Bud Grant, stoic coach of powerhouse Vikings, dies at 95

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Bud Grant, the stoic and demanding Hall of Fame coach who took the Minnesota Vikings and their mighty Purple People Eaters defense to four Super Bowls in eight years and lost them all, died Saturday . He was 95 years old.

The Vikings announced Grant’s death on social media.

“No individual defines the Minnesota Vikings better than Bud Grant. A once-in-a-lifetime man, Bud will forever be synonymous with success, tenacity, the North and the Vikings,” said owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf in a joint statement distributed by the team. “In short, he was the Vikings.”

Wearing his purple Vikings cap and a stone-faced attitude, Grant displayed a steely look on the sidelines that has become synonymous with his teams. He was a mainstay among the coaches of his day, a decorated group that included Don Shula, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, John Madden and Hank Stram. Grant, however, had little interest in accolades.

“The only reason I see a head coach being recognized for something good is that they get so much blame when something goes wrong,” Grant said. “The whole secret, I think, is not to react to either good or bad.”

He guided the Vikings from 1967 to 1985, with a one-year hiatus in 1984, en route to a 158-96-5 record with 11 division championships in 18 seasons. He went 10-12 in the playoffs. When he retired, Grant was eighth on the NFL’s all-time winning list.

“There are so many appropriate adjectives to describe Coach Bud Grant: legendary, determined, successful. Beneath his outwardly stoic demeanor that some have misinterpreted as coldness, was the warm heart of a man who truly loved his players and the sport of football,” said Jim Porter, Chairman of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After replacing fellow Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin, Grant assembled the revered defensive line dubbed the Purple People Eaters. The line – whose motto was “Meet the Quarterback” – was joined by a powerful offense that helped Minnesota reach the Super Bowl in 1970, the last edition of the big game before the AFL-NFL merger.

The heavily favored Vikings fell 23-7 to Kansas City, setting the tone for the infamous title losing streak to Miami, Pittsburgh and Oakland in any perceived conference after the 1973, 1974 and 1976 seasons.

“If you want to be successful, maybe survive is a better word,” Grant said during his 1994 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech in Canton, Ohio. “You have to deal with defeat. You die every time you lose, but you have to get over it.

An avid outdoorsman who spent many off-seasons on fishing trips in Alaska or hunting expeditions in Arizona, Grant was also a successful Canadian Football League coach who became the first person elected to the Hall of CFL and NFL fame. He won four league championships during his 10 years in Canada.

Harry Peter Grant Jr. was born on May 20, 1927, in Superior, Wisconsin, and given the nickname Bud by his mother. He overcame a bout with polio as a child and became a three-sport star in high school. He learned the coaching trade early on after enlisting in 1945 and played on a team at Naval Station Great Lakes outside Chicago led by Paul Brown, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career. as an NFL coach, executive and owner.

From there, Grant played football, basketball and baseball at the University of Minnesota, a nine-time man of letters who was drafted by both the NBA and NFL. He initially pursued basketball, playing two seasons for the Minneapolis Lakers and winning a title with them in 1950.

But it was in football that Grant really excelled, first for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was second in the NFL with 56 receptions and 997 yards in 1952, before a contract dispute sent him to Winnipeg in the CFL. After playing the role of two-way player for the Blue Bombers, once having five interceptions in a playoff game, he became their coach and led them to six Gray Cup games, winning the title in 1958. 1959, 1961 and 1962. Grant won 102 games as CFL coach.

This sparked the interest of the Vikings, who brought it back across the border in 1967. With stars such as Fran Tarkenton, Carl Eller, Alan Page, Paul Krause and Ron Yary – all members of the Temple of professional football fame – Grant led the Vikings to 10 Central Division Crowns in 11 seasons.

The late father of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Jim Klobuchar, was a journalist who covered those Vikings teams closely. She said in a statement released by her office that “no name weighed more heavily” in her home growing up than Grant’s.

“I remember answering the phone when I was young to silence the other line, with the exception of maybe the growling word ‘Jim’,” Klobuchar said. “That meant it was Bud calling my dad back for the post-game story, regardless of the outcome.”

Disciplined to the end and insisting on sharp mental focus, Grant went so far as to have his players practice standing to attention during the national anthem. He infamously took the Vikings outside in the freezing winter for practices and banned secondary heaters during games at Metropolitan Stadium.

On January 10, 2016, when the Vikings staged the coldest game in franchise history in the first round of the playoffs against Seattle, at the university’s outdoor stadium during construction of their building, Grant served as captain honorary. He walked around for the pregame draw in a Vikings cap and purple short-sleeved polo shirt, ready for a round of golf in defiance of temperatures of minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit and minus 25 with the wind chill .

Grant retired after the 1983 season, replaced by Les Steckel, whose fiery approach was the opposite of his calm predecessor and went 3-13. Grant returned for one season, a 7-9 finish, before longtime offensive coordinator Jerry Burns was promoted to the top job.

Although Grant was done with coaching, his influence on his team and his city remained. Grant continued to live in the same suburban home he had purchased when he arrived in 1967, in Bloomington, less than 10 miles from Metropolitan Stadium. He’s become something of a Vikings ambassador in the community, sometimes lending his voice in the lobbying effort to replace the Metrodome, where the team played from 1982 to 2013.

He went hunting and fishing with his friends and family as often as possible. During a particularly harrowing hunting visit to Canada in 2015, Grant’s pilot safely brought down a twin-engine plane after the landing gear and instrument panel failed.

Grant also showed more of his softer side. Upon the college’s return to campus football at TCF Bank Stadium in 2009, the Gophers named him and eight other former players honorary captains. His face quivered and his eyes filled as fans applauded his name during the pre-match ceremony.

There were also Grant’s famous yard sales, where he gave autographs to those who bought $25 or more of his items, including memorabilia from his playing and practice days and even sports equipment. outdoors. For the 2017 three-day event, custom-made bobblehead dolls in her likeness were available for purchase. Grant would sit in a chair outside his house and sign off for an endless line of admirers, some traveling from abroad to look through the former coach’s belongings.

The Vikings maintained a spacious office for him at their suburban headquarters, continuing to list him as a consultant in all team directories. Whenever a new coach or executive was hired, Grant was usually one of the first people the Vikings made sure to introduce.

“Bud was one of the first people to greet me warmly when I walked through the doors of this establishment. I didn’t realize at the time that I would be so lucky to form a close friendship with him over the next year,” said current Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell. “Bud was kind to his time, meeting in his office every week to discuss football and life. I will forever cherish those conversations because they made me a better coach, a better husband and father and a better person.

When he turned 95 on May 20, 2022, the team hosted a Zoom call for him and several of his former players. Jim Marshall led the group in the virtual “Happy Birthday” sing-along.

He is survived by his partner, Pat Smith, six children, 19 grandchildren and, as of 2021, 13 great-grandchildren. His 59-year-old wife, Pat, died in 2009. A son, Mike Grant, built a powerful football program at Eden Prairie High School, a 15-minute drive from his father’s house, winning 11 state championships in 22 years. 1996-2017.


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