Everyone loves a good underdog. It’s the thrill of an upset that makes college basketball’s March Madness so exciting. And when one of the tournament’s underdogs goes on a deep run to hang with the high seeds and chase immortality, we call it a “Cinderella story.”
While college basketball’s March Madness and the underdogs that keep us on the edge of our seats are interesting, we are all on vikings.com because we love football. So let’s ride the coattails of college basketball’s current Cinderella stories by looking back at some of the best Cinderella stories in Vikings history.
Here is my top ten…
1. John Randle
Randle’s career is one that proves nothing is impossible. He was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 1990 and is now a Hall of Famer. Randle recorded double digit sacks during eight different seasons, including a career-high and league-leading 15.5 sacks in 1997, and he led the Vikings in sacks nine different times (eight years consecutively).
2. Scott Studwell
A ninth-round pick in 1977, Studwell to this day remains an integral part of the organization as the team’s Director of College Scouting. He was linebacker for 14 seasons (1977-90) and is the standard by which all other Vikings ‘backers are measured. Studwell is the franchise career leader in combined tackles (1,981), defensive tackles (1,928), single-season tackles (230 - 1981) and single-game tackles (24 at Detroit 11/17/85).
3. Cris Carter
A fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1987 Supplemental Draft, Carter was ultimately cut by the Eagles and claimed off waivers by the Vikings in 1990. The rest, as they say, is history. The most prolific receiver in franchise history and now a Hall of Famer, Carter was a staple of the Vikings offense for over a decade and is the Vikings career leader in receptions (1,004), receiving yards (12,383) and receiving TDs (110).
4. Mick Tingelhoff
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 and four Super Bowls. Tingelhoff was named to seven consecutive All-Pro teams.
5. Wally Hilgenberg
Hilgenberg was claimed off waivers by the Vikings in 1968 from the Pittsburgh Steelers. He started 116 of the 157 games he played for Minnesota, and is one of just 10 players to have played in all four of the team’s Super Bowl appearances. Hilgenberg is tied for 21st on the franchise’s career games played list.
6. Gary Larsen and Doug Sutherland
This duo combined to hold down a spot among the Purple People Eaters from 1965 to the early 1980s. Larsen, a 10th-round pick out of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, held his ground down in the trenches and was a driving force in stopping the run game, as he became a staple on a Vikings team that was the top ranked defense in 1969 and 1970. Sutherland was a 14th-round pick out of the University of Wisconsin-Superior and played in three of the Vikings four Super Bowls.
7. Matt Birk
Born and raised in Saint Paul, Birk went on to star for his hometown team for 11 seasons. He had never played center until the Vikings moved him to the position and he flourished there, blocking for six 1,000-yard rushers. Vikings running backs surpassed the 100-yard mark 45 times in Birk’s career.
8. Carl Lee
A seventh-round pick in 1983, Lee developed into a big-time player over 11 seasons with the Vikings and was a key part of defenses that helped lead the Vikings through deep playoff runs in 1987-89. He had 29 interceptions and six fumble recoveries as a Viking.
9. Brad Johnson
A ninth-round pick in 1992, Johnson enjoyed two stints with the Vikings (1992-98, 2005-06). He still ranks second in Vikings history in career passer rating (82.5) and career completion percentage (62.0), and he won 28 of his 46 starts (.608) in Minnesota.
10. Jim Kleinsasser
Born in Carrington, North Dakota and a product of the University of North Dakota, Kleinsasser came from a small town but brought big-time results for well over a decade. At the time of his retirement, Kleinsasser was the longest-tenured pro athlete with their team in the Twins Cities. He set career highs in 2003 with 46 receptions, 401 yards and four touchdowns, and he blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in eight of his seasons.
OG David Dixon
S Robert Griffith
LB Heath Farwell
QB Joe Kapp
WR Leo Lewis
LB Ed McDaniel
RB Dave Osborn
OG Milt Sunde
TE Stu Voigt
LB Lonnie Warwick
WR Gene Washington