Today, we celebrate the birthday of the man that took the Minnesota Vikings to their greatest level of success, as Bud Grant is celebrating his 95th birthday today.
Grant was the second head coach in Vikings’ history, taking over for Norm van Brocklin before the start of the 1967 season. The Vikings wanted Grant to be the team’s first head coach, but he rebuffed the offers from Max Winter to take over the new expansion team in 1961 and instead stayed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, taking them to a total of four Grey Cup championships.
After taking the job with the Vikings, Grant stayed on the Minnesota sidelines for seventeen seasons, resigning after the 1983 season. After the disastrous 1984 campaign for the Vikings, Grant came back to the sidelines for one more season, after which he turned the reigns over to his long-time offensive coordinator, Jerry Burns.
Under Grant’s watch, the Vikings went to four Super Bowls, winning the 1969 NFL Championship and winning the NFC is 1973, 1974, and 1976. He was the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 1969, the only time he was recognized with that honor. In his career with the Vikings, he compiled a record of 168-108-5 (counting the postseason). The Vikings won the NFC Central title 11 times in Grant’s 18 seasons on the sidelines.
Prior to becoming one of the greatest coaches in football history in both the CFL and the NFL, Grant had a successful career as an athlete himself. He played two sports professionally, basketball and football. He was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers in the fourth round of the 1950 NBA Draft by his close, personal friend Sid Hartman, who was the Lakers’ GM at the time. Grant won an NBA championship with the Lakers in 1950.
After two years with the Lakers, and two years off from football, he joined the Philadelphia Eagles, who had drafted him in the first round of the 1950 NFL Draft. In his first season, Grant played defensive end and led the Eagles in sacks. In his second season, he casually switched to wide receiver and put up nearly 1,000 yards (997, to be precise). That’s some pretty impressive versatility.
After the 1952 season, Grant moved north to play for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after the Eagles refused to offer him what he thought he was worth. In his four years in the CFL, Grant was a three-time All-Star as an offensive end. He also owns the CFL record with five interceptions in one playoff game.
Grant accepted the Blue Bombers’ offer to be their head coach prior to the 1957 season, starting off one of the greatest coaching careers in the history of professional football, both north and south of the Canadian border.
Happy Birthday, Coach Grant!