It's special to me because I didn't buy it and it has a story behind it," Johnson says.
According to Kristin Johnson, his collectibles are therapeutic to him.
"He will go downstairs and look at his collection to calm down," she says. "I also appreciate that he keeps everything organized and not cluttered. It also makes my life easier because I know what to buy him for Christmas or his birthday."
What's unique about Johnson's collection is that it is a Minnesota collection.
"I have about 10 items which are not autographs or memorabilia related to Minnesota athletes," he says. "My wife is from Colorado, so I have some Denver Broncos collectibles, too."
Overall, Johnson has 25 Twins, Vikings and Wild bobbleheads, signed baseball bats, countless authentic signed cards and photographs signed by Vikings and Twins players.
Johnson admits he has been lucky with buying collectibles and autographed memorabilia online.
"Autographs are easy to fake and there are a lot of fakes out there," he says. "I will do background checks on stores and study the feedback given by other clients. If I?shell out a lot of money, I want to be certain it is authentic."
In the future, Johnson hopes to add some Timberwolves collectibles and continue to go to Vikings training camp in Mankato.
"I will focus on collecting rookie autographs in Mankato," he says. "I want to start getting college mini-helmets for the new Viking rookies. Last year, I got Xavier Rhodes to sign a Florida State helmet and Cordarrelle Patterson to sign a Tennessee one."
Johnson will even hold an autographed card with him while he watches games. Last year, it was a signed Peterson card while watching the Vikings play.
"It's funny. If the player on the card he is holding is doing well, he will tell everybody it's because of him," Kristin Johnson says. "But seriously, I do admire him for the passion he has for his collectibles."
Johnson knows his collection is something he can always turn to and instantly calm him down.
"It is just something I love doing and I really look forward to adding to my Minnesota collection down the road."