Note: This weekend's events celebrating Ahmad Rashad will be featured on tonight's episode of Skol Stories on KFAN 100.3-FM at 6:30 p.m. The episode also will be available in on-demand format via the Vikings App under the audio section.
MINNEAPOLIS — Ahmad Rashad officially became the 23rd member of the Vikings Ring of Honor over the weekend.
Fans who attended Sunday's game were able to celebrate the receiver during a halftime ceremony in which he was presented with a ring by Vikings Owners Zygi Wilf, Mark Wilf and Lenny Wilf.
Rashad took the stage, sporting his Purple Jacket accented with purple sneakers and explained his appreciation for his time with the Vikings and continued relationship with Minnesota and the North.
"This is such a wonderful moment in my life," Rashad said. "First of all, I want to thank the Wilf's for their commitment to excellence.
"When I first came to Minnesota, I had a love affair with the city, this team, the fan and just was sort of my coming out party in life," Rashad added. "Everywhere I went since then, I felt I represented Minnesota, and I still feel I represent Minnesota."
Rashad also thanked teammates, many of whom were on the field with him Sunday as part of Vikings Legends Reunion Weekend, and fans before his name and Number 28 also were unveiled on the façade of the upper level of the U.S. Bank Stadium.
The festivities began two days prior with a Purple Jacket Ceremony that was open to the public for the first time.
Mark Rosen emceed the ceremony, and several former teammates delivered comments about Rashad's on-field talent and off-field gifts that impacted and inspired others.
Rashad played for the Vikings from 1976-82 and totaled 400 receptions, 5,489 yards and 34 touchdowns with Minnesota. Rashad made four straight Pro Bowls and became the first Viking to have consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Former teammates Greg Coleman, Mark Mullaney, Sammy White, Jeff Siemon, Bobby Bryant, Tommy Kramer, Chuck Foreman and Hall of Famers Paul Krause and Carl Eller shared memories with the crowd.
Coleman recalled receiving his nickname "Touch" from Rashad after demonstrating his accuracy by punting footballs into garbage cans during a tryout practice.
"You don't know how many folks you have influenced over the years, but I am one of those Rashad disciples," Coleman said.
Mullaney laid the foundation for how intimidating his father, "Big Ed," was to himself and teammates before explaining how impressed "Big Ed" was the first time he met Rashad.
"He said, 'You know what? Ahmad is going to be very successful in this lifetime. I haven't met too many people that have had the charisma, smile, personality, intelligence and looks that this man has. He's going to go on to do great things,' " Mullaney remembered. "I said, 'Wow.'
"My dad was the biggest critic in the world," Mullaney continued. "When he said that, I watched him, and I respect what he did because he redefined the position. He made life look easy. He made football look easy. When he caught the ball, it seemed effortless."
Siemon, a former Stanford linebacker, had played against Rashad when he was a running back with the Oregon Ducks.
"It is truly a high privilege and honor to be able to offer my sentiments about Ahmad Rashad as he's being inducted to the Vikings Ring of Honor," Siemon said. "I think it's very appropriate that he receive this exceptional recognition because Ahmad is, without question, one of the, if not the best wide receiver that's ever worn a Vikings uniform. We all know that we've had some great ones these many years in Minnesota."
Bryant described matching up with Rashad when the receiver was a rookie with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972. After going to Buffalo in 1974, Rashad missed all of 1975 because of a knee injury. He was selected by Seattle in the 1976 expansion draft but acquired by the Vikings before that season after special input from Fran Tarkenton.
"Fortunately, he got traded to the Minnesota Vikings, and he beat me every day in practice," Bryant said. "Ahmad made me a better defensive back and made the Minnesota Vikings a better team. He made some great plays over the years, and just think what he could have done if Bud had let us wear gloves.
"The guys today wear those tacky gloves, and they catch the ball in all kinds of weather," Bryant added. "It was hard to catch a pass when the temperature was 13-below zero, but Ahmad was not only a great receiver, he was a great teammate and great person. It was privilege to play against him. It was more of a privilege to play with him."
Vikings Legend Ahmad Rashad received his Purple Jacket in advance of going into the Ring of Honor on Sunday.
Kramer recalled working on routes and communication that would help he and Rashad and Kramer respond to and beat double teams.
"I was a young kid when I got the chance to start and play with Ahmad, so I said, 'Ahmad, let's go down to Lakeville High School.' He says, 'Why?' I said, 'Well, you're getting double-teamed every play. We're going to have to figure out another way to get it done.'
"So we go down there in June until training camp opened, and I tell you what, every time Ahmad was in the situation, we would make an adjustment that we knew we were going to make against double coverage, so regardless of what the route was, stay on one guy and push him out or go to the inside guy and break back away from it. He remembered all of it," Kramer added. "I'm so proud to be a teammate of yours. This is just a tremendous honor for you, and I love you."
Foreman and Krause each spent moments talking about the friendship with Rashad, and Eller told stories of how they roomed together when Rashad first arrived and traveled to Europe and Asia together.
"In my lifetime, I haven't met many people that I can put in the category of one of the finest people I've ever met, one of the smartest people I've ever met, and somebody I can call if I have something on my mind," Foreman said. "That's important to me and tells me about the quality of man you are."
Added Krause: "Ahmad has been probably one of the special Vikings because he's always been a friend to all of us. I don't think there's a teammate that he had that he wasn't a friend to. That's what I look up to the most about Ahmad because he got along with everybody. That was fantastic and what it took."
Before the ceremony, Vikings.com also caught up with Rickey Young, who teamed with Rashad from 1978-82. Young recalled laughing with Rashad so much that Grant reconfigured the huddle. He also had a humorous memory off the field.
"Ahmad bought a house out there and was trying to clear some trees out to put in a pool," Young said. "We're all out there and have the chain saw, and the trees are probably as big around as this [he pointed to a light stand pole with a circumference smaller than a quarter]. Mick Tingelhoff comes over and says, 'What the hell are you guys doing with a chain saw?' He walks over, steps on a tree, breaks it and pulls it out of the ground.
" 'Mick, you're wrecking our fun,' " Young rolled with laughter years after the fact.
Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren spoke on behalf of the Wilfs on Friday evening because they were observing Yom Kippur and unable to attend.
"This day has been a long time coming," Warren said. "People talk about a lot of your awards, the Pro Bowls, being a Pro Bowl MVP, the many things you did. Some of the things I'm most impressed about is you were the first receiver to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in Vikings history.
"What makes that so impressive is you didn't have this facility," Warren said. "If you had played here, there's no telling what you would have done. You were playing at the Met where it was cold, with no gloves. The other thing is you had six seasons of 50 catches or more. All of the things you were able to accomplish here are absolutely amazing."
Hall of Fame Head Coach Bud Grant also wanted to attend but the evening overlapped with an annual duck hunting trip that Grant takes to Canada. Grant sent his regards in a video.
"You're joining an illustrious group of Vikings, and that's quite an honor," Grant said. "I happen to be in there myself and feel that's one of the greatest honors I have. Wearing the Purple is a special designation, and all of the people that you have joined are definitely Purple People of the Vikings.
"It's hard to go through the whole history of your career here, but as a coach, people many times ask who are your best players, greatest players or special players, the players you felt were the most deserving," Grant continued. "As a coach, you don't have the best or the greatest. You're beholden to too many of you guys. What a coach does have are special players … Ahmad, you were a special player."