One of the reasons I'm still a Vikings fan is because guys like Mick Tingelhoff were playing the game the right way when I was a kid. Tingelhoff was the center for the Vikings for 17 years, never missing a game, and he anchored an offensive line that was as good as the defensive line he practiced against for so many years, the Purple People Eaters.
Tingelhoff, along with guys like Grady Alderman, Ed White, and Ron Yary, led the way for Bill Brown, Dave Osborn, and Chuck Foreman, as the Vikings became one of the NFC's most dominant teams in the 1970's. The former center was one of the most durable players to ever play the game, and along with defensive end and former teammate Jim Marshall, formed what is arguably the best 1-2 ironman tandem in NFL history. How durable? Here's an excerpt from Peter King:
Tingelhoff entered the NFL as a free-agent center from Nebraska in 1962. He was the starting center by the third week of training camp. He started the first preseason game, the first regular-season game, and then every single pre-, regular- and post-season game in Vikings history for the next 17 years. He made more all-pro teams than any center of all time, including the two centers from his era, Jim Langer and Jim Otto, who are in the Hall.
I am befuddled. He snapped for punts and kicks for 17 years. He played through six finger dislocations, a fully torn calf muscle, a separated shoulder --and, remarkably, no broken leg or arm bones and no torn knee ligaments. That he knows of, anyway. There were FULL SEASONS when he did not miss a single play. the Vikings went to four Super Bowls with him anchoring the offensive line.
Now, after a long and overdue wait, Tingelhoff stands at the edge of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. And that achievement has been recognized by the current head coach, Mike Zimmer. One of the best things Zimmer has done since he was named head coach is to tie the past to the present, as he's gone out of his way to bring former players in to talk to the team during the off season, during training camp, and during the regular season.
He's done a great job of tying the proud history of this franchise in with a current generation of players that weren't even alive when guys like Mick Tingelhoff were in their prime, dominating the Bloomington prairie. Zimmer sent Tingelhoff a handwritten note, and it was something that really struck a chord with Tingelhoff and his wife, according to Chris Tomasson:
The handwritten note was a touching gesture in this day and age of impersonal communication, and one that struck a chord with Tingelhoff and his wife:"He wrote the nicest note to Mick,'' said Phyllis Tingelhoff, wife of the former Vikings center. "For him to take the time to do that was very special. I thought it was really very classy.
"He expressed how important the former players were to the Vikings and that he appreciated them and just said it was a great honor for Mick to be a finalist. It was nice of him to personally write a note. You might get a text or an email, but no one does that anymore.''
It's just one of many reasons I think, and still continue to believe, that Mike Zimmer was the right guy at the right time for the Minnesota Vikings franchise.
Good luck, Mick Tingelhoff. You deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, and we're all rooting for you.