View images from the team's private tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 11.
CANTON, Ohio —Current Vikings players learned more about the history of football, the franchise's past and more about their own coaches on Saturday moments after landing at the Akron-Canton Airport.
The stroll back through time in the cradle of pro football occurred 95 years after the organization of the American Pro Football Association (name changed to National Football League in 1922) and included a glimpse into the future with the display of the Lombardi trophy that will be awarded to the winner of the 50th Super Bowl.
View exclusive images from Mick Tingelhoff's Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio.
The visit occurred footsteps from where the Vikings and Steelers began their quest for glory in the Hall of Fame Game to open the 2015 preseason. The other 30 other teams will join in this week, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting the Vikings at 7 p.m. Saturday.
In addition to prevailing over the Steelers 14-3, the Vikings gained a greater understanding of the sport's history.
"I think they appreciate all the people that have played before them and what they've done for the game," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "It's nice to see this year's Super Bowl trophy. I think the guys really liked seeing all the Super Bowl rings and then a lot of the past history of former great Vikings."
Players were able to view the bronze busts of 12 Hall of Famers who have been enshrined as Vikings as well as the shelf that was awaiting the likeness of 2015 inductee Mick Tingelhoff moments before Tingelhoff was emotionally presented by Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton inside the stadium.
Here are six highlights from the Vikings visit:
1) Chad Greenway located each Vikings bust and took a close look at Tingelhoff's helmet, jersey and the logos of the Duluth Eskimos (1926-27).
"It was an incredible trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Greenway said. "I have so much respect for all the players that came before me and seeing all the greats honored like that was something I will always remember. I'm excited to be a part of the Hall of Fame Weekend. It was great to play in this game and visit Canton, Ohio."
2) Long snapper Cullen Loeffler, who at 12 seasons and 171 games is the longest-tenured Viking, wanted to find the likeness of another Texas native who also played collegiately for the Longhorns.
"The Tyler Rose," Loeffler said as he spotted Earl Campbell in the Class of 1991.
"He embodies so much of our program and does so much in and around Austin that it's pretty neat," Loeffler said. "Watching his old film, you just forget how intense of a player he was and how reckless he was. He's one of those guys that couldn't be touched, couldn't be slowed down, even when they knew he was getting the ball. It was amazing."
Loeffler took his time reflecting on the other exhibits as well and was impressed by his first trip to the Hall of Fame.
"It's actually performing as well as I thought it would," Loeffler said.
Running back Joe Banyard, meanwhile, took note of a display of "Slingin' " Sammy Baugh, who starred in high school for Sweetwater, Texas — Banyard's hometown — before Baugh's legendary career.
Banyard's punctuated his experience with a trip across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown the following night.
3) Vikings players saw the image of another familiar face, Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, on display in a picture from when Turner presented Troy Aikman in the Class of 2006.
The complete version of Turner's speech is available here, but this excerpt is Turner reminiscing about the time he met Aikman:
"I remember it like it was yesterday, the first time I met Troy Aikman. He was standing in a meeting room. He had his arm in a sling. He was recovering from shoulder surgery. He had been slammed to the turf at the Vet by Clyde Simmons. I think Reggie (White) got in on that one also.
*"I joked to Troy, We've got to get you to get rid of that ball a little quicker. He didn't laugh. In fact, he gave me that look he can give you that says, hey, let's get to work." *
Turner and Aikman have remained great friends, and Aikman has visited Winter Park the past two years.
Zimmer was invited to that enshrinement, but was unable to attend because of his duties as Dallas' defensive coordinator. He said he enjoyed seeing the busts of the players he coached with the Cowboys: Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and was happy for 2015 inductee Charles Haley.
4) Adrian Peterson's single-game record of 296 rushing yards was noted on a wall display, as well as his pursuit of the season rushing record during his 2012 NFL MVP season. Peterson eyeballed a jersey of Hall of Famer Walter Payton in the gift shop, but said he already has one. Gerald Hodges, meanwhile, bought jerseys of Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Lawrence Taylor.
"The tour was an opportunity to soak up the history of the sport and appreciate the players who came before us," said Peterson, who aims to return to Canton someday as an enshrinee. "Seeing the accomplishments of the best players in the game is both humbling and motivating. It gives you that desire to continue working on your goals as a team and your individual craft."
The museum also includes interactive displays like being able to go under the hood and interpret a play like an official does with use of instant replay. Fullback Zach Line correctly overturned a ruling on the field (ironically of a past play that involved Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger).
5) Video game displays drew some of the younger players like Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes to a matchup on Xbox toward the end of the visit, but the virtual action couldn't compete with the sites of the Super Bowl rings.
"This was my second trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I enjoyed going through it with all of my teammates," Smith said. "It's great to get a reminder of all those historic players that paved the way for us today. Seeing some of the great defensive backs that I looked up to as a kid was my favorite part of the tour."
The museum includes the display of a safety who predated Smith, but one that also wore a purple 22 jersey. The one on display was worn by Hall of Famer Paul Krause on Dec. 2, 1979, when he broke Emlen Tunnell's career interceptions record. Krause still holds the mark with 81, including 53 as a Viking.
6) Another display included the jersey and cleats from when Cordarrelle Patterson delivered an NFL-record 109-yard kickoff return in his 2013 rookie season.
"To see my jersey and cleats in the Pro Football Hall of Fame was an unbelievable feeling," Patterson said. "To be side-by-side with some of the game's best players is an honor. I walked around with a group of the WRs, and our favorite part was seeing all of the Super Bowl rings. That's our goal, to put a Vikings ring in there."