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Minnesota Vikings By The Numbers: #70

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For this one, there truly is no debate

Photo of Jim Marshall courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

We have come to the end of another set of ten numbers in our Minnesota Vikings By The Numbers series, and we’ve reached the #70. . .the one number in Vikings’ lore that there can really, truly, be no debate over. Why?

Well, because only one man in the entire history of the Minnesota Vikings has ever worn the number 70. And, because the number has been retired, only one man in the entire history of the Minnesota Vikings will ever wear the number 70.

I speak, of course, of defensive end Jim Marshall, the best player in NFL history that has not been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one of the all-time greats in the history of Minnesota Vikings football.

Marshall didn’t play his entire professional career with the Vikings. He played with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League in 1959, and was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1960. Marshall played the 1960 season for Cleveland, and was then traded to the Vikings along with five other players to the Vikings for two draft picks. Marshall played for the Vikings until 1979, making him the final player from the Vikings’ initial expansion team to leave the game.

When Marshall retired, he held the records for most consecutive games played with 282 and most consecutive games started with 270. Both of those records have been surpassed, but given that Marshall was both giving and taking a great deal of punishment in the trenches during his streak, for my money it’s more impressive than quarterbacks or punters or whoever breaking that record. He still holds the NFL record for fumbles recovered in a career with 30.

He also holds the record for shortest NFL play at negative-66 yards. That, of course, was the infamous wrong-way run against the San Francisco 49ers in 1964. What almost never gets reported is that the Vikings won that game by a score of 27-22, with the winning margin being provided by a Carl Eller fumble return for a touchdown. The man who forced that fumble? Well, that would have been Jim Marshall.

Speaking of Eller and Marshall, they are unofficially listed as #1 and #2 in Vikings history in quarterback sacks, with Marshall’s unofficial total of 127 being eclipsed only by Eller’s 130.5 in purple. His consecutive games streak saw him overcome all sorts of maladies, from ulcers to pneumonia to the one time that he actually shot himself while cleaning his shotgun.

Yeah, the man shot himself and was on the field playing football a few days later. That’s pretty damn incredible.

Marshall was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Vikings, as well as a four-time second-team All-Pro performer. He was the seventh man into the Vikings’ Ring of Honor, being inducted in 1999 after the initial group of six (Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Jim Finks, Bud Grant, Paul Krause, and Fred Zamberletti) was inducted in 1998.

There will never be another Jim Marshall. . .and because of the original Jim Marshall, there will never be another #70 in purple and gold.

Vikings that have worn the number 70:

  • Jim Marshall (1961 - 1979)

That’s all for the 70s, folks. We’ll start moving into the 60s tomorrow!