*EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — *Seasons have changed quite a few times since Ahmad Rashad joined teammates on the practice fields at Winter Park or helped open the former Metrodome in 1982.
The memories of what Rashad and his teammates accomplished, however, have remained strong for the four-time Pro Bowl receiver.
Now, Rashad will rejoin several former teammates at the Vikings new home, U.S. Bank Stadium, via his induction into the Vikings Ring of Honor.
“It probably is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me, the most important thing that’s ever happened to me,” Rashad said Wednesday during a press conference shortly after he and Randy Moss were announced by Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf as 2017 entrants.
“I’ve won Emmy Awards. I’ve won receiving titles, all of those things, but this is closer to my heart,” Rashad added. “I’ve always said that, ‘Once a Viking, always a Viking.’ You don’t ever get out of that, and [the Wilf Ownership group] has shown that; that it is a wonderful fraternity. We respect everybody. We really are the North, and we take that with pride. Looking at this, I don’t think there’s anything in my athletic career that can top winning this honor. There’s just absolutely nothing else.”
Rashad said going into the Ring of Honor with Moss, who joined the Vikings nearly two decades after Rashad’s final snap, “is just absolutely wonderful.”
“I’ve always been a big fan of his,” Rashad said.
Both players are former first-round picks. Rashad was selected fourth overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972. He arrived in Minnesota in 1976 and flourished, posting six consecutive seasons with at least 51 catches and 671 yards. He became the first Vikings receiver to record more than 1,000 receiving yards in two straight seasons.
Rashad totaled 400 passes for 5,489 yards and 34 touchdowns in seven seasons with the Vikings and made four straight Pro Bowls (1978-81).
The Oregon native who starred collegiately for the Ducks bonded with the likes of previous Ring of Honor inductees Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Paul Krause, Jim Marshall, Ron Yary, Mick Tingelhoff, Carl Eller, Chuck Foreman, Scott Studwell and Matt Blair through bruises incurred at training camps.
“I fell in love with this place, I fell in love with the people, with the Vikings,” Rashad said. “There was a certain pride. We had Marshall, Page, Eller, Tarkenton. We had household names, and you must understand that the Minnesota Vikings were one of the premier teams in all of football.”
Rashad and Moss both spoke to current Vikings players after minicamp practice, during which Rashad stressed to this generation of the Vikings family that, “These are things that you never forget. You don’t ever forget your football career.”
“It’s almost like high school, when you think about all of the guys on the high school team, if you’re fortunate enough, it moves on to college and you think about all of the things that you’ve learned from people, lessons of life,” Rashad said. “If you’re really lucky enough, you get to do it for a living.
View behind-the-scenes images of legends Randy Moss and Ahmad Rashad as the two wide receivers visited practice and were told by Vikngs Owner Mark Wilf that they will be inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor in 2017.
“When I see Scott Studwell, Scott Studwell is like my brother,” Rashad added. “We played so hard together, it’s more of a chance to one day drive down the street, have that memory pass through your mind and have a big old smile come over your face, ‘That was really one of the most wonderful times in my life,’ and that’s pretty much what it was.”
Rashad said he’s grateful for the ways in which the Wilf Ownership, General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer have helped connect decades of Vikings.
“To watch the way they’ve evolved since I was here, when I watched the Wilfs take over, they took the organization from here all the way up to here,” Rashad said, motioning with hands that caught a famous Hail Mary to clinch a division title (against Cleveland on Dec. 14, 1980) and a team-record four touchdowns (vs. San Francisco on Sept. 2, 1979). “The things that they promised they’d do, they’ve done. It’s a very proud organization. Normally organizations start at the top. They don’t start at the bottom. This is one of the great ownerships in all of sports, and it’s just a great thing for all Minnesotans that are involved.”
Rashad experienced significant success on television after his playing career and used his on-camera talent to help the Vikings open U.S. Bank Stadium in a signature video that was played before Minnesota defeated Green Bay 17-14 in Week 2 last season.
It was quite appropriate for Rashad, who totaled 73 receptions for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns in 15 career games against the Packers, to rev up the crowd for the rivalry game.
Rashad said U.S. Bank Stadium is “one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. It is fitting that it’s here in Minneapolis.”
He closed with laying out a goal for the current Vikings to become the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium in February 2018.
“Here’s my goal, that we use our own locker room for the Super Bowl. That’s the goal, and that’s a hell of a goal,” Rashad said. “We’re playing in our spot. Why shouldn’t we use our own locker room? I think that’s something that guys have got to get. You’re not making it up. We’re not that far away, and it can happen, so hopefully guys get involved like that and it will be the first time in the history of the NFL.”