When you think of the greatest numbers in Minnesota Vikings history, the number 20 probably doesn’t immediately spring to mind. However, there have actually be a lot of very good players that have worn the number in team history, going all the way back to the start of the franchise.
The first Viking to wear the number 20 was the first player the franchise ever drafted, running back Tommy Mason. Mason was the #1 overall pick in the 1961 NFL Draft, and after a rookie season spent primarily as a return specialist, he became the first in a long line of very good Vikings’ running backs. He was a three-time Pro Bowler (1962, 1963, and 1964), as well as being named a first-team All-Pro in 1963. He played six seasons for the Vikings, and rushed for a total of 3,252 yards (8th on the Vikings’ all-time list). He would go on to play for the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins before retiring after the 1971 season.
The number didn’t get any sort of a break, as it was picked up after Mason’s departure by cornerback Bobby Bryant. A seventh-round pick in the 1967 NFL Draft, Bryant is on the short list of the greatest cornerbacks ever to put on the purple. His 51 interceptions as a Viking is second only to Paul Krause’s 53, and he had at least two interceptions in all but one of his seasons in Minnesota. Bryant had a monster performance in the 1976 NFC Championship Game, returning a blocked field goal for a touchdown and intercepting two passes. He played his entire career for Minnesota, hanging it up after the 1980 season.
In 1982, the number shifted back to offense as it was taken by running back Darrin Nelson. The Vikings selected Nelson with the 7th overall pick in the 1982 Draft. . .three picks before the Los Angeles Raiders took some guy named Marcus Allen. Nelson proved himself to be a solid option for the Vikings, both as a runner and as a receiver (and even moonlighting as a returner at times). He was part of the Herschel Walker trade, but refused to report to the Dallas Cowboys and was subsequently traded to the San Diego Chargers. He came back to Minnesota for two final seasons in 1991 and 1992. His 4,231 yards currently place him seventh on the team’s all-time rushing yardage list.
After running back Robert Smith wore the number for one year, cornerback Dewayne Washington picked it up starting in 1994. Washington was selected at #18 overall by the Vikings in the 1994 NFL Draft with a pick the team acquired from the Denver Broncos in exchange for offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman. He was named to the All-Rookie team in 1994, and in four seasons with the Vikings wound up collecting ten interceptions and scoring four touchdowns. He departed for the Pittsburgh Steelers following the 1997 season, and actually hung around the NFL until 2005 with stops in Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, and Kansas City.
Lastly, we have running back Moe Williams. Williams was largely a special teams player in his first stint with the Vikings (during which he wore the number 21). However, when he returned to the team in 2002 after a year with the Baltimore Ravens, he carved himself quite a niche as a third down back and a very good goal line option. He had 11 rushing touchdowns (on just 84 carries) in 2002 and snagged 65 receptions in 2003, which might have been his best all-around season. And, as we know, he was at the right place at the right time for one of the more famous plays in recent Vikings’ history.
So yes, there have been a lot of outstanding players that have worn the number 20 in the history of the Minnesota Vikings. Who’s the best one? I think it’s pretty obvious, but I won’t say for who.
Vikings that have worn the number 20:
- Tommy Mason (1961 - 1966)
- Bobby Bryant (1967 - 1980)
- Darrin Nelson (1982 - 1989, 1991 - 1992)
- Robert Smith (1993)
- Dewayne Washington (1994 - 1997)
- Kenny Wright (1999 - 2001)
- Moe Williams (2002 - 2005)
- Greg Blue (2006)
- Madieu Williams (2008 - 2010)
- Chris Cook (2012 - 2013)
- Mackensie Alexander (2016 - present)
That will finish off the 20s, ladies and gentlemen. We’ll make our way into the teen numbers starting tomorrow!
Who is the greatest Viking to wear the number 20?
This poll is closed
Bobby Bryant (1967 - 1980)
Tommy Mason (1961 - 1966)
Darrin Nelson (1982 - 1989, 1991 - 1992)
Dewayne Washington (1994 - 1997)
Moe Williams (2002 - 2005)