Bud Grant, the greatest coach in Minnesota Vikings history, turned 95 years old on Friday.
Born in 1927, Grant has lived a remarkable life. After graduating from high school in Superior, WI, he enlisted in the Navy during World War II. He then attended the University of Minnesota, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. In 1950, Grant was selected in both the NFL draft (by the Eagles in the first round) and the NBA draft (by the Minneapolis Lakers in the fourth round). He played for the Lakers for two seasons, then played for the Eagles for two seasons — spending time at both defensive end and wide receiver — before playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League for four years.
At the age of 29, Grant became the youngest head coach in CFL history when he was hired by the Blue Bombers. He led the team to four Grey Cup titles in his first six years.
Grant was hired by the Vikings in 1967. He spent 18 years as Minnesota's head coach, posting a regular season record of 158-96-5. That's a .622 winning percentage, the best among all head coaches in franchise history. Grant presided over the Vikings' Purple People Eaters teams in the late 1960s and 1970s, winning the NFC Central division in 11 of his first 14 seasons and taking the team to four Super Bowls. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Since coaching his final season in 1985, Grant has remained an active presence in the Vikings' organization. He's still listed as a consultant for the team and has an office at their TCO Performance Center facility in Eagan. In January 2016, he famously walked out to the coin toss at the Vikings' playoff game against the Seahawks in a polo shirt, despite it being -6 degrees at TCF Bank Stadium. Grant was there on the day Kevin O'Connell was introduced as the 10th head coach in Vikings history earlier this year.
Recently, Grant was surprised by more than 35 of his former players on a Zoom call to celebrate his 95th birthday. It was "pitched to Grant as a '60s and '70s Vikings Decade Call," but he quickly realized something was up. Players like Jim Marshall, Carl Eller, Alan Page, Ahmad Rashad, Sammy White, and many more were on the video call to share memories, laughs, and birthday wishes for their former coach.
Also on the call were O'Connell, Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, owner Mark Wilf, and COO Andrew Miller.
"A couple of times I've walked [into the team meeting room] and said to the guys, 'Hey, just so we understand … make sure you look at the walls down here on the first floor when you're walking back to the locker room and [understand] what that means, that logo on your chest on all those T-shirts and on our helmets,'" O'Connell said to Grant and the other Vikings legends (via Lindsey Young of Vikings.com). "It was built on the backs of you guys doing really, really special things. Do not think that's lost on even our youngest, newest players."
Grant also spoke to Michael Rand on the Star Tribune's Daily Delivery podcast this week, where he shared the story of a near-death experience he had when he was 29 years old and reflected on his life.
"Aging is an interesting progression, particularly if you live as long as I have," Grant said. "I had adolescence, I went in the service, had a job, got married, had a family, retired, grandchildren, that's a whole progression of time frames that you go through. Now I'm in the last phase of that lifetime and it's been enjoyable. I can't complain about anything. I'm retired. I'm still (good) cognitively, so I can talk to you. I can interact with my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. So life has been wonderful."
Throughout the day on Friday, Grant received numerous birthday wishes on social media as well.
Happy 95th birthday, Bud Grant!
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