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Minnesota Vikings fans fondly remember Bud Grant’s time at the helm. With good reason. Guest writer Ryan Capazario explains why:
The man Harry Peter “Bud” Grant will not be a known quantity with many UK football fans but in the state of Minnesota and to Viking fans world wide he is a legend.
Minnesota Vikings fans old and new have seen videos, heard stories and read the history of his two stints as head-coach of the Minnesota Vikings between 1967- 83 and also the 1985 season. In this period he masterminded Minnesota to 4 Super Bowl appearances. Sadly however, none of these trips would end with success.
It’s not like his Vikings teams were unsuccessful. Grant coached the Vikings to a 158-96-5 record during his time with the team in the regular season and 10-12 in the playoffs. The Vikings made it to the playoffs in 12 of his 18 seasons as head coach.
Basketball – then football
Bud’s first taste of Minnesota football came when he attended the University of Minnesota for his education but also his love of sports. 3 sports stood out for Bud. Football, Baseball and Basketball in which he represented the University. Basketball was his first love and played at such a high level he got drafted to the NBA in the 4th round of the 1950 draft, the team who took the dive on Bud as a Basketball player was the Minneapolis Lakers (now know as the LA Lakers).
1950 was not to be just known as the year Bud was drafted to the NBA but he also ended up being drafted to the NFL in that same year by the Philadelphia Eagles also in the 4th round. He chose to stay locally and play his first sport of basketball for the Lakers. Grant did however contact the Eagles to ask if he could join them for the 1951 season, he made the final roster after all cuts were made and ended up playing defensive end, in which he ended the season sack leader for the team.
Some coaching changes resulted in Bud turning to wide receiver for his last season with the Eagles, the 1952 season. His transition from defensive end to wide receiver went according to plan as he ended the season ranked 2nd overall with a impressive 997 yards on 56 catches and 7 touchdowns. The 1952 season was his last in the NFL as a player. His contract ran out and the Eagles refused his demands which resulted in both parties deciding to end negotiations. This led to the CFL team Winnipeg Blue Bombers coming in with a contract Bud liked and decided to follow up on.
Coaching the Vikings
His return would not come until 15 years later, after his huge success in the Canadian Football League as a player and head-coach. The Vikings bought him over the border in 1967 to become only their 2nd ever franchise head-coach. The man became an instant hit with the fans and players alike. His no messing, professional attitude was very stern but fair and this approach was seen as dynamic at the time.
Players would have to train outdoors in the coldest of months, stand in-line, up-right and at attention for every national anthem that was played during every fixture. Bud was in charge of and to put 100% effort into every training session. His love of making players suffer extended to the field of play, where once again the players had to not only to play the game with passion and relentless effort but also endure the harshest of cold weather. Any type of heating was banned on the sidelines. Which in turn made his players the toughest of any people to ever grace an NFL field.
This hard tough guy regime soon brought the team together and got them playing some amazing new age football. In Buds 2nd season as team leader the Vikings won the franchises 1st ever divisional championship and with it a play off game.
The Vikings would lose this fixture but this led to the 1969/70 season being one all Viking fans will remember for years to come as this was the season the team made the first of its 4 super bowl outings under Grant. The team would eventually come up short and lose to the AFC representative the Kansas City Chiefs with a score of 23-7 in favour of the Chiefs.
Fran the Man
The defeat hurt all coaching staff and players to the extent that big changes were made for the up coming season and a new QB was hired to implement Bud’s scheme and new style of play. Fran Tarkenton was picked up by the team to be the man Bud wanted as his starting QB. This partnership flourished and to this day is known as some of the best times to watch the franchise. Between Fran’s new age style of QB and Bud’s new age style of scheme they would lead the team to 3 more super bowl games.
The 4 super bowl losses has become a nightmare for all Viking fans as no other Viking side since has ever made it to the big game. Minnesota has only ever made it as far as the NFL championship game.
Leaving a legacy
Since Mike Zimmer has taken over the team, many comparisons have been made between himself and Bud in which Zimmer replied “If I was to ever coach this team half as well as Bud did, I would leave happy and content with my job.” For a guy like Mike Zimmer to make such a compliment shows how great Bud Grant was as head coach.
Grant’s legacy will live on not only in Minnesota but also the NFL as a member of the pro football Hall of Fame. Bud Grant’s coaching career saw him finish up as the 3rd most successful coach overall with a record of 290 wins in the NFL and CFL.
After his retirement from football Bud settled down with his wife in Minnesota where he would appear regularly at home games in nothing more then a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and hosting an annual garage sale from his home which is filled full of amazing Viking merchandise and memorabilia, which attracts fans from all over. Nothing too shocking by the sounds of it you are thinking but bear in mind it hits below 0*c daily in Minnesota and his age of 91!!!! This man when passing on will be a hero for years to come to many and a hero to his family.
This article will be followed by one about Grant’s time in the CFL.
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