Bud Grant was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings from the 1960s through 1980s, leading them to four Super Bowl appearances.
After serving in the U.S. Navy at the tail end of World War II, Grant was a three-sport athlete at the University of Minnesota. He played football, basketball, and baseball for the Golden Gophers. In fact, his professional career began not in the NFL but in the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers (the team would later relocate to Los Angeles). Grant spent two years with the Lakers before switching to football. The Philadelphia Eagles had chosen him in the first round of the 1950 NFL Draft before he decided to go with basketball, and they were still ready to sign him two years later. He later played for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers before his retirement as a player in 1956.
Grant’s coaching career began with the Blue Bombers. He debuted as their head coach in 1957, the youngest head coach in CFL history at age 29. In 10 seasons with the Blue Bombers, Grant led them to six championship appearances and four wins. He signed with the Vikings as head coach in 1967, the beginning of a long history with the team. Grant led the Vikings to Super Bowl IV in the 1969 season, though they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. He went on to take the Vikings to Super Bowls VII, IX, and XI, becoming the first coach to lead a team to four Super Bowl appearances. Grant retired in 1983, though he returned to the Vikings as head coach for a single season in 1985. He remains the most successful coach in Vikings history. Grant was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Grant on his team’s tight bond
“[I]n those days, the players didn’t make a lot of money. They made more money than the average guy, but it wasn’t going to make you rich. A lot of them had off-season jobs, too, so a lot of players settled here. … We didn’t have free agency back then, so these players played for the Vikings for a long time, and now they go here for three years, then off to play for some other team, and then their agents will get them more money to play somewhere else, so they move around and it’s hard to have the bond that we had, and still have.” —from a 2013 interview for Daily Norseman
Tributes to Bud Grant