February 21, 2024

When Adrian Peterson and the rest of the Vikings took the field for their 2016 playoff game against the Seahawks, Bud Grant came out with them. Grant, then 88, immediately went viral as he took the field in a short sleeve shirt despite the minus-6 degree temperature. 

Grant’s mental fortitude was shared by many of his Vikings teams, especially the ones that reached the Super Bowl four times from 1969-76. During his 18 years on the sideline, Grant led the Vikings to 168 wins, a .621 regular season winning percentage, three NFC titles and an NFL title in 1969. Grant’s success in Minnesota led to him being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994. 

Here are five facts about Grant, who on Friday, May 20 celebrated his 95th birthday. 

Minneapolis Laker and NFL star receiver

Grant was a three-sport, nine-time letterman at Wisconsin while playing football, basketball and baseball. His success in football and basketball led to him being selected in the NFL and NBA drafts. Grant was selected by the Eagles with the 14th overall pick in the 1950 NFL Draft and was taken by the Lakers with the 42nd overall pick in that year’s NBA Draft. The Lakers being a local team, coupled with the fact that his friend, Sid Hartman, was the team’s general manager, played a role in Grant choosing to play for Minneapolis. 

Grant played two years with the Lakers and was part of the franchise’s first championship team in 1950, but after those two seasons in the NBA as a backup, he decided to switch to the NFL. After leading the Eagles in sacks in 1951, Grant switched to offense in 1952 and was second in the NFL that season with 997 receiving yards. Grant caught 11 passes for 203 yards and two scores in a late-season win over the Dallas Texans. 

Canadian Football League Star 

Grant joined the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers following a contract dispute with the Eagles after the 1952 season. A three-time all-star, Grant led his respective conference in receptions three times and in receiving yards twice. Grant also intercepted a CFL playoff record five interceptions in a playoff game. 

Blue Bombers coach 

At age 29, Grant became the youngest head coach in CFL history when the Blue Bombers hired him before the start of the 1957 season. During his decade as the Blue Bombers coach, Grant led the team to six Grey Cup appearances and four championships. Grant, who was also the team’s general manager for three seasons, compiled a record of 122-66-3 during his run as the Blue Bombers’ coach. 

History in Minnesota 

Grant was initially contacted about being the Vikings coach in 1961, when the team was preparing for their inaugural season. Grant declined the offer then, but he did accept an offer to coach the Vikings ahead of the 1967 season. 

Grant was part of an historic trade early in his Vikings tenure. He helped orchestrate a rare trade between two separate leagues: the NFL and the CFL. In the trade, the Vikings acquired quarterback Joe Kapp — then of the BC Lions — in exchange for running back/receiver Jim Young, a Canadian-born player. Young ended up enjoying a successful 13-year run with the Lions, while Kapp guided the Vikings to the franchise’s first NFL title in 1969. Minnesota was unable to win that year’s Super Bowl, however, as the Vikings came up short against the Chiefs in the final game played before the AFL-NFL merger. 

The Vikings continued to be a league power in the 1970s. Minnesota reached the Super Bowl three more times during the decade, as Grant became the second coach (Don Shula being the first) to lead his team to four Super Bowls. Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton was the team’s starter during Minnesota’s Super Bowl appearances in 1973, ’74 and ’76. The Vikings were also led by a dominant defense that was given the nickname “The Purple People Eaters”. The unit was led by Hall of Famers Alan Page, Carl Eller, Paul Krause along with defensive end Jim Marshall, who spent 20 years with the Vikings. 

Grant has been inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. In 28 combined years as a head coach, Grant won two Coach of the Year honors while leading his teams to 10 championship game appearances. He tallied a combined coaching record of 260-152-7 in the regular season and 23-16 in the postseason. 

Famous garage sales 

Grant has held at least a dozen largely-attended garage sales in recent years. Autographed bobbleheads, memorabilia from his coaching career, hunting artifacts, and other non-football related items have been sold as his sharply-run garage sales over the years. 

“If you don’t want to buy it, the guy behind you will,” Grant said during his 2017 garage sale. 

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