GRIDIRON GLORY: History

For immediate release

Release dated: 
June 10, 2016
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, Minnesota Historical Society 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org
Lauren Peck, Minnesota Historical Society 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

GRIDIRON GLORY: History

Professional football traces its roots to 1800s America when collegiate players incorporated elements from soccer and rugby into a new game. By the end of the century, football was played across the country and rules included the snap and forward pass, 11-player team, and the concept of downs.

Professional football history in the Twin Cities began in the 1920s when the Minneapolis Marines joined the American Professional Football Association (later the National Football League). Duluth also hosted a professional team, the Kelleys, later called the Eskimos, from 1923 to 1927 when it withdrew from the league. The film Leatherheads is partially based on the story of the Duluth Eskimos. In 1931 the Marines also withdrew from the league, leaving the state with no professional team between 1931 and 1959.

In August 1959, Minneapolis was awarded a franchise in the new American Football League, but the owners gave it up to be awarded the NFL’s 14th franchise in 1960.

The Minnesota Vikings, so named to recognize Minnesota’s Nordic roots, took to the field for their first regular season game on Sept. 17, 1961. After a slow start, rookie quarterback Fran Tarkenton came off the bench to throw four touchdown passes and run for another as he led the Vikes to a 37-13 victory over the Chicago Bears. Twenty five years later, in 1986, Tarkenton would become the first Vikings player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

In 1967, the Vikings brought in head coach Bud Grant who had led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to four championships in 10 years. Hailing from Minnesota, Grant returned to the Twin Cities with the challenge of turning the struggling Vikings into instant winners. Just two years later, the Vikings began an incredible streak of 11 division titles in 13 seasons.

The Vikings have appeared in four Super Bowl games: 1970, ‘74, ‘75 and ‘77. Only four other NFL teams have played in more championship games. From Ahmad Rashad to Cris Carter, from Jim Marshall to Randall McDaniel and from Matt Blair to John Randle, the Vikings have been among the most exciting teams ever to strap on the pads.

V-I-K-I-N-G-S! Skol, Vikings, Let’s Go!         

Adapted from Minnesota Vikings team history