These Are The Best Vikings Who Are Not Yet, And Maybe Never Will Be, Inducted Into The Pro Football Hall of Fame
Quarterback : Tommy Kramer
Kramer was drafted in the first round of the 1977 draft for the express purpose of one day supplanting aging Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, who owned virtually NFL record for a quarterback during that time.
He sat and learned for two seasons, then Tarkenton retired. Kramer took over in 1979 and soon became known for his flair for the dramatic moment. He was known as "Two Minute Tommy" because he often led Minnesota to victories late in the game.
One of his more famous moments came on a one-handed catch by Ahmad Rashad on a "Hail Mary" pass as time expired against the Cleveland Browns. It secured the Vikings a division title. Kramer threw for a career best 3,912 yards and 26 touchdowns the next year despite missing two games.
Kramer had taken over the Vikings when an aging team was rebuilding. The offensive line was an area affected by mass retirement, so it was often porous while Kramer was there He took a huge pounding despite having a quick release. The punishment he took led to injuries, causing him to miss 20 games in 1983 and 1984.
In his 13 years as the primary starting quarterback, Kramer lasted an entire season twice. He often found himself picking his carcass off the turf after being blasted by another defender. Another reason for defenders to key on him was an erratic rushing attack.
Minnesota had halfbacks Ricky Young, Ted Brown, and Darrin Nelson as the main running backs in Kramer's area. Though Brown had two effective seasons running the ball, these backs are most noted for their receiving abilities.
Young, one of the great pass catching backs in era, Brown, and Nelson had over 900 receptions with Kramer. Brown's 1,063 rushing yards in 1981 was the best run support Kramer ever had.
Though he missed three games in 1986, Kramer had perhaps his finest season.. He made his only Pro Bowl and was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Kramer led the NFL in quarterback rating, adjusted yards gained per pass attempt, and adjusted net yards gained per pass attempt.
His next three seasons were littered by injuries. Kramer missed 24 games over that time and lost his starting job to Wade Wilson. He joined the New Orleans Saints in 1990, but appeared in one game. He then retired.
Replacing a legend is never an easy thing to do, and it is harder when the team is trying to rebuild. Despite all of the missed games, Kramer is second in franchise history in wins, games played, passing attempts and completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. No Vikings quarterback has been sacked more either.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings Team put together in 2010. Kramer is the only Viking to ever win the Comeback Player of the Year Award. "Two Minute Tommy" is truly a Vikings legend.
Joe Kapp, Wade Wilson, Randall Cunningham, and Duante Culpepper deserve mention.
Fullback : Chuck Foreman
Foreman was drafted in the first round of the 1973 draft by the Vikings. He went to work right away, leading the team in rushing, touchdowns scored, and finishing second in receiving. He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and to the first of five straight Pro Bowls as Minnesota reached the Super Bowl.
He was just as special in his second season. Foreman led the team in rushing receiving, and touchdowns both in the air and on the ground. His 15 total touchdowns that year led the NFL. The Sporting News named him NFC Player of the Year as the Vikings reached the Super Bowl again.
The 1975 season was one of his best. He was named First Team All-Pro after leading the NFL with a career best 73 receptions, while churning out 1,070 yards on a career high 280 carries. Foreman also ran for a career high 13 scores, adding a career high nine more off receptions.
His 22 touchdowns was an NFC record at the time. He was fighting O.J. Simpson for the NFL record, as well as trying to lead the league in rushing, receiving, and scoring. In the last game of the regular season, the Vikings headed into Buffalo.
Foreman went wild in just under three quarters. He had already scored three times, had nine receptions, and 85 yards rushing in a snow storm. Simpson was attempting to pass the 22-touchdown record he had tied Gale Sayers with the season before.
As Foreman ran out of bounds after an errant throw, a fan pelted him in the eye with a snow ball. With his vision blurred, he sat out a few plays but returned to catch a touchdown pass to tie Sayers and Simpson for the record. His eye was bothering him so he had to sit out the rest of the game for precautionary measures.
Simpson would later set the record with his 23rd score in the Vikings 35-13 rout. Foreman lost the rushing title the next day when Jim Otis, of the Saint Louis Cardinals, passed him by six yards. In the end, a disgruntled fan cost Foreman a chance at history.
He duplicated his 13 rushing touchdowns in 1976, while pounding out a career high 1,155 yards on the ground and catching 55 balls. His 14 touchdowns led the NFL, and the UPI named him NFC Player of the Year. Minnesota reached the Super Bowl for the third time in his career.
The 1977 season was his last Pro Bowl year. He ran for 1,112 yards and scored nine times total. Though he caught 61 passes and ran for 749 yards in 1978, the wear and tear of carrying the Vikings offense caught up to him.
He spent 1979 on the bench, being replaced by a pair of pass catching backs named Ricky Young and Ted Brown. He was traded to the New England Patriots in 1980, but was rarely used. He then retired.
Foreman was more than a powerful runner with soft hands. He was especially nimble, earning him the nickname "Spin Doctor". He would accomplish these feats on the icy Minnesota tundra in an era were fields were not kept up like they are today.
The 132 points he scored in 1975 is still a Vikings record by a non-kicker, and it ranks second best overall. He held the team record for most rushing yards until Robert Smith passed him in 2000, and he has the second most rushing attempts in Vikings history behind the great Bill Brown.
He is tied with Smith and Adrian Peterson with 52 touchdowns on the ground, but Peterson appears likely to set the record the next time he plays. Foreman's 336 receptions are just three behind Ted Brown as the most by a running back in Vikings history, and ranks ninth best overall.
His 73 receptions in 1973 was a NFL record by a running back until the Vikings Ricky Young broke it in 1978. Foreman is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of both their 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams. He has also been inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor.
Some Vikings fans may prefer the rugged Bill Brown in this slot. He was a scoring machine with soft hands just like Foreman. Some would say put both in the backfield together, which also works.
I chose Foreman because he was basically the first version of the versatile fullback you could lean on running or passing the ball. There was nothing Foreman couldn't do on the gridiron for six spectacular years. He may be the best fullback in Vikings history.
Bill Brown and Tony Richardson deserve mention.
Halfback : Robert Smith
Smith was Minnesota's first-round draft choice in 1993. He contributed very little his first two seasons and was mostly used as a receiver. Though he carried the ball much more the following two years, Smith fought injuries and missed 15 games over that time.
He came into his own during the 1997 season, rushing for 1,266 yards and catching a career best 37 balls. He also averaged a very impressive 5.5 yards per carry, which was the best of his career.
Smith followed that with his first Pro Bowl year in 1998 after running for 1,187 yards and churning out six rushing touchdowns.He ran for 1,015 yards in 1999 despite missing three games.
His 2000 season was his best, as well as being the only time in his career he was able to play an entire season. Smith made his last Pro Bowl after setting career high marks of 1,521 yards and seven touchdowns on 295 carries. He also averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
Despite reeling off four straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons and being only 28-years old, Smith retired after that 2000 season. He noted his injury plagued career as one of the reasons for his early exit, despite perhaps just entering his prime.
Smith is still holds the Vikings record for most rushing yards in a career and his four 1,000-yards rushing seasons is a team record, though Adrian Peterson tied it in 2010. Smith accomplished all of this and fumbled the ball just nine times in his whole career.
He was always making the big play for the Vikings. Smith's average touchdown run was 27.2 yards, which is an NFL record. He had four consecutive years where he ran a football 70 yards or longer.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of their 40th Anniversary Team. There is no question that Robert Smith was a special player in the short time that he wore the Vikings uniform.
Brent McClanahan, Michael Bennett, Dave Osborne, Tommy Mason, Darrin Nelson, Ted Brown, and Ricky Young deserve mention.
Wide Receiver : Cris Carter
Carter was drafted in the fourth round of the Supplemental Draft in 1987 by the Philadelphia Eagles. He had to go into the supplemental draft because he lost his senior year of eligibility at Ohio State University after signing a contract with an agent.
The 1987 season is best known as being shortened by a players strike. Carter was rarely used, catching two touchdowns off five receptions, though he did return 12 kicks. He would only return one kick the rest of his career.
Kenny Jackson, the Eagles first-round draft pick in 1984, was not working out as a starter opposite Pro Bowler Mike Quick. Carter was inserted into the starting lineup and grabbed 17 touchdowns off 84 receptions over two seasons.
The Eagles were known for their swarming defense and athletic quarterback during this time. Their head coach, Buddy Ryan, was a defensive expert, but the Eagles offense could not score in the playoffs and were bounced out in their first game in both years Carter started.
Ryan suddenly cut Carter after the 1989 season, with the reason was that all Carter did for the Eagles was "catch touchdown passes". The truth was that Carter was abusing drugs and the wide receiver credits his being cut as the wake up call that saved his life.
Minnesota claimed him off the waiver wire right away. He spent his first year in Minnesota backing up Anthony Carter (no relation) and Hassan Jones. Though the Vikings started three receivers seven times in 1991, he supplanted Jones as the starter and would hold that spot the remainder of his Vikings career.
One of Carter's strengths was his conditioning and durability. Though he missed four games because if injury in 1992, he played every other game possible for Minnesota. Except for his rookie and final seasons, those would be the only four games that he missed.
His 1993 season was the first of eight straight Pro Bowl years. He became one of the very best receivers in the NFL over this time. Carter caught a career best 122 pass in both 1994 and 1995, becoming the only player in NFL history to have that many receptions twice. He led the NFL in receptions in 1994, and his career best 17 touchdown receptions in 1995 led the league as well.
The Vikings had a revolving door at quarterback during Carter's time there. Seven different men were the primary starter in his 12 seasons with the team. Despite all the lunacy and confusion, Carter was a beacon of steady leadership and consistent production.
Carter had 86 or more receptions in seven of his eight Pro Bowl years. He had 90 or more catches five times. He also grabbed those touchdowns Ryan mentioned. Other than the 17 scores in 1995, he led the NFL with 13 touchdown catches two times. He was in double figures in touchdown receptions in five of his Pro Bowl years.
What made his production even more special, other than the ever changing quarterback, is the fact he had to share receptions with future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, Pro Bowl wide receivers Jake Reed and Anthony Carter, and Pro Bowl tight end Steve Jordan.
Besides his eight consecutive Pro Bowls, he was named First Team All-Pro twice. He holds the Vikings record for Pro Bowls by a wide receiver, and only Moss has been named First Team All-Pro more. Just two Vikings, Hall of Famers Alan Page and Randall McDaniel have represented Minnesota more at the Pro Bowl than Carter.
Though he caught 73 balls for six scores in 2001, the Vikings let the 36-year old receiver go. He joined the Miami Dolphins the next year, but appeared in just five games and retired.
Carter hold the Vikings records of receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches for a career. He also holds the single-season Vikings record for receptions and is tied with Moss with touchdown receptions.
He has been a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame three times so far. He ranks third in NFL history with 1,101 career receptions, fourth in career receiving touchdowns with 130, and eighth in career receiving yards, and total career touchdowns.
Carter has a feel-good story attached to his career, one that has now extended to where he provides analysis on television. With career on the ropes because of drugs, he rebounded and became a leader. Most recall him serving as a mentor to Moss.
He won the Bart Starr Man of the Year Award in 1994, the Bryon "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Awards in 1998, and the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 1999.
Besides the 17 NFL records he either owns or shares, he is a member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team. He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of their 40th Anniversary Team.
The Vikings have retired his jersey and inducted him into their Honor Roll. His induction into Canton is inevitable, the only question left is the year it will happen. The Vikings have had a huge amount of great receivers to play for them, but Cris Carter may be their best ever.
Wide Receiver : Sammy White
White was drafted in the second round by Minnesota in 1976. He started immediately and exploded on the NFL.
He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after catching a career best 10 touchdowns while getting 906 yards on 51 receptions. The Vikings reached Super Bowl XI, where White would make a play to be remembered forever.
The Vikings were trailing early to the Oakland Raiders and forced to throw on third and long. The ball hung in the air as White and two Raiders ran to it. There was a tremendous collision that eventually sent White's helmet flying.
Though he hung onto the ball, the impact of the hit forced him to sit out of several plays. White did come back to lead the Vikings with five receptions for 77 yards and a score in the Raiders 32-14 victory.
What some fans do not remember was the catch White made in the Vikings playoff win over the Washington Redskins that year. Those who recall it often say it is amongst the best circus catches in NFL history.
While Chuck Foreman and Brent McClanahan both ran for 100 yards, White led the team with four catches for 64 yards. Two went for score, but the first was the best.
Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton slightly overthrew White on a post pattern, but a diving White got a hand on he ball, batting it in the air. He crashed to the ground, but kept his eyes on the football.
Squirming on the ground, he stretched out to keep batting the ball in the air. Juggling it as he squirmed to get his body underneath the ball. He achieved this after several yards, then continued to snake his body on the ground until he crossed the goal line to put the Vikings up 14-3.
He was named to the Pro Bowl in his rookie year, an honor he would achieve the next season after averaging 18.5 yards on 41 receptions and scoring nine times. He was considered a top-flight receiver able to beat you with speed and precise route running.
He continued to be the Vikings top receiver the next three years, culminating in having one of the best seasons of his career in 1981. He set career high marks with 66 receptions for 1,001 yards.
After the strike-shortened 1982 season, White's next two years were met with nagging injuries. He still was able to average a career best 19 yards at catch in 1984. After being able to suit up for just six games, due to injury, in 1985, he retired.
He left the game as the Vikings all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdown catches, as well as second in receptions. White still ranks fourth in touchdown catches, fifth in receiving yards, and seventh in receptions.
Wide receiver is a position Minnesota is deep in tradition and excellence, where choosing anyone is not the wrong choice. I selected White for not only his postseason greatness, but the fact he was at his best in the much harder 10-yard chuck rule era.
Only Ahmad Rashad had to deal with this, as far as Vikings receivers with more receptions, and he finished with just seven more catches than White. The rest on the list, with more catches than White, are men who encountered the much easier 5-yard chuck rule in a much more offensive friendly era.
Yet Sammy White was able to average over 16 yards on 393 receptions while finding the end zone 50 times. He wasn't just spectacular, he was tough. Proving much of his career to be amongst the best wide receivers in Vikings history.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of their 25th Anniversary Team.
Anthony Carter, Ahmad Rashad, John Gilliam, Paul Flatley, Koren Robinson, Bob Grimm, Jerry Reichow, Jake Reed, and Gene Washington deserve mention.
Tight End : Steve Jordan
Jordan was the Vikings seventh round draft pick in 1982. He spent his first two years backing up Pro Bowler Joe Senser and Hall of Famer Dave Casper.
He earned the starting job in 1984. Besides 38 receptions, he had the only rushing attempt of his career and scored from four yards out. He had a career best 68 receptions the next year, but failed to score.
Things changed in 1986, where Jordan would earn the first of six consecutive Pro Bowl honors. Besides being a consistent receiving threat, his blocking improved every year. He also never missed a game over this stretch of time.
Jordan began to get injured in 1992. He missed two games that season and the next, though he was productive with 57 receptions in his last year as a starter. Jordan was only able to suit up for four games in 1994, then retired.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of their 40th Anniversary Team. No Vikings tight end has more Pro Bowls, receptions, receiving yards, or touchdowns caught than him.
He still ranks third in Vikings history in receptions, sixth in receiving yards, and seventh in touchdown catches. Minnesota has had quite a few good tight ends wear their uniform, but Jordan may be the best of them all.
Joe Senser, Byron Chamberlain, Bob Tucker, and Stu Voight deserve mention.
Tackle : Grady Alderman
Alderman was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 10th round of the 1960 draft. He went to college at the nearby University of Detroit Mercy. Alderman and Kansas City Chiefs guard George Daney hold the distinction of being the last players from the school to have played in the NFL.
The football program was disbanded in 1964 despite having put 62 players in the NFL and once winning a national championship. Alderman is a member of the schools Hall of Fame.
He spent his rookie year on the bench, playing both guard and tackle. Detroit left him exposed to the Vikings expansion draft in 1961. Though Minnesota got several good players, including Hall of Fame halfback Hugh McElhenny, Alderman was their finest selection.
He started at left tackle day one. Alderman started every game he played over the next nine seasons, missing just one game over that span. Though the Vikings were struggling as a team, he quickly stood out.
The 1963 season was his first of five consecutive Pro Bowl honors. The team have five losing seasons in their first seven years of existence, but people recognized the work of Alderman. He played in an era where players and coaches voted on who would get that honor.
The Vikings steadily improved, and Alderman was a cconsistent force each year. The offensive line was one of the reasons for the improvent, with Pro Bowlers Mick Tinglehoff at center and Milt Sunde at guard. It would get even better whn Hall of Famer Ron Yary and Pro Bowler Ed White were added later on.
Though his Pro Bowl streak ended in 1968, it was the first year the Vikings won their division. Minnesota repeated as division champions the next year by winning 12 of 14 games. Though the team would win 12 games three more times up until 1973, it was a franchise record until the 1998 team won 15.
The Vikings are the last NFL Champion before the NFL and American Football League officially merged in 1970. They reached Super Bowl V that year before losing. Alderan was named to his last Pro Bowl, as well as earning his lone First Team All-Pro nod.
The last five years of his career was peppered with injuries, but he helped Minnesota keep winning. The team lost just 11 games in four of those years. Alderman would miss the first three starts of his career in 1970, and miss three more the next year. He also missed the second game of his career in 1971.
Now 36-yeard old in 1974, Minnesota took him out of the starting lineup for the first time in his career. He appeared in every game but one as a reserve. The Vikings reached their third Super Bowl in his career with them, but lost. Alderman then retired.
His 194 games played is still the seventh most in Vikings history. Few players in the history of the game were as reliable. Alderman missed just three games in his 14 years with Minnesota.
Alderman was somehow left off the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team despite geing to the Pro Bowl more than two of the three tackles selected. One, Bob Brown, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Brown went to the Pro Bowl four times in the 1960's and the other selection, Ralph Neely of the Dallas Cowboys, went twice.
A masterful technician, he always took on the other teams best pass rusher. He also had to block with knowledge of the avenues Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Takenton might take off running to. Tarkenton was known as the "Mad Scrambler", so blockers would have to stay blocking on plays longer for him than other teams had to.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of both their 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams. Alderman was an alert player who pounced on 13 fumbles in his career.
Alderman was somehow left off the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team despite geing to the Pro Bowl more than two of the three tackles selected. One, Bob Brown, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Brown went to the Pro Bowl four times in the 1960's and the other selection, Ralph Neely of the Dallas Cowboys, went twice.
The six Pro Bowls he played in are tied with 11 other Vikings as the fifth most in franchise history, and it is the most ever by a left tackle. He is the first tackle in team history to be named First Team All-Pro. Alderman was named Second Team All-Pro five times.
What fans forget with all of his longevity, durability, and excellence is how he accomplished all of this despite being one of the smaller left tackles in the game. Alderman stood 6'2" and weighed 247 lbs. in an era where blockers were not allowed to extend their arms and use their hands like today.
Surviving alone shows how stellar he was with his technique. Then you factor in all of the accolades he attained in his career as his teams went from the basement of the NFL to becoming a dominant squad for many years.
I can only guess his exclusion from Canton is some sort of punishmenment for the Vikings failing to win a Super Bowl. He hasn't even gotten close in the voting process, which is a head scratcher.
There are many men in Canton because their teams won championships, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not a team honor. It is supposed to honor individual achievement. This is somehow forgotten by voters too many times to count. Just because the Vikings failed to win, they have several extremely worthy players still waiting on induction.
Inferior players go in as time forgets the greatness of these men. The expression that no one remembers second place seems to get louder in the case of men like Alderman, yet the voters seem clueless how hard it is just to reach a title game or even just make an NFL team.
Six Pro Bowls in a career is an excellent number, but it looks less thanks to how the National Football League ruined the Pro Bowl in both the game and how they sullied the hoonor by allowing no-nothing fans to vote. Where showboats or media whores get the honor instead of the deserving.
Offensive tackle is a position neglected by Canton's voters the last few decades. Yet Alderman's numbers match or exceed a few inducted. He has as many Pro Bowl appearances as Mike McCormack and Rayfield Wright and more than Bob St. Clair or Joe Stydahar.
It would be the right thing for the voters to do by getting the trenches some respect in Canton. Minnesota has three blockers worthy and two, Alderman and Tingelhoff, really should have been in long ago. Those who toiled in the trenches in virtual anonymity for the sake of victory.
The list of legendary tackles is long waiting for induction. Opening up the seniors pool to incluse a few more candidates would be the intelligent move as well, because watching inferior modern players get inducted first due to these rules is infuriating and diseased.
Not only is he still the greatest left tackle in the history of the Minnesota Vikings, but Grady Alderman is most certaonly worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Tackle : Todd Steussie
Steussie was drafted by the Vikings in the first round of the 1994 draft. He started at left tackle immediately, and would start every game of his career with Minnesota.
He was also extremely durable and dependable, missing just one game with the Vikings. On a Vikings offensive line that had a Hall of Fame guard and Pro Bowl center, Steussie gained notice for his own excellent play.
At 6'6" 330, he was a mountain of a man on a team with one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Stuessie was given a Pro Bowl nod in both 1997 and 1998.
Stuessie became a free agent after the 2000 season, so he signed with the Carolina Panthers. Lasting three years with the team, he appeared in the Panthers Super Bowl XXXVIII loss. He was a salary cap victim in 2004 and was released.
After playing the next two seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stuessie joined the Saint Louis Rams in 2006. He was hurt the next year, able to play in just six games, then retired.
Tim Irwin, a true Vikings legend, was considered heavily for this slot. Stuessie accomplished Pro Bowl honors, and Irwin did not. Though both are excellent players who were underrated when they played, Stuessie's accolades give him the nod here.
Korey Stringer, Tim Irwin, and Steve Riley deserve mention.
Guard : Ed White
White was drafted in the second round of the 1969 draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He was the 39th player picked overall. His high school stadium is named Ed White Stadium.
While attending the University of California, Berkeley, he was an All-American noseguard for the famous "Bear Minimum" defense that allowed opponents an average of only 3.6 yards per play. He was also used as a receiver and quarterback on occasion, showing how excellent an athlete he was.
White was then switched to left offensive guard, against his wishes, after being drafted. He earned the starting job mid-way into his second year. He also ended up playing defensive tackle towards the end of the 1970 season, after injuries ravaged the defensive line.
White would go on to team with Hall of Fame tackle Ron Yary, and center Mick Tingelhoff, to give the Vikings one of the best offensive lines in the NFL during the 1970's. The Vikings would appear in four Super Bowls during Whites tenure in Minnesota. Three appearances were between 1973 to 1976.
The Vikings won the last NFL Championship in 1969, before the NFL-AFL merger. In 1974, he was named the the UPI Second Team All-Conference, and was named by the Newspaper Ent. Association's First team All-NFL.
Before 1975, White was switched to right guard and was named to his first Pro Bowl that year. He would be named to the Pro Bowl the following two seasons as well.
In 1977, White was injured and was only able to start 8 games. Before the 1978 season, he was traded to the San Diego Chargers for running back Rickey Young.
He would earn his last Pro Bowl nod in 1979, and was one of the first players to be named to the Pro Bowl from both the AFC and the NFC in his career. White played with the Chargers until 1985. When injuries hit the Chargers offensive line in 1984, White ended up starting at right tackle for 13 games.
He would then be moved to left guard for his final NFL season, and started every game. He was named the Chargers Offensive Lineman of the Year from 1983 to 1985. White was inducted into the San Diego Charger Hall of Fame in 2004.
White was extremely athletic and incredibly strong. He was the the NFL arm–wrestling champion and once stated he hasn't lost an arm-wrestling match since he was in high school to a man 200 lbs heavier than him. White was also noted for his exceptional intelligence on the field.
He has often said he disliked playing on the offensive side of the line, and thought he would have been a much better player on defense. Still, he was one of the best in his era. Many of his contemporaries have long said White belongs in Canton.
White also made his teammates better just by practicing against him daily. Hall of Fame DT Alan Page, Gary "Big Hands" Johnson, Louie Kelcher, and Hall of Fame DE Fred Dean all have praised White for making them better players.
White was one of the most complete offensive guards in the NFL throughout his career. Stats for guys who play his position are ignored by most.
The most a fan notices a guard is when he makes a mistake. A big mistake has been made for years, and still continues on to this day. The culprits are those who vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ed White may not be remembered by many of them, but he is certainly respected by those who played against him, or watched him play. It is time to correct the mistake of not having inducted him into Canton.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of both their 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams.
Guard : Milt Sunde
Sunde was drafted in the 20th round of the 1964 draft by the Vikings after having grown up in Minneapolis and attended the University of Minnesota.
After a rookie year of being a reserve, he earned a starting job at left guard in 1965. Sunde then earned his only Pro Bowl nod the next season, joined by left tackle Grady Alderman and center Mick Tingelhoff.
He got hurt the next year, appearing in 10 games. The Vikings moved him to right guard in 1968, where he split starts with Larry Bowie. He took over the starting job the next year as the Vikings became the last NFL champions before they merged with the American Football League.
He held the starting job until 1974 when new acquired Andy Maurer took over. The Vikings went to the Super Bowl in 1973 and 1974, but lost both times. Sunde retired at the end of the 1974 season.
Minnesota has had several great guards in the franchises history, but Milt Sunde was the first to ever go to the Pro Bowl. A perfect scenario for the local kid who made good against all odds. He is a member of their 25th Anniversary Team.
Terry Tausch, Wes Hamilton, Larry Bowie, David Dixon, and Charles Goodrum deserve mention.
Center : Mick Tingelhoff
Tingelhoff was an undrafted rookie signed by the Vikings before the 1962 season. He earned the starting job at center in the second preseason game of his rookie year.
It was a role he would not relinquish until he retired after 1978. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1964, and would attain that honor every year until 1969.
The 1969 season was the year the Vikings were crowned NFL Champions and went on to play the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV before losing. He was named to the 1,000-Yard Club in 1969, honoring the NFL’s top blocker.
In 1970, he was named to the First Team All-NFL by both the Pro Football Writers and Pro Football Weekly. He was named First Team All-Conference by the Associated Press and Pro Football Weekly.
He was named Second Team All-NFL by Newspaper Ent. Association and Second Team All-Conference by the UPI. The Vikings went back to the Super Bowl in 1973, before losing to the Miami Dolphins.
The Vikings returned to the Super Bowl the following season, but lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Vikings continued to be an NFL powerhouse throughout the decade and returned to Super Bowl XI in 1976, but lost to the Oakland Raiders.
He retired after the 1978 season having started every game the Vikings played his entire career. His 240 consecutive starts were then the second most in NFL history, thirty starts behind his Vikings teammate Jim Marshall.
The only player in Nebraska University history to enjoy a longer NFL career was Tingelhoff's Husker teammate, Ron McDole, who spent 18 years in the league from 1961 to 1978. Tingelhoff has been inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor and has had his no.53 jersey retired by the franchise.
Tingelhoff's omission from Canton is one of the most confusing of all players still awaiting induction. The numbers are obvious. He was one of the most dominant center's of his era, and defined the true definition of an iron horse.
You can easily note his consecutive starts streak, the fact he was a Pro Bowler six straight seasons, and was part of the most dominant team in the NFC during the 1970's.
The Vikings were a well balanced offense that scored points off the ground and via the air. Tingelhoff snapped the ball to such great NFL quarterbacks like Hall Of Famer Fran Tarkenton and Pro Bowler Joe Kapp. He also helped pave the way for Vikings fullback Chuck Foreman, and others, to gain huge chunks of yardage.
Much of the yardage Tarkenton acquired thru the air to set a then-NFL record in passing yards and passing touchdowns were helped along by Tingelhoff's protection. He was a sound technical blocker who used his intelligence, grit, and determination to get the job done better than most centers who ever played the game.
The fact that the voters have passed on him over these years truly shows many hardly pay attention to the battles in the trenches. There is absolutely no question that Mick Tingelhoff belongs in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of both their 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams.
Matt Birk and Jeff Christy deserve mention.
Defensive Tackle : Keith Millard
Millard was a first-round draft pick of the Vikings in 1984, but he decided to sign with the Arizona Wranglers of the United States Football League instead. The Wranglers traded him to the Jacksonville Bulls. The USFL folded in 1985, so he joined the Vikings.
Minnesota had the 6'6" Millard play backup nose tackle as a rookie, which is extremely rare for a player of that height. The rookie started five games and led Minnesota with 11 sacks, which plated in the top 10 in the league.
Counting the USFL, Millard had 23 sacks in 1985. The Vikings switched to a 4-3 defense in 1986, moving Millard to defensive tackle on the right side.
After getting 22 sacks over three years, including the strike-shortened 1987 season, Millard was set to have one of the greatest seasons ever by a defensive tackle. The 1989 season saw him get 18 sacks, the most ever by a defensive tackle in the NFL and only 15 players have ever gotten more.
His teammate, Chris Doleman, led the league with 21 that season thanks to lining up next to Millard. Even Al Noga and Henry Thomas were extremely effective. Noga had a career-best 11.5 sacks, while the nine Thomas had was the second best total of his career. Millard also picked off a pass, rumbling for 47 yards, and took a fumble 31 yards for a touchdown.
He was given his second and last Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honors, while becoming the second, and so far last, Viking named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Hall of Famer Alan Page was the first NFL player to ever win it in 1971 while with the Vikings.
He was also named the UPI NFC Defensive Player of the Year, an award only Page and Doleman also won while with Minnesota. Page was the first defensive player ever to have won that award, which went defunct after the 1996 season.
Suffering a major knee injury in the fourth game on the 1990 season, he did not suit up again until 1992 as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. Despite a sack in two games played, Seattle released him and the Green Bay Packers had him on their roster for two games. Millard joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1993, appearing in 14 games and starting five. He had four sacks, then retired.
His 53 sacks with the Vikings still rank fourth-best on the NFL list for the franchise, but Hall of Famers Page and Carl Eller had 108.5 and 130.5 "unofficially" with Minnesota, and Jim Marshall, who should be in Canton, had 127 himself.
Though injuries shortened a career that appeared destined for Canton, Millard was ranked 21st of the 50 Greatest Vikings Team put together in 2010. Minnesota has two defensive tackles enshrined in Canton with Page and John Randle, but Keith Millard was surely on their level for a short time before his injury.
Defensive Tackle : Henry Thomas
Thomas was drafted in the third round of the 1987 draft by the Vikings. Though his rookie year was cut short four games by a players strike, he started every game and intercepted a pass.
He scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery the nest year, while intercepting another ball. His teammates called him "Hardware Hank" because Thomas would line up over center and dismantle the opposing offenses point of attack.
This helped allow his three fellow defensive linemen to get 50.5 sacks. Thomas collected nine himself, while scoring again off another fumble recovery. Thomas was widely respected and a noted tackling machine.
The 1990 season was one of his best, getting a career best 109 tackles and 8.5 sacks. He followed that up with his first Pro Bowl year after getting eight sacks and 100 tackles. Thomas had collected an amazing 466 tackles in his first five seasons.
Thomas made the Pro Bowl for the last time in his career in 1992 even though his tackle totals began to dwindle. He got nine sacks, as well as recording a safety, in 1993 despite missing three games due to injury.
He joined the Detroit Lions in 1995 and got a career best 10.5 sacks while mentoring rookie, and future Pro Bowler, Luther Elliss. Thomas left the Lions after the next season, joining the New England Patriots in 1997.
Thomas played four years with the Patriots. He was very effective, getting two interceptions and 21 sacks over that time. He took one interception 24 yards for the last score of his career. Thomas retired after the 2000 season.
Of his 93.5 career sacks, 56 came with the Vikings. Hall of Fame defensive tackles Alan Page and John Randle are the only Vikings defensive tackles with more. He ranks third on the Vikings list in tackles.
The Vikings have many fantastic defensive tackles in their franchises history. Henry Thomas certainly ranks near the tip as one of their best ever. He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings.
Gary Larsen, Doug Sutherland, Charles Johnson, and Paul Dickson deserve mention.
Defensive End : Jim Marshall
Jim Marshall was a fourth round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns in 1960. He had played the year before in the Canadian Football League for the Saskatchewan Roughriders after leaving Ohio State University upon the completion of his junior year.
When Marshall came to the Browns, he started right away at right defensive end. He started the first three games, but had a falling out with legendary head coach Paul Brown. He soon lost his starting job, but continued to play the rest of the season.
In the off-season, Brown had plans to move Marshall to offensive tackle, but Marshall contracted encephalitis, and lost a great deal of weight. This fact, coupled with the problems Marshall and Paul Brown were having, did not bode well for Marshall's future in Cleveland.
Both teams have different versions on how Marshall became a member of the expansion Vikings. The Vikings state that Marshall was traded with Jim Prestel, Paul Dickson, Jamie Caleb, Dick Grecni, and CB Billy Gault while Cleveland received a second-round choice and an 11th-round choice that turned out to be Chuck Hinton and Ronnie Meyers.
The Browns state that "Jim Marshall was released by the Browns on Sep. 11, 1961. His rights were picked up by the Minnesota Vikings soon after, and the Browns, in a “gentleman’s agreement”, which is how Paul Brown carried out many deals, received cash and “future considerations”.
Regardless, Marshall was then a Viking until 1979. Marshall was with the team through the good and bad times. He led the team in sacks their first six years in the NFL.
He may best be remembered for his 66 yard "wrong way" run, the longest safety and shortest play in NFL history. Billy Kilmer, then a running back with the San Francisco 49ers, had fumbled the ball. Marshall scooped it up and bolted for the wrong end zone.
The Vikings won the game, as Marshall came up with a key sack in the fourth quarter. The "wrong way run" is truly a NFL classic moment to this day. But Marshall also achieved many more great feats on the field.
Many fans know he played in a then-league-record 282 consecutive regular season games and 302 games counting his playoff appearances. Punter Jeff Feagles passed this number, but the NFL still recognizes Marshall's consecutive starts streak because Feagles was a punter.
Marshall also owns the NFL record of 282 consecutive games played by a defensive end and he also recovered 29 fumbles, an NFL record for a defensive player.
He is listed as the Vikings franchises second leading All-Time leading sack totals leader, behind Hall of Famer Carl Eller, with 127. Marshall was the Vikings team captain for 17 seasons.
In all, discounting CFL games, Marshall played in 409 games (pre-season, season, post season and Pro Bowls), had over 1050 tackles, and over 133 sacks. His teams won 11 Divisional Championships and played in four Super Bowls.
Twice he kept his streak intact by walking out of hospitals where he was recuperating from pneumonia and ulcers. On another occasion, he played after accidentally shooting himself in the side while cleaning his shotgun.
In the final home game of his illustrious career, Marshall sacked Buffalo's Joe Ferguson twice and even played offensive tackle during the Vikings final series. Minnesota won 10-3, and Marshall was carried off the field by his teammates. He was awarded the game ball, the first one ever given to a Viking player by Hall of Fame head coach Bud Grant.
Many fans may best remember Marshall in his days of the Purple People Eaters. Teamed with Alan Page and Carl Eller, Gary Larsen, then Doug Sutherland, Marshall helped lead one of the greatest front fours in NFL history.
Paige and Eller are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Vikings may not have won the Super Bowl, but their teams were annually amongst the most feared and respected during the era.
Marshall was one of a kind. We have seen Darrell Green and Jackie Slater play as long since, but neither matched Marshall's consecutive games streak. Marshall played in 270 games in 19 seasons with the Vikings and never missed a game. These are probably records that will stand for a very, very long time.
He was versatile enough to play on either side of the ball, and anywhere along the defensive line. His toughness is legendary. Many in the Twin Cities remember how Marshall and 16 others on snowmobiles got caught in a blizzard in Wyoming.
Many of the party broke up in small groups as the snowmobiles conked out one by one. A bank president from Minnesota died. Marshall was with five other people as they tried to walk through snow that was 10-15 feet deep.
They made a snow cave to rest for the night by burning everything they had. Marshall's money, checkbook, and other papers were amongst those things burned.
They made it another 24 hours as they froze in their camp before help arrived. Marshall called the experience " “the toughest thing I’ve ever encountered in my life.”
When you look at Jim Marshall's stats, he is Canton worthy. When you factor in his legendary streak, it should be concrete proof that he is undeniably a Hall of Fame player. Maybe the voters won't let him him because of Eller and Paige or the lack of titles? That should not be a deterrent for the voters.
Paige and Eller finished their careers elsewhere, but certainly are worthy. Marshall? He was as consistent and reliable as they come. He should have been in the Pro Football Hall of Fame years ago.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of both their 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams.
Defensive End : Chris Doleman
Doleman was the Vikings first round draft pick in 1985, as well as the fourth overall selection. Minnesota was running a 3-4 defense, so they had Doleman play left outside linebacker.
He was asked to primarily play the run, and he had a career best 113 tackles that season. He also picked off a pass and the half a sack he had that year would be the lowest total of his career.
Though he took an interception 59 yards for a touchdown the next year, his production dwindled drastically. The Vikings would then switch to the 4-3 defense in the strike-shortened 1987 season.
The move paid off as the Vikings soon featured a young, exciting, and explosive defensive line. Doleman has 11 sacks in the 12 games he played, as well as forcing a career high six fumbles. He was named to the first of his four consecutive Pro Bowls.
The 1989 season is considered the best of his career. He piled up a Vikings record 21 sacks, still the third best total in NFL history, and forced five fumbles. He was named First Team All-Pro on a defense that had an amazing 71 sacks. It is one less than the NFL record set by the 1984 Chicago Bears.
After failing to make the Pro Bowl in 1991, he returned to it the next year after getting 14.5 sacks and matching his career high mark of six forced fumbles. Doleman was also named First Team All-Pro for the last time of his career after recording a safety and scoring a touchdown off an interception.
The 1993 season was his last as a Viking. He joined the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent in 1992, lasting two years with the team and going to the Pro Bowl once. Doleman then joined the San Francisco 49ers in 1996.
His three years with the 49ers were very productive. He piled up 38 sacks, scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery, and made the Pro Bowl one final time in his career. He then left to rejoin the Vikings for the 1999 season. After getting eight sacks, he retired.
Doleman ranks fourth on the NFL career sacks list with 150.5. His 96.5 with the Vikings is officially recognized as the second most in team history because the NFL did not recognize sacks until 1982.
He ranks second in tackles and safeties as well. One of the most impressive statistics in his career is that he missed only four games and played in 232 contests over his 15 seasons.
The Vikings have one defensive end, Carl Eller, in Canton, and another, Jim Marshall, who should be. Doleman is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings.and has been a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame three times. His induction seems likely, but it is safe to say he is one of the best defensive ends in Vikings history.
Mark Mullaney, Doug Martin, and Al Noga deserve mention.
Outside Linebacker : Matt Blair
Blair was drafted in the second round of the 1974 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, and was the 51st player chosen overall. The Vikings started him in six games during his rookie year, and he was named to the NFL's All-Rookie Team after getting an interception and fumble recovery.
Minnesota would go on to appear in Super Bowl IX that year, where Blair would block a punt leading to the Vikings only points in their 16-6 defeat. He played as a reserve next season, but earned the starting left outside linebacker job in 1976.
He had a career high five fumble recoveries and had two interceptions that year, as the Vikings made it to Super Bowl XI before losing. In the NFC Championship Game two weeks earlier, he had helped block a field goal attempt that Vikings cornerback Pro Bowl Bobby Bryant took 90 yards for a touchdown that accounted for the first points of the game.
The 1977 season saw Blair make the first of six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. His penchant for the big play was widely known throughout the league, as was his solid, steady play backed by great fundamentals. The entire defensive personnel around him changed at every position except his. He was named the captain of the defense in 1979 and held that position until he retired.
Gone were Hall Of Famers like defensive tackle Alan Page, defensive end Carl Eller, and free safety Paul Krause, along with Vikings legends like defensive end Jim Marshall, defensive tackle Doug Sutherland, linebackers Jeff Sieman and Wally Hilgenberg, and defensive backs Bobby Bryant and Nate Wright. Blair continued to be a top echelon linebacker in the league despite these massive changes.
Many other changes occurred on the Vikings offense after 1977 as well. Minnesota went to four Super Bowls between 1969 and 1976, but none after that. After making it to the NFC Championship Game in 1977, the Vikings made the playoffs in 1978 and 1980 and lost in the first round each time. Blair would not appear in a postseason game again.
It was in that 1977 season that he scored his first touchdown, which came off a blocked kick. He scored again for the final time the next season off of a lateral that went 49 yards. It set the stage for maybe the finest year of his career, which happened during the 1980 season.
He was named to his only First Team All-Pro team that year, and was named the Most Valuable Linebacker of the NFC. Blair was also being recognized for all of the work he did away from the gridiron.
Working in several charities that included the Children's Miracle Network, Multiple Sclerosis Society, March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Lupus Foundation of Minnesota, Special Olympics, and the United Way, he was named the 1981 NFL Man of the Year. He also was the Top 10 Outstanding Young Men of America by the Jaycees in 1983. His work with the homeless and hungry has raised millions of dollars as well.
He missed the first games of his career in 1983 after becoming injured enough to miss five games. The Vikings drafted Chris Doleman in the first round before the 1985 season, and Hall Of Fame head coach Bud Grant had Blair teach him how to play linebacker and rush the quarterback from the edge. After appearing in a career low six games because of injury that year, Blair decided to retire.
The Vikings have never had a linebacker better than Blair. His 1,452 career tackles still ranks second in team history. No other Vikings linebacker has intercepted more passes than him either.
Though sacks were not a recorded statistic until the 1982 season, he was known for his ability to come hard off the edge and create havoc on opposing teams. But he was more than just an excellent player who supported the run and rushed the passer.
Minnesota liked to keep him on the field as much as possible, because he was so excellent defending the pass and creating turnovers on special teams as well.
His athleticism was on display in the 1975 season. The Vikings could not find a consistent punt returner that year, and used six different players that year. One of them was Blair, who took two punt returns that year. He may be the last linebacker ever in NFL history to be asked to field a punt.
His ability to block kicks was amazing. It didn't matter if it was a field goal, extra point, or punt, because he was a force each time the ball was snapped. His 20.5 blocked kicks in the regular season is a Vikings record, and this stat becomes even more spectacular when you factor in the fact Page blocked 16 more as well. In all, counting post season, he blocked 23.5 kicks. It is the second most in NFL history.
His 20 career fumble recoveries is tied as the 11th most by any defender in NFL history. What makes this statistic more impressive is the fact his teammates(Marshall, Page, and Eller) all had more in their careers.
It is a testament to the Vikings defense being able to create multiple turnovers, and Blair's abilities around so many teammates who shared his proclivity to jump on loose footballs.
How the voters of the Pro Football Hall Of Fame can induct a one dimensional linebacker like Andre Tippett, while ignoring better players like Blair, shows a process full of politics where the actual play on the field is disregarded.
Tippett just rushed the passer and went to the Pro Bowl a measly four times, while Blair did everything and more a linebacker could be asked to do and had more accolades.
Some may point to his six Pro Bowls and question if it is enough, especially when nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker like Maxie Baughn still await their call to the hall. What puts Blair over the top for induction over many other outside linebacker legends is his ability to play all over the field in every aspect of the game on defense and special teams.
He is a member of both the Vikings Silver and the 40th year anniversary teams, and soon will be inducted into the teams Ring of Honor. If one looks at the fact he continued his greatness long after all of the other "Purple People Eaters" had left the team, it should become quite apparent that Matt Blair deserves to be inducted into Canton.
Middle Linebacker : Jeff Siemon
Siemon was the Vikings first round draft pick in 1972. He ended up starting eight games as a rookie and picked off a pair of passes.
He earned the starting job full-time next year and held it until 1979, not missing a game over that time. He made the Pro Bowl in 1973. Siemon was an every down player capable of being effective against the run or pass.
Minnesota had one of the most dominating defenses in NFL history during the 1970's. The "Purple People Eaters" were a stifling unit that did not allow other teams to do much offensively.
Siemon went to the Pro Bowl three straight years starting in 1975. The Vikings went to the Super Bowl in 1976 but lost. The team started to age by then, but he maintained a steady presence in the middle of the defense.
Scott Studwell started in 1980, relegating Siemon to the bench mostly. Minnesota switched to the 3-4 defense the following year so Siemon and Studwell could both start. He retired after the 1982 season.
No middle linebacker in Vikings history has been to the Pro Bowl more than Seimon's four appearances. There was little he couldn't do on the field and he was known for his quickness, speed, and cerebral approach to the game.
There is no question that Jeff Siemon is the best middle linebacker in Vikings history. He is is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of both their 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams.
Scott Studwell, Rip Hawkins, Ed McDaniel, and Jack Del Rio deserve mention.
Outside Linebacker : Wally Hilgenberg
Hilgenberg was drafted in the fourth round of the 1964 draft by the Detroit Lions. He spent three years with the Lions mostly as a reserve, then was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 1966 season. Pittsburgh cut him in training camp.
Minnesota picked Hilgenberg up in 1968 and he started half of the season. He then would start the next eight years, missing just two games due to injury. He was tough and dependable.
Though he never made the Pro Bowl, he was an important member of the "Purple People Eaters". He was always around the ball, able to defend against the pass and especially stout versus the run.
He scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery in 1973 and recorded a safety the next year. Hilgenberg played in all four of the Vikings Super Bowl appearances.
He became a reserve in 1977 because Fred McNeill, the Vikings first-round draft choice in 1974, was ready to start. Hilgenberg stayed with the Vikings until 1979 before retiring. He played in 158 games in his 12 years with the team and is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings.
He was reliable, tough, durable, and smart. Hilgenberg was also a noted prankster who kept the team loose. He is easily one of the greatest linebackers in Vikings history.
Fred McNeill and Roy Winston deserve mention.
Strong Safety : Joey Browner
Browner was the first-round draft pick of the Vikings in the 1983 draft. He comes from a family deeply ingrained into the NFL fabric. Three of his brothers and a nephew have played in the NFL, a record for one family.
Minnesota brought him along slowly in his first two seasons, starting nine games total and even seeing time at cornerback. He was able to score off a fumble recovery over that time. Browner was named the full-time starter in 1985, immediately becoming a star.
That season began a string of six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. Not only was he a punishing hitter, but Browner was always where the ball ended up. He also came up with the big play often, returning three interceptions for touchdowns.
Browner was considered the best strong safety in the NFC for a number of seasons. He was named First Team All-Pro three times and recovered 17 fumbles in his first six seasons as a player. He also set a Pro Bowl record by returning three fumbles for scores.
The 1990 season may have been his best. He had a career best seven interceptions for 103 yards and three sacks. Besides scoring the last time in his career, Browner also made his Final Pro Bowl. Though he picked off five passes the next year, but he missed the first two games of his career.
Minnesota released him after that 1991 season, so Browner signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He played seven games in 1992 then decided to retire. Though tackles were not an official statistic in his era, historians say Browner piled up at least 1,100 in his career.
The 37 interceptions Browner had with Minnesota is the fourth most in team history and the most ever by a Vikings strong safety. His 17 fumble recoveries are the seventh most in team history.
Though the NFL does not recognize his 18 forced fumbles as an official statistic, it shows the force of impact he brought when tackling. He has been on the Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot five times so far, and could one day find himself inducted.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of their 40th Anniversary Team. The Vikings strong safety position has had many great players, and Joey Browner may be the best in franchise history.
Robert Griffith, Todd Scott, Corey Chavous, Jeff Wright, and Karl Kassulke deserve mention.
Free Safety : Orlando Thomas
Thomas was drafted in the second round by the Vikings. He earned a starting job immediately and may have had the finest season of his career in his rookie year.
Though he started just 11 of 16 games as a rookie, Thomas led the NFL with nine interceptions. He recovered a career best four fumbles and also scored a touchdown off both an interception and fumble recovery.
Despite having superior numbers to Merton Hanks, Thomas was passed over for the Pro Bowl in favor of Hanks. The next season saw him pile up a career high 83 tackles while intercepting five more passes.
After scoring the last touchdown of his career in 1997, Thomas got hurt and missed the first game of his career. He rebounded in 1998 to help the Vikings have maybe the best season in franchise history.
Minnesota won 15 games that year, sending 10 players to the Pro Bowl. They were first in offense and sixth in defense in the NFL that year. Thomas teamed with Robert Griffith as a pair of hard hitting safeties who excelled in run support. The Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game that year before losing in overtime.
His last three seasons with the Vikings were frequently met by injury. Thomas missed 13 games over this time. This caused him to retire at the end of the 2001 season. His 22 interceptions with the Vikings is the seventh most in franchise history and his two touchdowns off fumble recoveries is tied with nine others as the most in team history.
When you talk free safety for the Minnesota Vikings, the first name to come up will always be Hall of Famer Paul Krause. Yet Orlando Thomas was an excellent player himself with the Vikings for many years.
Darren Sharper, John Harris, and John Turner deserve mention.
Cornerback : Bobby Bryant
Bryant was drafted in the seventh round in 1968 by Minnesota. He was a reserve as a rookie, though he did score a touchdown off two interceptions. Minnesota had his return a career high 19 kickoffs and ten punts that season.
Though the Vikings asked him to return just three more kickoffs the rest of his career, they did have him return 59 more punts. The Vikings preferred keeping him mainly on the defensive unit, where he excelled.
At barely 170 lbs, Bryant was called "Bones" by teammates and fans. He threw his slight frame around at reckless abandon, often causing nagging injuries. In his 13 years with the team, Bryant would have just four seasons where he played every game.
When he was on the field, Bryant was a fan favorite who was the teams lock-down defender often making big plays. He was known to blow kisses to the Vikings fans after making a big play.
He started and played in just 10 games in 1969, but was able to snag a career best eight interceptions. Bryant was named Second Team All-NFL for his efforts, but his injuries prevented him from playing in the Super Bowl that year. He scored off of one of his three interceptions the next year despite missing three games.
Minnesota inserted Charlie West as a starter in 1971, forcing Bryant into a reserve role. He got his stating job back the following season and scored off a fumble recovery. Bryant grabbed seven picks in 1973, scoring the last regular season touchdown of his career off one of the interceptions.
The 1974 season would be the only year of his career he failed to intercept a pass because he suffered a season-ending injury in the first game. Bryant rebounded strong the next year, earning his first Pro Bowl nod after picking off six balls.
His 1976 season was his last Pro Bowl year. The Vikings would reach the Super Bowl that year before losing a fourth and final time in Bryant's career. He had helped them get there a few weeks earlier in the NFC Championship Game by taking a blocked field goal attempt 90 yards for a touchdown.
At an age where most cornerbacks retire, Bryant was still the Vikings top defender. He picked off seven pass at the age of 34-years old in 1978. He held his starting job until 1980, grabbing three interceptions and then retiring.
Bryant played in three different decades for Minnesota, as well as being a member of all four of their Super Bowl teams. He was a key member of the famous "Purple People Eaters" defense.
The 51 interceptions Bryant had rank as the second most in team history. His three touchdowns off interceptions is tied with seven others as the most in Vikings history, and his 749 yards off interceptions rank as the third most in franchise history.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of both their 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams. Bobby Bryant may be the greatest cornerback in Vikings history.
Cornerback : Ed Sharockman
Sharockman was drafted in the fifth round of the 1961 draft by the Vikings, the fifth player ever drafted by Minnesota. He got hurt in his first NFL game and missed the rest of the season.
Vikings Hall of Fame head coach Norm Van Brocklin plugged Sharockman immediately into the starting lineup in 1962. The move was rewarded with six interceptions and two fumble recoveries. One fumble was returned 88 yards for a score, the longest in the NFL that year.
He was part of a Vikings defense that was opportunistic. The 1963 season saw them set a still-standing NFL record of 53 fumble recoveries. They caused opponents to fumble the ball an NFL record 50 times, since equaled by the 1978 San Francisco 49ers. Sharockman also scored a touchdown off his five interceptions that year.
Though Sharockman was never invited to the Pro Bowl in his career, he was continuously getting the ball back for the Vikings. He led the team in interceptions four times during his career. He had six or more interceptions four times.
The 1970 season may have been his best. Sharockman had a career best seven interceptions for 132 yards. One ball was taken 43 yards for the last touchdown of his career. He followed that up with six more interceptions in the 1971 season.
Bobby Bryant replaced him in the starting lineup in 1972, and Sharockman played just seven games. Other than his rookie season, it was the only year of his career that Sharockman failed to record an interception. He then retired.
His 113 yards off fumble recoveries is the second most in team history, as are his 804 yards off interceptions. The 40 interceptions he grabbed are third most ever by a Viking, and his three touchdowns off interceptions is tied with seven others as the most in team history.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of their 25th Anniversary Team. Ed Sharockman is certainly one of the best cornerbacks in team history.
Carl Lee, Aundray McMillan, Nate Wright, John Turner, Willie Teal, Charlie West, and Earsell Mackbee deserve mention.
Kicker : Fred Cox
Cox was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1961, but he failed to make the team. Minnesota quickly picked him up, and used him as both a punter and kicker in his rookie season. He punted the ball the only 70 times of his career that season.
Now concentrating on just place kicking, Cox began to stand out. He led the NFL in field goal attempts and makes in 1965. Cox led the NFL in field goal percentage and field goal conversions in 1969, earning him a First Team All-Pro honor.
His 1970 season was his lone Pro Bowl year. Cox led the NFL in field goal attempts and makes while scoring a career best 125 points. Though he never scored over 100 points again, Cox scored 85 or more points five times.
He retired after 15 seasons in 1977, having played in 210 games for the Vikings. He is the Vikings leader in points scored for a career. Three of his seasons still rank in the top ten scoring seasons in team history.
Cox still ranks in the top-25 in NFL history in points scored, field goals and extra points attempted and made. Cox leads the Vikings in all of those categories as well. He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of both their 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams.
Many people might recall Fred Cox as the person who invented the Nerf football, but hopefully they also remember that he is the greatest kicker in Minnesota Vikings history.
Fuad Reveiz and Gary Anderson deserve mention.
Punter : Mitch Berger
Berger was a sixth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994. He lasted five games before being cut, then he sat out of the entire 1995 season.
He made the Vikings squad in 1996, having two punts blocked on a career high 88 attempts. Berger steadily improved over the next three years, increasing his average on yards per punting attempt each year.
He became the first, and so far only, Vikings punter to go to the Pro Bowl in 1999. He averaged a career best 45.4 yards per punt, was an excellent tackler in coverage, and provided booming kickoffs. One punt went for a career long 75 yards.
After solid play the next two years, he left for the Saint Louis Rams in 2002. He left after one year to play for the New Orleans Saints the next three years and made the Pro Bowl in 2004.
He sat out of the league in 2006, but joined the Arizona Cardinals for five games the next year. Berger joined the Pittsburgh Steelers for 13 games in 2008, earning a ring after the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII. He then played with the Denver Broncos for 10 games in 2009 and hasn't played since.
Berger ranks third in Vikings history in punts, punt return yards, and yards per punt average. He certainly ranks as one of the best punters in team history.
Greg Coleman, Bobby Walden, and Harry Newsome deserve mention.
Kick Returner : Darrin Nelson
Nelson was the first draft pick, and the seventh overall, of the Vikings in the 1982 draft. Though the season was cut short by a players strike, Nelson was seldom used that year.
He spent the next two years where he was sporadically used, but he showed great skill as a receiver and return specialist. He set career highs in 1984 with 39 kickoff returns for 891 yards with 23 punt returns
Nelson returned 16 punts the next year, but was never asked by the Vikings to return punts again. He also set career high marks with 200 carried for 893 yards and five scores that season.
The 1986 season was his best as a pro. He toted the ball 191 times for 793 yards while setting career highs with 53 receptions for 593 yards and three touchdowns. He then began to frustrate the Vikings the next two seasons because he couldn't stay healthy.
Minnesota then created a blockbuster trade in 1989 known as the "Hershel Walker Trade", which also gets called the "Great Train Robbery". The Vikings received Walker and three draft picks from the Dallas Cowboys, as well as a draft pick from the San Diego Chargers. Minnesota used a pick on Jake Reed, while the rest of the picks did not work out.
Dallas got three first and second-round draft picks from the Vikings, as well as five veteran players that included Nelson. Minnesota used one of the Vikings draft picks to select Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith.
Nelson refused to join the Cowboys, so he was jettisoned to the San Diego Chargers. He did so little for the Chargers that they cut him after the 1990 season. Minnesota picked him up off waivers.
He lasted two years with the Vikings backing up Walker and returning kickoffs. Nelson retired after the 1992 season. He has the seventh most rushing yards in team history and has the fourth most receptions by a running back in team history.
Nelson is the Vikings all-time leader in kick returns and kick return yardage. He is a member of their 40th Anniversary Team as a kick returner, and was the best the Vikings ever had do it until Percy Harvin arrived on the scene recently.
Buster Rhymes, David Palmer, Eddie Payton, Brent McClanahan, Clint Jones, Hershel Walker, and Qadry Ismail deserve mention.
Punt Returner : David Palmer
Palmer was the Vikings second round draft pick in 1994. Despite winning the Paul Warfield Award as the top collegiate receiver, the diminutive Palmer never quite found his niche as an NFL receiver. He caught 73 balls and ran the ball 34 times in his career.
Where Palmer did excel was returning kicks and punts. He wasn't always healthy, but Palmer did have impact on special teams when he was able to play. He only returned punts as a rookie, being a rarely used player on offense.
Palmer led the NFL with a 13.2 average on 26 punt returns in 1995. One return went for a career long 74-yard score. He scored again the very next season on a punt return despite missing five games because of injury.
The 1997 season was the best of his career. Palmer averaged 13.1 yards on a career best 34 punt returns, while also returning 32 kicks and catching a career high 26 passes. One reception went for a touchdown, the only receiving touchdown of his career.
Palmer returned a career high 50 kickoffs in 1998, gaining 1,176 yards and scoring off an 88-yard return. He also returned 28 punts. After playing only 14 games the next two years because of injuries, Palmer retired at the end of the 2000 season.
Not only is his two career punt returns for touchdowns a Vikings record, he ranks second on punt returns and punt return yards. His 9.9 yards return average for a career is a Vikings record by anyone with 75 or more returns. He also holds the single-season punt return average with anyone who had 15 returns or more.
Minnesota has had several good punt returners for short amounts of time, but few have been special. David Palmer has probably done the best job at it in the history of the franchise.
Charlie West, Leo Lewis, Eddie Payton, and Mewelde Moore deserve mention.