We’re cruising through the 50s in our Minnesota Vikings By The Numbers series, and we’ve arrived at the number 54. As you’d expect, we’ve got even more linebackers for consideration with this number.
The number 54 didn’t exactly get off to a fast start in Vikings’ history. It was only worn by three players in the team’s first fourteen seasons, and each of those players only wore it for one season. Then, in 1974, the Vikings selected linebacker Fred McNeill in the first round of the NFL Draft, and he picked 54 and wore it for twelve seasons. He didn’t crack the team’s starting lineup until his fourth season, but from 1977 to 1984 he missed just six starts for the Vikings at outside linebacker, and half of those came in the 1984 season alone. He appeared in two Super Bowls for the Vikings, and had a blocked punt in Super Bowl XI (that should have set up a touchdown) against the Oakland Raiders. He also had a nose for the football, recovering 16 fumbles in his Vikings’ career, including six in one season in 1978.
After McNeil retired from the NFL after the 1985 season, Jesse Solomon picked up the number 54 and wore it for three-plus seasons. Solomon was a solid starter for the Vikings for a few seasons, but wound up being a part of the package of players that was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 for He Who Shall Not Be Named. Solomon bounced around the NFL after being traded from Minnesota, playing for Dallas, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Miami before retiring.
Greg Biekert manned the middle linebacker spot for the Vikings in 2002 and 2003, but was at the tail end of his career when he got to Minnesota. Jasper Brinkley did a solid enough job for the Vikings in the middle for a few years, stepping in as a rookie in 2009 following the injury to E.J. Henderson. That’s enough for an honorable mention, at least.
Eric Kendricks is currently the man wearing #54 for the Vikings, and he’s gotten off to a very good start to his NFL career. He took a big jump from his rookie season to his sophomore campaign, and if he continues on the trajectory he’s on, he could be the best #54 the Vikings have had if and when we revisit this in the future.
Vikings that have worn the number 54:
- Karl Rubke (1961)
- Bob Schmitz (1966)
- Paul Faust (1967)
- Fred McNeill (1974 - 1985)
- Jesse Solomon (1986 - 1989)
- Walker Lee Ashley (1990)
- Van Waiters (1992)
- Bruce Holmes (1993)
- Dave Garnett (1993 - 1996)
- Antonio Wilson (2000 - 2001)
- Greg Biekert (2002 - 2003)
- Dontarrious Thomas (2004 - 2007)
- Vinny Ciurciu (2008)
- Jasper Brinkley (2009 - 2012, 2014)
- Gerald Hodges (2013)
- Eric Kendricks (2015 - present)
That’s all for the number 54, folks. We’ll move on to the number 53 tomorrow. As a bit of a spoiler alert, the number 53 has been retired. There probably won’t be much debating, and there damn sure won’t be any voting.
Who is the greatest Viking to wear the number 54?
This poll is closed
Eric Kendricks (2015 - present)
Fred McNeill (1974 - 1985)
Jesse Solomon (1986 - 1989)