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Original Viking & 1 of '50 Greatest' Grady Alderman Passes Away

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings are sending condolences to the family of original Vikings left tackle Grady Alderman — one of the "50 Greatest Vikings" — who has passed away at the age of 79.

Alderman (Dec. 10, 1938-April 5, 2018) appeared in 204 NFL regular-season games (194 with the Vikings) and 12 more in the postseason, including the 1969 NFL Championship and Super Bowls IV, VIII and IX. He followed his career on the field with four seasons of broadcasting Vikings games for WCCO radio and eventually became general manager of the Denver Broncos.

"We are saddened to hear of the loss of Grady Alderman," Vikings Owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf said in a statement. "His impact on the Vikings was three-fold — as a great player, as a member of the front office and as a member of our radio broadcasts. Grady epitomized the Vikings work ethic on the field as a Pro Bowl offensive tackle in the early days of the franchise and was a foundation piece for the success of the 1960s and 1970s. Our sympathies are with his family and friends."

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Alderman came to Minnesota via the expansion draft in 1961 after playing his first pro season with the Detroit Lions.

Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton recalled meeting Alderman for the first time in Bemidji at the team's first training camp in 1961.

"Grady Alderman was the first player I met at training camp in Bemidji," Tarkenton said. "He and Mick Tingelhoff went on to be the very best of friends and stayed that way. Grady played left tackle for us and he was everything you would want in a player. He was smart, had great talent and was a team-first guy.

"Those early Vikings teams had a foundation on the offensive and defensive lines — they were Grady Alderman and Jim Marshall," Tarkenton added. "Those two men are how this franchise was built. Grady was a man of integrity, smart, kind and generous. He was the best guy you could ever be around."

Vikings historian Fred Zamberletti, who was the team's original trainer, said Alderman was a "great leader."

View images of Vikings legendary OL Grady Alderman, who passed away this week.

"When he was a captain, he knew the first and last name of every official in the league," Zamberletti said. "During the game, he would always refer to them by their names, which was very impressive in those days.

"Another thing about him, when you had the change in quarters, he wouldn't let the team walk down there," Zamberletti added. "If it was a hot day and everybody was hot, they all sprinted to the other end of the field. He insisted on that."

Alderman (6-foot-2, 245 pounds during his playing days) described Tarkenton's ability to scramble in a 2011 interview* *with Vikings.com.

"He was not afraid to run," Alderman said. "Everything he did was aimed at making the play positive rather than negative. He ran more because we allowed him to get in trouble rather than provide him with great protection.

"After a while, you learned that if you lost your man, he was probably the guy making Fran run, and if you stayed on your feet and held your ground and waited, Fran would come back and you would get a chance to block your guy," he added.

Alderman missed just one regular-season game during the 1960s, persevering through the lean years for the fledgling Vikings and playing a significant role in the emergence of the team as a dominant force.

Alderman also explained the Vikings transition between Norm Van Brocklin and Bud Grant in that 2011 interview.

"With a new coach, there are always new things. Coaches like different kinds of players," Alderman explained. "I was a little bit small as an offensive tackle. I thought, 'Suppose this guy wants all these giants, I'll be out of here.' "  

Grant was hired in '67 — which fittingly matched Alderman's jersey — and concluded he could count on Alderman, who served as a team captain for eight seasons. 

Alderman garnered six all-star selections in a seven-season span. In 1969, Alderman was named First-Team All-Pro by *Sporting News *and Second-Team All-Pro by the *Associated Press, *NEA-NFL, Pro Football Writers of America and United Press International.

"Grady was a valuable member of those teams that helped us rise from nothing to be a playoff team year-in and year-out," Grant said. "He was a big part of that core of players who made the Vikings in that era. He was a great leader, respected, smart and played left tackle which is a very valuable position on the field and was good at it. He was very, very intelligent, and it showed in how he played."

The 1969 Vikings won 12 consecutive games and dominated opponents with 379 total points for, compared to 133 points allowed. It was the first time that a Minnesota team had a double-digit win total, and the Vikings followed the regular season with home wins over the Rams and Browns.

"The 1969 team did everything with a swagger," Alderman said. "That was the difference between that team and others. We were not only good, we knew we were good. We had waited so many years to get that kind of feeling."

After starting 177 games in 14 seasons with Minnesota, Alderman spent the 1975 training camp with the Bears and former Vikings General Manager Jim Finks. He was released before the season, however, and shifted into a color commentary role for the Vikings radio network for four seasons.

Alderman balanced his on-field accomplishments with off-field success by becoming a certified public accountant early in his career. His financial acumen later helped the Vikings twice. Alderman oversaw construction of Winter Park, which served as the Vikings headquarters from 1981-2018. He also managed the $25 million investment that was earmarked for construction of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

"I had some expertise in construction accounting, so it was a natural fit to work for the team and provide that service for them," Alderman told Vikings.com in 2011.

Alderman worked as general manager of the Denver Broncos from 1981-82 and raised his family in Colorado. A memorial service (tentatively scheduled for April 21) is being planned in Golden, Colorado.

Zamberletti said he will always remember Alderman's classy approach in his endeavors.

"He enjoyed every minute of it, and he treated it with class and he wanted everyone else around him to be with class," Zamberletti said. "He was really somebody who is missed. I'll certainly miss him as a friend."

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