Tommy Mason, the first-ever draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings’ organization, died Wednesday night. He was 75 years old.
"Tommy was an enormous talent," Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, a teammate of Mason’s with Minnesota, said in a release put out by the team. "He was a great player, a humble man and an outstanding teammate. I will always cherish the years I spent with Tommy."
Mason was the first overall pick of the 1961 NFL Draft out of Tulane as the Vikings’ organization was started. Mason played six seasons in Minnesota, rushing for 3,252 yards, catching 151 passes for 1,689 yards and scoring 39 touchdowns.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Mason still ranks eighth all-time in rushing in Vikings history and was the team’s first-ever All-Pro player in 1963.
"Tommy was as complete of a running back as they come," team historian and long-time athletic trainer Fred Zamberletti said in the release. "Because of injuries, Tommy did not have the career that he wanted to have but he was a very talented, hard-running, slashing player. He’ll always be remembered as one of the original Vikings. He will be sorely missed."
Mason went on to play five more seasons with the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins. He finished his career with 4,302 rushing yards, 2,324 receiving yards and 45 touchdowns.
"The entire Minnesota Vikings organization is saddened by the loss of Tommy Mason," Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf said in the statement. "As the team’s first-ever draft pick, Tommy played a significant role in the history of the franchise. After spending six seasons with the team, he remained a part of the Vikings family, appearing at multiple events over the past several decades. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mason family at this time."