So, with me over here fighting a cold and whatever else I might have going on at the moment, I think that this is as appropriate a time as any to introduce our newest sponsor. . .the good folks at Vicks. Every other week, the SBNation football blogs will be putting together something relating to injuries, pain, things of that nature. Last week, the AFC blogs got everything kicked off (and there was a lot of really good stuff. . .too much to link to in one post), and this week it's the NFC's turn, so this is our first entry in this series.
And, really, when one wants to discuss who powered through injuries and illness and whatever else for the Minnesota Vikings, only one name should immediately jump to mind. . .that of Jim Marshall.
Marshall was the NFL's original Iron Man. After leaving Ohio State before his senior year, he played for a year with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League before being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round of the 1960 NFL Draft. He played one season in Cleveland, and then was traded to Minnesota prior to the Vikings' first game in team history in 1961. By the time he left the NFL after the 1979 season at the age of 42, Marshall had started a then-NFL record 282 consecutive games, having started all 12 of his games as a member of the Browns and all 270 games that he played in a Viking uniform (the NFL went from the 12-game season to the 14-game schedule starting in 1961, and then moved to a 16-game regular season slate in 1978). If you count post-season games, Marshall's consecutive starts number swells to 302.
But it didn't happen without its trials and tribulations, as this article from Sports Illustrated in 1979 points out.
In his effort to "make the mind and body totally harmonious," Marshall has given a lot of thought to human behavior, and he has been able to play week after week despite the ankle sprains and concussions that might have sidelined lesser men. Twice Marshall kept his streak intact by walking out of hospitals where he was recuperating, once from pneumonia and this season from ulcers. On another occasion he played after accidentally shooting himself in the side while cleaning a shotgun.
So, to recap. . .one week, Jim Marshall was in the hospital recovering from pneumonia. On Sunday, he was playing football.
Another week, Jim Marshall was in the hospital recovering from ulcers. On Sunday, he was playing football.
In a different week, Jim Marshall FREAKING SHOT HIMSELF during the week. On Sunday? Yep. . .playing football.
But all of those pale in comparison to what happened to Marshall and a group of snowmobilers in late January of 1971. Marshall was part of a group of 16 snowmobilers that set off from Red Lodge, Montana on what was supposed to be a 55-mile snowmobile trip to Cooke, Wyoming. Blizzard conditions left them stranded, and one member of their party even died of exposure after the group got lost and their snowmobiles broke down. Marshall recounted the trip to Sid Hartman a few days after it happened.
"Finally, young Leiviska (15 years old) located a piece of land with a grove of trees and a hill in back of it to block the wind. We decided to try and stay there for the night.
"The snow was about 10 to 15 feet deep in this area.
"Dickson took out his lighter and we started the fire with five one-dollar bills, some candy wrappers, my checkbook and billfold.
"The snow melted, giving us a hole about six feet deep by eight feet wide.
"Dickson had some $20 bills to keep the fire going.
"Money didn’t mean anything at this stage," Marshall said. "You can’t beat nature with money. We would have burned everything we had if necessary.
"We kept the fire going with any wood which would burn, including boughs and pine cones. We also stripped the low branches of 15 to 20 trees.
Marshall and his party were eventually found, and it's pretty amazing that their group only suffered the one casualty that it did, given the severity of the conditions.
When it comes to the long and illustrious history of the Minnesota Vikings, a lot of players have played through pain and injury. . .but it's pretty safe to say that nobody did it with the regularity or the ability of Jim Marshall. The fact that the man isn't in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is nothing short of a complete travesty, because the man was one hell of a football player for a very long time. When it came to powering through, however, in the history of the National Football League, there's Jim Marshall. . .and then there's pretty much everybody else.