Pete's Point: Bud Grant must have liked the Brainerd area
Publisher Pete Mohs shares what is was like to interview Bud Grant, who recently passes away at age 95.
Bud Grant, who passed away March 11 at age 95, was one of the most iconic and influential people in Minnesota sports history.
He was legendary for his success as a multi-sport athlete and longtime coach of the Minnesota Vikings, taking the team to four Super Bowls.
Grant was also known for his no-nonsense approach as an NFL coach. He didn’t like rookies. He didn’t like players with attitudes or those hungry for the spotlight. He was a common sense coach who didn’t need to say much to his players. He could just stare in their direction to make a point.
Grant could also be an intimidating figure for the media in his 18 seasons as head coach. This journalist had a brief encounter with Grant after a Vikings game in 1985 in the Minneapolis Metrodome. And luckily for me, he must have liked the Brainerd lakes area.
I don’t remember who the Vikings were playing that day since I had covered a couple dozen Vikings’ home games over a 10-year span as a sports writer for the Dispatch.
I had many favorite memories at NFL games, but one moment that I will never forget is the uncomfortable experience talking with Grant.
The coach had just finished addressing the media after the game, and he began walking back to the team locker room. I was writing a column about the game, and wanted to ask the coach a specific question about a Viking player that I was featuring.
We were in a small hallway and I was walking behind the coach. I politely asked “Coach Grant, could I ask you a question?”
He stopped and turned toward me. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds, and just gave me that steely blue-eyed gaze. I think my heart stopped. He probably figured I was a bit nervous as a young sports writer who grew up as a Vikings fan.
“Where are you from?” Grant asked. “Brainerd,” I replied. After a few seconds Grant responded “Okay,” and we did our interview.
Grant was often cool toward the media, especially the out-of-state or big market reporters. Maybe he answered my question because I came from a smaller market. Or maybe he liked the Brainerd lakes since it offers a perfect outdoor setting for Grant’s love of fishing and hunting. Anyway, I will always remember that day when the coach helped out this reporter.
That was Grant’s final season coaching the Vikings and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
The next, and last time, I would see Grant in person came in January of 2016, when the retired coach came on the field for the coin toss before the Vikings’ playoff game against Seattle. Grant inspired the Vikings and fans by wearing a short-sleeved polo shirt for the outdoor game with minus-6 degree temperatures on the University of Minnesota’s Huntington Bank Stadium field.
I was wearing two layers of clothing that day as one of more than 50,000 football fans in the bleachers. Most people remember that game for Blair Walsh’s late field-goal miss that cost the Vikings a 10-9 playoff loss.
But I choose to remember Grant’s attire that day, which was typical of his coaching style as he refused to allow his players to have sideline heating devices on cold winter days playing outside at the old Met Stadium.
Grant also had a reputation for winning as a Canadian Football League player and coach, and later when he became the Vikings’ coach in 1967. A year later, his team won the Central Division title on the way to capturing 11 division crowns in 13 seasons. Although they lost each championship game, the Vikings did reach the Super Bowl in 1970, 1974, 1975 and 1977.
I was probably like many Vikings fans who took that success for granted, and figured the purple gang would be in a Super Bowl on a regular basis. That was far from the truth as the Vikings’ Super Bowl drought has now reached 46 years.
Grant ran out of time, but other Minnesota fans just hope to see the Vikings get back to a Super Bowl during their lifetimes.
Pete Mohs, Brainerd Dispatch and Echo Journal publisher, may be reached at 218-855-5855 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook.