Only two players in the history of the Minnesota Vikings have ever worn the number 10. And, with all due respect to King Hill. . .who is actually a fairly interesting historical figure in football lore. . .he played one season for the Vikings and didn’t attempt a pass. So, I suppose we’ll go with the other guy.
In the third round of the 1961 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings drafted a 6-foot. . .or that’s what he was listed at. . .190-pound quarterback from the University of Georgia named Fran Tarkenton. Like most quarterbacks at that time, Tarkenton wasn’t expected to contribute much right away, but was forced into action in Minnesota’s first-ever game due to an injury to starter George Shaw. In that first game against the Chicago Bears, Tarkenton threw for four touchdowns and ran in a fifth, leading the Vikings to a 37-13 triumph in the first game in franchise history.
By the time it was all said and done, Tarkenton had spent 13 seasons of his 18-season NFL career in purple, and when he retired from the National Football League after the 1978 season, held pretty much every meaningful passing record in the game. He was first with the team from 1961 to 1966, but after that season he had a falling out with then-coach Norm Van Brocklin and demanded to be traded. The Vikings traded him to the New York Giants for a number of draft picks, which the team used on running back Clint Jones, receiver Bob Grim, offensive tackle Ron Yary, and offensive lineman Ed White.
Ironically, Grim was one of the players that was sent to New York (along with quarterback Norm Snead) when the Giants traded Tarkenton back to the Vikings in 1972. He then played for the team from 1972 to 1978.
Even though the NFL has become more of a pass-happy league and it’s been nearly 40 years since Fran Tarkenton last took a snap, he’s still in the top ten all-time in passing yardage, currently ranking ninth overall with his 47,003 yards. He’s also still sixth in NFL history in touchdown passes with 342. 33,098 of those passing yards and 239 of those touchdowns came when he was wearing purple and gold, giving him a huge lead in franchise history in both of those categories. He also still ranks fourth in NFL history among quarterbacks in rushing yardage, behind only Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, and Michael Vick.
While Tarkenton made the Pro Bowl nine times, he was only named a first-team All-Pro once, in 1975. He was the NFL Most Valuable Player in that season as well. He is one of six players to have his number retired by the Vikings, in addition to being in the team’s Ring of Honor and being named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings of All Time. He’s also definitely on the short list of the greatest players to ever put on the purple.
Vikings that have worn the number 10:
- Fran Tarkenton (1961 - 1966, 1972 - 1978)
- King Hill (1968)
That wraps up the 10s for us, number-wise, ladies and gentlemen. Starting tomorrow, we will get into the single digits, meaning that we are less than ten days away from the start of the 2017 NFL season.