EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The way former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant figures, he’s been a part of at least 1,000 games in a career that has spanned high school in Superior, Wisc., the University of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Lakers in the NBA, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Vikings in the NFL and the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Ask him to recall many of those 1,000-plus games and Grant would likely struggle to bring back specific moments. The games the now 85-year-old Grant remembers most are some of the oldest.
“There aren’t many of those games I can remember, but I can remember almost every game I played in high school,” Grant said Monday, recalling his days in Superior. “The impressions that are made on younger people, you retain those and you replay them and you talk to your buddies or your friends or your teammates and go over them, over the years they stay alive. If you asked me what game in 1977 we played San Diego, I wouldn’t remember anything about it. But I can remember every game I played in high school.”
Grant, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994, will get to relive some of those memories this week when he’s honored in his hometown as part of the “Hometown Hall of Famers” program done in conjunction with the Hall of Fame. Grant will be honored at Superior High School on Wednesday with a plaque at the school.
A three-sport star in Superior, Grant received all-state recognition in football and basketball and was later a draft choice and played in the NBA and NFL. He said he still visits the area regularly and owns a home nearby.
“I go back and forth quite a bit,” Grant said. “I’ll be up there. Fishing season opens on Saturday, so I’ll stay up there and go fishing. I spend quite a bit of time up in that area.”
When Grant finished coaching the Vikings in 1985, he was the eighth-winningest coach in pro football history combining his wins in the NFL and CFL, trailing only George Halas, Don Shula, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau, Chuck Noll, Chuck Knox and Paul Brown. Grant holds the record for wins by a Minnesota coach. He coached the Vikings for 18 years, leading them to 10 divisional titles and four Super Bowl appearances.
Grant still has connections to the Vikings. He has an office at the team’s Winter Park headquarters in Eden Prairie. Though he says his title as consultant is “just something to put on a card.”
A legend with the Vikings though, Grant is still amazed he’s been able to stay involved with the team.
“You can take Chuck Noll, he’s not with Pittsburgh,” Grant said. “Shula’s got nothing to do with Miami, and when they let Landry out, he didn’t have anything to do with Dallas. But here I sit, in the Vikings headquarters, 25 years after I quit coaching and I’m still here. They’re gracious enough to let me have an office and I’m grateful enough to accept it. It’s kind of an unusual situation where I’m still here and most coaches when they let go, you’re out the door and you don’t come back. This has worked out pretty good.”
Grant says he doesn’t have any input into the operations of the team and is just thankful to still be involved and have his office. A true winner in his time, Grant does sense the excitement around the team, from a playoff appearance last season, a new stadium on the way, new uniforms and what’s been lauded as a successful draft this past weekend.
“The Vikings are an ascending team,” Grant said. “If you’re in this position where you’ve got an opportunity to win and you’ve got an infusion of some new players and you’ve got a good nucleus of older and younger players, we can be an ascending team and can maybe get to the top. I think the Vikings are in a perfect position right now. Everybody should be enthused.”