MINNEAPOLIS — Whether it was direct family members or friends, longtime fans or those newer to the fold, Vikings Legends or Twin Cities media members, all attending agreed Bud Grant's accomplished and remarkable life was well worth celebrating.
A head coach can make a difference to his assistants and players, inspiring fans and the community along the way.
An icon can leave a lasting legacy.
Bud Grant did all the above, and he did it his way.
Bud was never accused of using too many words, but he effectively communicated. He guided and laid out the ground rules, but he understood the value of leadership by players.
Bud hunted but always appreciated nature. He valued family time and never let the outcome of a game affect his home life.
Bud earned players' love and rivals' respect.
His contemporaries passed their admiration to younger generations.
People traveled from Winnipeg, Canada, where Grant's coaching career began, Texas, Ohio, Illinois and Tennessee to celebrate Grant during a ceremony at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday. There were plenty of Minnesotans in the crowd, too, on what would have been the day after his 96th birthday.
And the ages of attendees ranged from infant to 103.
View photos from the public celebration of life for Vikings Legend Bud Grant at U.S. Bank Stadium on May 21, 2023.
Mark Rosen emceed the event that included discussions with Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, who formed a genuine relationship with Grant in his first year in the role through weekly in-season lunches, and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whose late father, Jim, covered Bud's leadership of the Vikings.
Mike Grant, one of Bud's six children and Eden Prairie high school football coach, delivered a speech and participated in a panel with outdoors enthusiast Ron Schara and Paul Wiggin, one of Grant's former assistant coaches who shifted to the Vikings personnel department and remains a consultant.
Mike Max, Chad Hartman, Patrick Reusse and Dan Barreiro participated in a panel of media members, before Rosen spoke with Vikings Legends Carl Eller, Chuck Foreman, Scott Studwell and Stu Voigt.
Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton and Vikings Ring of Honor members Jim Marshall and Ahmad Rashad shared their thoughts on Bud through video messages. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also sent a video message.
In homage to Bud's love for ice cream, the Vikings provided free ice cream sandwiches for attendees when the event concluded.
The program was livestreamed and is preserved in a video for Vikings.com. The whole thing is worth a watch, but I'd also like to relay some highlights from the speakers/panels below.
Mike Grant Speech
Grant described how he and his siblings are still known as Bud's son/daughter in primary descriptions, but they don't mind.
He talked about how his father and that generation survived the Great Depression when a hardware store owner would allow Bud to touch a wooden baseball bat on Saturdays. Bud developed his pitching accuracy by throwing rocks at telephone poles.
"My family, like all families, had some heartaches, including my mom with Parkinson's and losing my brother Bruce to glioblastoma, and now my dad, but we are no different than any other Minnesota family," Grant said. "We all go through these things. We just happen to have a father and grandfather and great grandfather who was and is the most recognizable sports figure in Minnesota sports. My sisters Kathy and Laurie and brothers Pete and Dan want to thank you for all your support and your love for our dad. We fully realize that we shared our dad with the people of the Upper Midwest.
"I think in many ways to all of you, he was an old friend," Grant added. "People would see him out and about, and he was happy to visit. They saw him as one of their own. He would sit and talk to people at his garage sales, and people felt he was just the common man."
Fran Tarkenton Message
Tarkenton lost count of the times he was asked about playing for Bud. His response never changed.
"I told them, 'If you can't play for Bud Grant, you can't play for anybody,' " Tarkenton said. "He was the most genuine, authentic person I've ever known. He wasn't trying to be [Vince] Lombardi or [Tom] Landry or [Don] Shula, or anybody else. He was just himself, and his way was usually the exact right way.
"Bud will never leave my life. I will draw on all the blessings and stories and ideas that he shared with me forever," Tarkenton added. "He taught me more than anyone else in my life. He'd not only make you a better player, he'd make you a better person.
"There will never be another person like Bud Grant. He'll always be my mentor, my coach."
Jim Marshall Message
"It was always a pleasure to talk to Bud about all kinds of situations. He had an answer for everything, and if he didn't have the answer, he'd make you think he had the answer," Marshall said. "That's the type of guy he was. He was a great communicator and had the ability to talk to the team.
"He had his own language and his own way pointing to you – if he wanted you to do something and it was time to get it done, he might just give you a signal," Marshall added. "He was the greatest football coach Minnesota has had. I've had a lot of great coaches, but Bud is number one in my book."
View photos of Vikings Legend Bud Grant during his time with the team following his career as head coach.
Kevin O'Connell's discussion with Rosen
Bud attended O'Connell's introductory press conference in 2022, and video of the interaction by Vikings Entertainment Network illustrated the respect O'Connell already had for Bud. O'Connell proudly introduced his oldest three children to Bud that day. When a fourth child was born during the season, Bud gifted O'Connell's youngest daughter a plush duck; she happened to be holding that duck when O'Connell left his house to attend the ceremony.
"I have a freeze-frame picture of when Bud met my three kids at the time in my office, but I hadn't seen that video. That was really, really special to me," O'Connell said. "I'm just so thankful for the Grant family and everybody for allowing me to be part of this today, because although I didn't know Bud personally for long, it's maybe one of the more impactful relationships I've had over the past year since being blessed to become the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. I don't take that for granted one day."
No matter how busy the season got, O'Connell would keep his weekly lunch with Bud at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
"I look back to some of the conversations, even up to the very last one, the week we played the Giants in the playoffs, there was just wisdom there," O'Connell. "Never overbearing, always authentic, always real from the standpoint of genuinely caring about me, my family, and knowing what it was like times a thousand. His willingness to share anything with me was such a blessing, and I'm so thankful to him for doing that weekly. I'm going to miss that more than anything in Year 2."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar's discussion with Rosen
Klobuchar recalled her phone interactions with Bud, whom she described as "so stoic, so incredible."
"He would call our house, and I would answer at age 7, 'Klobuchar residence, Amy speaking,' and there would be silence. I would say, 'Hello, hello.' And Bud would just say, 'Jim,' " Klobuchar said. "After about three times, I learned the drill so that when he would call and there would be silence, I would just run to get my dad. That was Bud, because he wasn't going to waste any words."
View photos of Vikings head coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bud Grant.
Paul Wiggin's job interview
By the time Wiggin was hired by Bud as a defensive line coach, he had been an NFL and college head coach. He had heard great things about working for Bud and wanted to do well in the job interview. Wiggin prepared heavily for anything he thought Bud might ask.
But the outdoorsman inherent in Bud asked Wiggin about salmon fishing in San Francisco Bay. Wiggin's answer to that question and others were sufficient for Bud, who instructed Wiggin to go work out his contract with former Vikings General Manager Mike Lynn.
"Bud said, 'Before you go – I don't speak Spanish. I understand Spanish.' He said, 'Do you understand what I'm saying to you?'
"And I was on a roll, so I said, 'Yeah, I knew, and I'd go out in the hall,' and I had no idea what the hell he was talking about," Wiggin said. "I thought about it before I went down to see Mike Lynn, and what he explained to me is, 'I don't know how to make a great coach on the defensive line, but I know what one is, so I hired you to be that.' He just had a way of doing that.
"He was one of the most unique human beings. I said, 'This is a football coach.' I thought I was sitting beside an ancient philosopher," Wiggin said. "He was, to me, a tremendous influence in my life. Unfortunately, it came at a later date. I wish I had met him and had that opportunity when I was a young guy. He was magical to us. And the thing I remember the most about the command factor. These players were great players and fun-loving players, and they began laughing and having fun in the meeting room. In would walk Bud, and all of a sudden, dead silence. The faces turned and focused completely on Bud Grant. I said, 'Wow, that is command.' "
Chad Hartman on the secret start to his father's relationship with Bud
Bud and Sid Hartman first met when Bud was in town visiting the Twin Cities. The intrepid reporter wasted no time in asking Bud if he planned to play athletics at the University of Minnesota. They became so close that Bud asked Sid to present him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Chad recalled the tears in his father's eyes when explaining that Bud had asked him to do the honors and shared a glimpse at Bud's humor.
"One time I was a teenager, and it was just me and Bud sitting at the table. Bud was so quiet at the time, I'm thinking, 'What are we going to talk about?' " Chad said. "Bud looks at me and says, 'Do you know why I became friends with your father?' I'm thinking, 'Wow, I'm going to learn a lot.' And he says, 'Your father had a car.' And I said, 'Anything else?' and he goes, 'Not at the time.' "
Ahmad Rashad Message
Rashad's start to his pro career was quite rocky, but Bud gave the receiver a chance, and he also made it a point to pronounce his name correctly. Rashad is best known for his remarkable catch on the pass from Tommy Kramer to complete the Miracle at the Met, sending the 1980 Vikings back to the playoffs again, but the relationship ran much deeper than that long toss.
"He was a mentor and friend to many of us. His passion for football was infectious. He had an uncanny ability to inspire and motivate his players," Rashad said. "It brought the best out of me. He taught us not only how to be better athletes but also how to be better human beings.
"He knew how to look at people and see the potential they had and then bring it out of them. Coach was a man of integrity. He always lived by example and taught us the importance of sportsmanship and instilled in us a sense of pride and respect for ourselves, our teammates and opponents. We will miss him dearly."
Scott Studwell on Bud's lasting legacy
Years after the 1977 NFL Draft, Bud told Vikings.com about how he stood on the table for Studwell, who went from a ninth-round pick (250th overall) to the leading tackler in franchise history.
Studwell transitioned to the front office after his playing days, and his relationship with Bud continued to flourish.
"He had such great common sense, and it's something I think has stuck with me from the minute he first said hello to me until his last breath. He's one of the smartest people I've ever met.
"When I heard about Bud's passing, the first thing that came to my mind was, 'Bud's not supposed to die. Bud's supposed to live forever.' That's the kind of aura that he had," Studwell later added before joking, "Maybe it's because he was too cheap to die.
"Bud Grant and success are synonymous. Everything that the Vikings have been about, what they're currently all about is the success that Bud Grant instilled in upper management, players, all the way through to his coaches, this community, Vikings fans, it's all about winning and all about being successful," he continued. "Unfortunately, we haven't brought the big trophy here yet. I think Kevin is going to end up doing that one of these days, but all the people are going to be behind Bud, tugging on his coattails because he's going to be the first one in the door, and that's the way it should be."