Every August the Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomes a new class, giving the football-following world an opportunity to celebrate the careers of all-time greats. This year we were in Canton to help welcome the Class of 2012, which included former Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman.
The annual Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony also presents an opportunity to reflect on those who are not yet in the Hall of Fame, but who have the credentials that could one day place them among the sport’s immortals.
The Vikings have three such players. Here’s a look at each of them…
Tingelhoff came to the Vikings as a rookie free agent in 1962 and stepped into the starting lineup by the team’s second preseason game. He didn’t turn over the job until his retirement after the 1978 season, never missing a game over a 17-season span that included an incredible 240 consecutive regular season starts.
“Mick was a catalyst for our team and one of the most respected players on those teams,” legendary Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant said. “Mick’s intangibles were the thing that made him so great. He was a captain the whole time I coached him and guys looked at him as an example of how to do things.”
Over Tingelhoff’s 17-year career, he started in all four Vikings Super Bowl appearances, snapped to Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, blocked for four running backs who earned 13 trips to the Pro Bowl, was named to seven consecutive All-Pro teams, paved the way for a 100-yard rusher 40 times and played in 19 postseason contests. In Tingelhoff’s final 11 seasons, the Vikings did not have a losing record and they won a division title in 10 of those campaigns. The Vikings posted a regular season of 112-42-2 and won 10 games seven times in that 11-year span.
The Vikings offense thrived during Tingelhoff’s career, ranking in the top 10 of the NFL in rushing offense 10 times and in the top 10 in total offense eight times. Tingelhoff is one of six Vikings that have had their jersey number retired, and he was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor in 2001.
Carter dazzled NFL fans for 16 seasons (1987-2002) with sensational one-handed grabs, clutch first-down receptions and breath-taking touchdown catches. The Vikings claimed Carter in early September of 1990 and the rest, as they say, is history.
While in Minnesota, Carter turned his life and career around and eventually became the team’s leader. Carter spent 12 seasons (1990-2001) with the Vikings and crafted a brilliant career. He was a part of teams that suffered losing seasons only twice in 12 seasons, made the playoffs eight times in 10 Vikings seasons, and his teams were 76-29 (including playoffs) in games in which he caught a touchdown.
“I played with a lot of prominent receivers but Cris Carter was by far the most talented and competitive,” said Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon. “He was such a great student of the game and knew defenses and routes better than anyone I played with. He was able to take advantage of opponents because of how much work he put in during the week. He wanted the ball in clutch situations and made big plays when they counted most.”
Carter’s unmatched skills, durability and tireless work ethic allowed him to re-write the Vikings record book and establish marks that won’t be challenged for years to come. He is the franchise leader in receptions (1,004), receiving yards (12,383) and receiving touchdowns (110), and he set a franchise record with a reception in 111 consecutive games. Carter was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, earned eight straight Pro Bowls from 1993-2000 and was selected as an All-Pro four times. For his career, Carter totaled 1,101 receptions for 13,899 yards and 130 TDs.
Carter was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor and had his #80 jersey retired on September 14, 2003.
There are few Minnesota sports identities more revered than the Purple People Eaters. Marshall, a Vikings defensive end for 19 years (1961-79), was an integral part of the group and would be a fitting addition to the group of immortal NFL players in Canton, Ohio. He and fellow linemen Carl Eller, Gary Larsen and Alan Page formed the vaunted group and led the team to a period of dominance that included 10 division titles and four appearances in the Super Bowl.
Originally a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1960, Marshall held the NFL record for consecutive games played with 282 (270 with the Vikings) until Brett Favre broke the mark. He ranks second in Vikings lore with 127.0 sacks and led or tied for the team lead in sacks in each of the Vikings first six seasons. Marshall also ranks ninth in franchise history with 988 career tackles, behind only fellow Purple People Eater Page among defensive linemen.Aside from accumulating sacks and tackles during his career, Marshall also recovered 29 fumbles, a team and NFL record. Marshall started at defensive end in four Super Bowls