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Former Vikings offensive line coach John Michels passes away

He was 87 years old

Minnesota Vikings Minicamp Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The man who coached offensive linemen for the Minnesota Vikings longer than any man to ever hold the position has passed away.

John Michels, who coached offensive linemen for the purple for nearly three decades, passed away on Thursday at the age of 87.

Following an outstanding college career at the University of Tennessee, a short stint in the NFL, and serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Michels joined the coaching staff of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers under then-coach Bud Grant. When Grant moved on to become the head coach of the Vikings in 1967, Michels joined him in Minnesota to coach the offensive linemen. He held the position for twenty-seven seasons, retiring following the 1993 season. That means he was the Vikings’ offensive line coach not just under Grant, but also under Les Steckel, Jerry Burns, and the start of the Dennis Green era as well.

(Update/correction: Under Steckel in 1984, Michels was the running backs coach. He was the offensive line coach in all of his other seasons with the Vikings. My apologies. -Chris)

Many great Vikings’ offensive linemen honed their craft under Michels, including several Hall of Famers: Ron Yary, Randall McDaniel, Gary Zimmerman, and Mick Tingelhoff all played under Michel’s tutelage.

When Grant was asked what made Michels such an outstanding coach, his answer was a simple one.

“Guys loved to play for him because many times he competed harder as a coach than the players did, and they recognized that,” Grant said. “There was a mutual admiration there that showed.

”He was demanding, but players knew that he was making them better and respected him for that. The players loved John. He was demanding, but they trusted him. There was a camaraderie with those linemen and John that you can’t buy.”

We at The Daily Norseman would like to send our condolences to the family and friends of John Michels.