Fred Zamberletti: Think Fast

Posted Sep 6, 2017

Fred Zamberletti saw thousands of touchdowns while in Minnesota.

From Fran Tarkenton’s first, a 14-yard pass to Bob Schnelker on the team’s inaugural day, to Bill Brown, Chuck Foreman, Ahmad Rashad, Cris Carter or Randy Moss, the original Viking celebrated touchdowns from the sidelines for decades.

Zamberletti, 85, who has been with the team in some capacity since the franchise was founded in 1961, said he usually had a ritual of congratulating players who scored by giving them a tap on the back.

But during the 1998 season, the player who scored the most touchdowns for the Vikings that year wondered why he never got any love from Zamberletti, the longtime trainer for the Vikings.

“He said to me one time, ‘How come when I score touchdowns you don’t pat me on the back?’ I had to think about that quickly,” Zamberletti said with a smile as he recalled the interaction with Moss. “I said, ‘Because I know you’re going to do it again.’ He said, ‘You’re right.’

“That settled that,” Zamberletti said.

The 1998 season was Moss’ first with Minnesota and Zamberletti’s last as the team’s Head Athletic Trainer, a role he had held for almost 40 years. He was the Coordinator of Medical Services from 1999 to 2001 and has been a Consultant/Team Historian ever since.

The trainer from Iowa and the wide receiver from West Virginia bonded over the years, playing pickup basketball in the offseason and chatting their childhoods in coal mining country.

Zamberletti is one of 21 members of the Vikings Ring of Honor, a number that will soon grow to 23 with the additions of Moss and Rashad.

When Moss was surprised with the induction announcement in June, he spoke about the people who helped him secure a place in Vikings lore.

And he made sure to place a phone call to someone special to him.

“He called me up,” Zamberletti said. “I told him, ‘It’s an honor to have you in the Ring of Honor.’ ”

Moss responded: “No, it’s an honor for me to be with you in the Ring of Honor.”