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Assistant to 4 Vikings Head Coaches Retires After 18 Seasons


EAGAN, Minn. — Eighteen Vikings seasons, four head coaches, three home venues, two team headquarters and one tremendous heart for helping others.

Mary Redmond's Vikings tenure as Assistant to the Head Coach has concluded via her retirement in March, wrapping a long legacy of dedicated service and a willingness to go above and beyond expectations.

Colleagues and friends — the family she placed under her wing — gathered in the lobby of Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on March 20 to bid her a fond farewell.

There were smiles and sentimentalities exchanged — happiness for a well-earned retirement slightly outweighing how much her smile and care for others will be missed.

"On behalf of the entire Ownership group, I want to thank you for all of your contributions to the Vikings and everything you've done for our franchise and family," Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf said in a video message to open the remarks. "You joined the Vikings in 2006, not long after we acquired the franchise, and from that time, you've been a consistent, positive presence, always going out of your way to take care of everyone with a smile on your face and a deep sense of care in your heart. We appreciate you and wish you the very best of luck in your retirement."


Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell addressed those gathered and explained how his relationship with Redmond began before he "was lucky enough to walk into this building as the head coach."

"It started in the interview process; I believe it was the third or fourth question that was about Mary. The first one, I get culture, 'What do you think, Coach? Football philosophy? Hey, would you be OK keeping Mary?'

"I said to myself, 'Of course, first of all, but if she's that important to you, she's going to be that important to me and my family.' All I can say is, Mary, you've lived up to what the Wilfs believe you are for this organization and have been for 18 seasons, but for everybody," O'Connell said. "I think it goes without saying that these last two years for me could not have been the joy it's been without you. I feel so blessed to be the head coach of this team, but it's about the people in this building, the personalities, and people who have been here a long time and helped set our path as we move forward. Mary, you have always been that for me."

At the time of the comments from O'Connell, Redmond was seated next to his wife Leah and their four children, including daughter Quinn, who missed gymnastics that evening to attend the reception.

"You really do mean the world to the O'Connell family," O'Connell said. "It's no surprise to see everybody here, knowing the impact that Mary has had on all of us.

"Mary, your impact on this organization cannot be measured. You can't measure things like kindness, thoughtfulness, how generous you are," O'Connell added. "You're caring, loving, you're all those things that I think a lot of times, especially in the work environment, we take for granted. We take for granted the type of impact we can have on one another in this building. I know I take a lot of pride in what we've built here over the last year, but Mary, I know you do, too."

O'Connell often keeps his office door open to the hallway, and Redmond's work station was just outside. It allowed him a deeper appreciation for Redmond's care for others that exceeded her direct job responsibilities.

He said co-workers would come down from another part of the building, and players — particularly Vikings quarterbacks after their meetings — would stop and check in. A quick hello by the visitor would "time and time again" quickly pivot to Redmond checking on visitors and their family members by name.

"You realize we all walk away from our interactions with you feeling better about ourselves, about our day, and that is a unique, 1-on-1 kind of power that this organization is going to need," O'Connell said.

Support beyond the structure

Eighteen seasons is a remarkable run with an NFL franchise, made even more impressive when one considers the dramatic changes that have overlapped. Minnesota shifted from playing at the Metrodome to two seasons outdoors at the University of Minnesota until U.S. Bank Stadium opened in 2016.

The Vikings also packed up their headquarters at Winter Park to move into state-of-the-art Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in March 2018.

Architectural designs can provide iconic looks, but people like Redmond provide the feels through good times and tough times, the lasting impressions.

The four head coaches Redmond supported in Minnesota — Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier, Mike Zimmer and O'Connell — were each first-timers, so she wanted to provide support in any way she could as each adjusted to additional demands of the role.

"I know for sure, Zimmer and Childress would say, 'It's 5 o'clock, and I haven't done any football yet,' because now they're in this role and have never been a head coach," Redmond said. "Just be there, whether you stay late because you never know what each one wants or needs. It might be food, it might be running to get the kids. Each one has been different."

Each developed or refined his preferred way of doing things, and Redmond fully committed to helping out, building trust day by day. She learned how to get to know the person "without getting too personal."

"Probably just knowing their characteristics and how it takes time, learning who they are, how they like to be approached, how they want to communicate, and that's probably been the main thing, reaching out to them," she explained.

Her approach was to be seen as readily available on the spot to provide whatever assistance was requested.

More tasks, more trust.

"She wasn't just an assistant. She was family," Zimmer, hired this offseason as the new defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, explained.

He worked with Redmond from January 2014 to January 2022.

Whether it was helping with logistics for family and guests at football games and practices, snagging his lunch to make sure he ate a bite or even meeting plumbers at his house, Zimmer knew he could count on Redmond.

"Mary was the best one ever. She would go above and beyond all the duty of a normal coach's assistant," Zimmer said. "She wanted to be part of the family. She cared about every coach who was in there. The Vikings are losing a valuable, valuable person from their organization.

"Mary did so many things for us," Zimmer added. "She is a great, great person, and I wish her well in her retirement."

Asked to describe each coach in a few words, Redmond said the following …

On Childress: "tough, resilient, winner"

On Frazier: "composed, calm, competitive"

On Zimmer: "huge heart, competitive, winner, great teacher of the game"

On O'Connell: "passionate, just brings people together; everybody uses collaboration and all that, but bringing everyone together and making them feel important"

A wave of emotion

It's been about a month since Redmond's last day at TCO Performance Center.

Football Operations Manager & Special Assistant to the GM & Head Coach Kaitlin Zarecki still catches herself glancing down the hall and waving good morning, the way she started days that usually involved multiple conversations and collaboration.

"It's hard to describe because she is the most caring person. I was so emotional at her retirement party. I think I learned so much from Mary about how caring for people and little things — I might not be a scout, I might not be a coach, but the little things you can do for people go a long way when working for Coach or Kwesi [Adofo-Mensah] and helping anyone," Zarecki said. "She taught me a lot about empathy and all the little things that make a big difference every day. Sometimes we get caught up in the everyday grind, but she's such a thoughtful, kind person, I had to take a step back sometimes. 'Wow, you really can make a difference, even if you're not on the sidelines.' "

Zarecki began her time with the Vikings in event planning for the business side of the operation but switched to the football side. It was Redmond who stepped into a coaching role, encouraging Zarecki to pursue the opportunity.

"I remember everyone was out at practice, and Mary was like, 'Stop on down. Let's talk about you applying for the assistant job.' She took me into Zim's office, and I was like, 'Should we be doing this?' (Laughs.)

"She's like, 'It's fine, it's fine.' Her and Zim' were so close that she knew exactly what he was going to do and be in, whatever," Zarecki said. "I remember her showing me all the calendars. 'This is what I do.' That was truly when we got close."

Redmond mentioned including an invite to Zarecki's parents for the retirement party, even though she had never met them. Instead, Redmond dropped an Easter card in the mail to them.

"She started writing underneath where the text is on the card," Zarecki explained. "She filled that up, went to the other side, then all the way down the back around the 'Hallmark, $3.99.' It literally went all the way to the bottom corner. Mary, she's so sweet.

"She was one of my biggest cheerleaders for sure when I took this job and always was so patient when she had to teach me stuff," Zarecki added.

At the ceremony, Redmond referred to Zarecki and Senior Manager of Team Operations Chuck Petersen as the kids she never had. She taught them, they taught her, with all parties sincerely caring for the betterment of each other.

"I think I've always wanted to be a doer, help people," Redmond said. "I'm older than these people and am not doing spreadsheets, all these pretty sheets. I've always just loved assisting people. I worked in a health club for years, just trying to make things easier for people if I can save them time; I think it's one of those things I've always enjoyed. I always said I want to be an assistant to somebody and take care of their family and work, just be there to do whatever. Nothing is beneath me.

"I never wanted an office with a door. I wouldn't enjoy what I've done for years because mine's always been open, kind of like a concierge or front desk," she added. "I'm here to help all the desks, not just the one right there. That's been my biggest thing. Each coach needed me a little differently."

Redmond, a South Dakota native, first arrived in Minnesota after five years with the Kansas City Chiefs as the Administrative Assistant to Chiefs VP of Player Personnel Lynn Stiles.

Her retirement forecast is sure to include plenty of sunshine and time at the beach.

It's time for relaxation and a bit of reflection after a job well done.

"It starts with Ownership and relationships with people and the team. It's as simple as that," Redmond said. "I look at the Ownership and what they've done for us to grow and what they've built for us, and then being with so many different coaches, I've been so fortunate to have so many people cross my path."