MINNEAPOLIS — Pro Football Hall of Famers Bud Grant and Paul Krause go way, way back.
The legendary coach and safety — who were former teammates during the bocce ball tournament days of Vikings Training Camp — reconnected recently to pay tribute to another Vikings Legend and help pay it forward.
Grant and Krause participated in a discussion during the NFL Alumni Minnesota Chapter's 37th annual "Caring for Kids" Gala, sharing fond memories of fullback Bill Brown, who passed away in November at age 80.
"Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen and former Vikings punter Greg Coleman served as emcees.
This year's gala included a video tribute to Brown, who was chosen as one of the 50 Greatest Vikings in 2010. Brown's gritty and reliable team-first approach got the job done on the field time and time again. He also displayed his heart for helping others through off-field work with the NFL Alumni Minnesota Chapter and other civic organizations.
Grant explained that when he was coaching in Winnipeg, original Vikings Head Coach Norm Van Brocklin would let him watch Minnesota's film.
"I kept seeing number 30 (Brown). 'Man, that's a really good football player.' I didn't know at that time that I was going to come down here and coach, but when I got the job here, there were four numbers that I remembered," Grant recalled. "I didn't remember names, but I remembered number 81, which was Carl Eller of course, number 70 (Jim Marshall), number 53 (Mick Tingelhoff) and number 30. Those were four numbers I knew.
"This guy, Bill Brown, when I got here, I didn't realize how good a football player he was. He was our best blocker, our best pass receiver, our best runner, our best enthusiasm player on the team. He was a complete football player," he continued. "You couldn't make a mold and come up with anything other than Bill Brown, a perfect mold for a football player. His mental abilities were tremendous. If [Fran] Tarkenton ever threw an interception, there were two guys who could make the tackle: Bill Brown or Mick Tingelhoff. He could have played linebacker. I can't say enough about his ability and his enthusiasm. He was the whole team."
Grant also remembered Brown "hollering" at Los Angeles Rams players to set the tone for a cold playoff game at Metropolitan Stadium.
"He had scabs on his elbows from blocking and pulled the scabs off his arm so he had blood running down his arms," Grant said. "This was before the game."
Krause said Brown "was the most fantastic personality I've ever seen."
"He didn't have an enemy, unless it was the opposing team. He could irritate them," Krause said. "You knew he was in the room."
"One night in training camp, you're working out every day twice a day with everything, if you went to bed at night, you should be sleeping. Brownie says, 'Let's play cards.' We played cards, and he says, 'Let's go get some more guys,' and all of a sudden there was a big poker game. Bud walks in through the door, 'You guys aren't real smart. I'm right below you, and I can hear everything that's going on. Enough's enough. Go to bed.' Everybody left, and Brownie says, 'Hey Krause, you want to play some more cribbage?' "
Grant explained to Vikings.com about Brown's "big, booming voice" and how he "was always in good spirits."
"He liked being around people, he liked his teammates, was easy to coach," Grant said. "He was an asset to anything he ever did in his life. He was a big asset. It's an honor to even talk about Bill Brown because you can't have favorite players as a coach, but you're beholden to a lot of players. I'm beholden to Bill Brown because he was an inspiration to anybody who ever played with him or was around him."
Krause told Vikings.com, "Bill Brown is a legacy, period."
"I had the opportunity out there and the duty to live with him in training camp and on the road for eight years," Krause added. "I know Bill Brown. He was just a class guy, a great, great friend and teammate."
In addition to Brown, the chapter observed a moment of silence for Mark Merrill, Keith Fahnhorst, Wade Wilson, Duane Benson, Keith Nord, John Michels, Tony Sparano, Bruce Grant, Fred Zamberletti and Diane Sims Page, the wife of Hall of Famer Alan Page.
The gala also included a presentation by Newborn Foundation Co-Founder Annamarie Saarinen and her daughter Eve, who was diagnosed with congenital heart disease when she was 48 hours old. Newborn Foundation is one of the dozens of nonprofits that receives funds from the NFL Alumni Minnesota Chapter. It is the only international organization of its kind solely focused on leveraging health IT and technology innovation to improve outcomes and reduce disparities for the newest, most vulnerable citizens.
Former Vikings safety (1979-82) and East Grand Forks native Kurt Knoff is the president of the NFL Alumni Minnesota Chapter. He said helping the community's young people is paramount.
"We've been doing this a long time," Knoff said. "There's a lot of former players — most of them played for the Vikings that make the Twin Cities their home. We have two events a year and raise about $200,000 a year that we distribute to different children's charities.""
"We spread it out to 10 or 15 different children's charities in the Twin Cities, and we're really proud of that," Knoff explained. "We've given $4 million over the last 25 or 30 years. That's what we've raised and distributed. … The alumni in town do a fabulous job. There's a lot of them here. You ask them to roll up their sleeves, get involved and show up, they're gracious enough where they show up, and we appreciate that."
The 36th annual golf tournament will be held June 24 at Bearpath Golf & Country Club. For more information, visit mn.nflalumni.org.
Organizations that have received help from the chapter include the following:
Athletes for Education
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Children's Cancer Research Fund
Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota
Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Gift of Adoption
Habitat for Humanity
MN Adult & Teen Challenge
MN Twins Community Fund
Minnesota Vikings Foundation
Northern Star Scouting
Page Education Foundation
YMCA Camp Menogyn