We’re at #77 in our Minnesota Vikings By The Numbers series, and this is one that presents a unique situation. Generally, when a team retires a number, it is done for a player that is generally recognized as having set an on-the-field standard that is not likely to be surpassed.
For the Vikings and the #77, however, you could make an argument that the player that the number was retired for was not the best player in team history to wear it.
The original #77, in the minds of a lot of the old-school Vikings fans, is defensive tackle Gary Larsen. The often overlooked member of the Purple People Eaters, Larsen was more known for his run-stuffing prowess while Alan Page, Jim Marshall, and Carl Eller went after opposing quarterbacks. Still, he managed to rack up 38.5 sacks in his career (unofficially, since sacks weren’t an official stat until after Larsen retired), and he really was a force in the middle of the Vikings’ defensive line.
After Larsen, the number went to defensive end Mark Mullaney, who played defensive end for the Vikings from 1975 to 1987.
Chosen as one of the fifty greatest Vikings of all time, Mullaney took over Carl Eller’s starting spot in 1979 and held the job until he left the team. He’s credited with 45.5 career quarterback sacks by the team, which puts him ninth in Minnesota Vikings’ history. He also holds the distinction of being the first NFL player to wear a helmet visor, adapting the visor after he suffered an eye injury in 1984.
(As it turns out, Mullaney was not named one of the 50 greatest Vikings. My mistake. -Chris)
The man the number 77 was retired for was offensive tackle Korey Stringer. A first-round pick of the Vikings in 1995, Stringer developed into one of the NFL’s best offensive tackles at the right tackle spot, and was set to move to left tackle in 2001 following the departure of Todd Steussie. He was just entering what should have been the prime of his career, and the future looked bright. But we all know what happened on 1 August 2001. Following a Vikings’ practice on a particularly hot day in Mankato, Stringer collapsed on the field and, ultimately, passed away at the far too young age of 27.
There have only been six players in the history of the Vikings that have worn the number 77, and three of them could be classed as very good to great talents. So, this might be one of the tougher decisions that we’ve seen in this endeavor thus far.
Vikings that have worn the number 77:
- Lebron Shields (1961)
- Gary Larsen (1965 - 1974)
- Mark Mullaney (1975 - 1987)
- Brad Culpepper (1992 - 1993)
- Korey Stringer (1995 - 2000)
- Chris DeGeare (2010)
That’s our look at the number 77 in Minnesota Vikings’ history, folks. We’ll move on to #76 tomorrow.
Who is the greatest Viking to wear the number 77?
This poll is closed
Gary Larsen (1965 - 1974)
Mark Mullaney (1975 - 1987)
Korey Stringer (1995 - 2000)