"A successful coach needs a patient wife, a loyal dog, and a great quarterback. . .and not necessarily in that order." - Bud Grant
Today marks the 85th birthday of an NFL legend, that being former Minnesota Vikings' head coach Harry Grant, Jr. We like to refer to him as "Bud."
We've been over Bud Grant's life story before. . .but we're going to go over it again because, hey, it's still pretty awesome.
Bud Grant, after being discharged from the United States Navy, attended the University of Minnesota and lettered in football, baseball, and basketball. He was drafted by both the NFL and the NBA. . .the Philadelphia Eagles drafted him with the 14th overall pick in the 1950 NFL Draft, and the Minneapolis Lakers took him 42nd overall in the 1950 NBA Draft. He wound up playing two seasons for the Lakers, getting himself an NBA Championship ring in the process.
Grant then decided to end his basketball career and go back to the world of football. He went to the Eagles for the 1951 season, and as a defensive end led the team in sacks (which wasn't an official stat at the time) as a rookie. The Eagles switched him to wide receiver in his second season, and all he did was finish second in the NFL in receiving yardage with 997 yards, and tossed in seven touchdown catches as well. (The rest of the Eagles' team that year had six touchdown receptions. . .combined.)
The Eagles refused to pay Grant what he thought he was worth, and he headed north of the border to play for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. Grant played on both sides of the ball with the Blue Bombers, leading the CFL's Western Conference in receptions in 1953, 1954, and 1956, and in receiving yardage in 1953 and 1956. In a 1953 playoff game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Grant also had five interceptions in the game, which still stands as a CFL playoff record. The team played for the Grey Cup that year, but ultimately lost to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Grant then became the coach of the Blue Bombers for the 1957 season, and the team went on a very successful run, winning four Grey Cups in five seasons (1958, 1959, 1961, and 1962). Prior to the 1961 season, a man named Max Winter asked Grant if he was interested in coaching a new NFL expansion team that he had founded called the Minnesota Vikings, but Grant turned him down. He stayed in the CFL until 1967, when the Vikings finally succeeded in luring him back to Minnesota to become the second coach in franchise history, replacing Norm van Brocklin.
We all know the sort of success that Grant had with the Vikings as their coach, leading them to the 1969 NFL Championship and four trips to the Super Bowl. He was a strict disciplinarian, allowing no heaters on the sidelines at the old Metropolitan Stadium and even requiring his team to have National Anthem practice, as he demanded the team be in a straight line and at attention while the anthem was played.
Coach Grant has stated that he wants to be around when a new Vikings' stadium opens and, now that it's finally on the horizon, I'm really, really hoping that he gets his chance. He'll be 89 years old when the stadium opens (if the stadium opens on schedule), and if he's not at midfield for the first ever coin toss, it will be a sad moment.
Happy birthday, Coach Grant!