Looking at the number 23 for the Minnesota Vikings, we’ve actually got a few options to consider when it comes to who was the best player in purple history to have it on their back.
We can start with safety Jeff Wright. Wright, who grew up in Edina and played his college ball at the University of Minnesota, was selected by the Vikings in the 15th round. . .yes, fifteenth round. . .of the 1971 NFL Draft. He managed to stick with the Vikings for seven seasons, playing with the team until 1977, and appeared in three of the Vikings’ four Super Bowls. He started in 62 of his 83 career games for the Vikings, and collected 12 interceptions, with ten of those coming from 1972 to 1974.
The number took a year off for the Vikings, and was then picked up by running back Ted Brown in 1979. Brown was a star at North Carolina State, and the Vikings drafted him with the 16th overall pick in 1979. He put up over 1,000 yards in 1981, and then almost lost his career in December of that year because he managed to shoot himself in the leg, requiring surgery to remove bullet and wood fragments from his upper thigh. He came back in 1982, and though he didn’t gain nearly as much yardage, he did score 24 of his 40 career rushing touchdowns following the injury.
It would be tough to deem running back Michael Bennett anything but a disappointment for the Vikings. The 27th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, Bennett was expected to step in and replace Robert Smith, who announced his surprise retirement after the 2000 season. Bennett did run for 1,285 yards in 2002, but otherwise was really not all that productive during his time with the Vikings. He’s in jail now, so that’s not good.
Cedric Griffin was a solid player at cornerback for the Vikings in the early stages of his career. He was a second round choice of the Vikings in 2006, and was a solid starter for most of his first four seasons, including leading the Vikings in interceptions in 2009. Griffin then tore his ACL covering the overtime kickoff of the 2009 NFC Championship Game, but he made it back in time for the start of the 2010 season. . .and proceeded to tear his other ACL five games into that season. He played one more season for the Vikings after that, and then moved on to the Washington Redskins for the 2012 season.
We’ll give an honorable mention to another cornerback, Terence Newman, has continued to find the fountain of youth in Minnesota with coach Mike Zimmer. He’s been very good for the Vikings these past two seasons, but doesn’t have quite the longevity with the team yet that the other players on the list had.
Vikings that have worn the number 23:
- Jamie Caleb (1961)
- Lee Calland (1963 - 1965)
- Jeff Williams (1966)
- Jeff Wright (1971 - 1977)
- Ted Brown (1979 - 1986)
- Terry Love (1987)
- Michael Mayes (1991)
- Barry Word (1993)
- Shelly Hammonds (1995)
- Steve Hall (1996)
- Tomur Barnes (1996)
- Torrian Gray (1997 - 1998)
- Michael Bennett (2001 - 2005)
- Cedric Griffin (2006 - 2011)
- Joe Banyard (2013 - 2014)
- Terence Newman (2015 - present)
That’s it for #23, ladies and gentlemen. That means that #22 is up tomorrow, and just to preemptively get any griping out of the way, it belongs to a Hall of Famer, so there probably isn’t going to be a vote. . .regardless of how awesome Harrison Smith is. (And he is pretty awesome.)
Who is the greatest Viking to wear the number 23?
This poll is closed
Michael Bennett (2001 - 2005)
Ted Brown (1979 - 1986)
Cedric Griffin (2006 - 2011)
Jeff Wright (1971 - 1977)