EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings are mourning the loss of a man who never missed a moment during a storied 17-season career.
Mick Tingelhoff passed away Saturday at the age of 81.
Tingelhoff started an incredible 240 games for the Vikings, the most in a row by any NFL center and second-most of any player in franchise history behind Jim Marshall's 270 at defensive end. He also handled long-snapping duties in an era that predated such specialization.
The Wilf family ownership group of the Vikings described Tingelhoff as the "anchor" of the team through some of the best seasons in NFL history.
"Mick Tingelhoff was the anchor of the great Vikings teams during an amazing era that included four Super Bowls," the Wilf family said in a statement. "A humble but strong leader, he defined toughness. Mick's legacy will live on as a Hall of Famer, on the field and off the field. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."
View images of Pro Football Hall of Famer and Vikings Legend Mick Tingelhoff.
Tingelhoff's career began as an undrafted free agent linebacker in 1962. He shifted to center in Minnesota's second preseason game and went on to start all 14 games at the position — the only Vikings rookie center to open every game until Garrett Bradbury did so for all 16 of the 2019 season.
A run of six consecutive Pro Bowls for Tingelhoff began in 1964. He also earned the first of his five selections to the All-Pro First Team for his role in helping Minnesota record the first winning season in franchise history (8-5-1).
Tingelhoff was instrumental in Minnesota's transformation from a fledgling franchise into a divisional dynasty. Minnesota won the NFL or NFC Central 10 times in Tingelhoff's final 11 seasons and advanced to Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX and XI.
Hall of Fame Head Coach Bud Grant, who coached Tingelhoff from 1967-78, described the center as a "pillar" that supported the success of the team.
"When we came to the Vikings, Mick was the pillar of what we built our team around, he and Jim Marshall. Mick led by example," Grant said. "His toughness and his durability and intelligence, he was a great football player and one of the greatest Vikings of all-time. I loved Mick Tingelhoff."
Tingelhoff's No. 53 jersey was retired by the Vikings on Nov. 25, 2001, the same day that he was inducted to the Vikings Ring of Honor. He had to wait another decade-and-a-half, however, for his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Aug. 8, 2015).
A member of the Minnesota Vikings 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams, Tingelhoff also was named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings in 2010.
Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton proudly presented his "best friend" for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
"I came to the Vikings a year before Mick, but we left at the same time. He was my guy," Tarkenton said Saturday after learning the news. "He played 17 years, never missed a game, never missed a practice. Mick was my best friend by far."
A little more than six years earlier, Tarkenton and Tingelhoff stood shoulder-to-shoulder in Canton, Ohio.
"Mick's a man of little words, but a lot of action," Tarkenton told a crowd of more than 22,000 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. "He's so proud to be in this Class of 2015."
Tarkenton choked up when he said Tingelhoff "waited 37 years," before adding, "but Mick's in the Hall of Fame."