EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman capped his annual pre-draft press conference Tuesday — a session that usually looks forward to an approaching milestone — in retrospective fashion.
Spielman saluted Scott Studwell's 42 years of service with the organization as a player and coach.
His voice cracked multiple times as he grappled with the emerging reality that Studwell really is retiring.
An authentic appreciation was conveyed as he explained what Studwell has meant to the Vikings organization and the area for all or part of five decades and himself since 2006, when Spielman first arrived in Minnesota as Vice President of Player Personnel that May.
"I don't know how many talks I've had with him to convince him otherwise," Spielman said. "But he's decided it's time to step down."
Studwell, a ninth-round pick in 1977 who played through 1990, was inducted to the Vikings Ring of Honor in 2009 and named to the 50 Greatest Vikings in 2010. He transitioned to the personnel department in 1991 and has helped Minnesota draft 230 players since, including 14 who combined for 30 All-Pro honors, 20 who have totaled 63 Pro Bowl selections and 24 who made All-Rookie Teams.
Spielman said his familiarity with Studwell originated with seeing the way he played the game.
"I remember growing up, my brother (Chris) was such a big Minnesota Vikings fan because he loved watching Scott Studwell play with the passion, with the heart, with the determination that he played with," Spielman said. "He took that same approach since he's been in the front office.
Spielman described Studwell as a "great husband, great father and unbelievable grandfather."
"I know it's his time," Spielman said. "You can't replace a Scott Studwell in your organization. That's an impossible task to do. I think it will be very difficult for our staff moving forward without him being part of this process in that room.
"The only thing I can say is, Stud, thank you for your guidance, your leadership, and probably the most important thing, thank you for your friendship," Spielman added before meeting his friend and colleague for a heartfelt embrace, a sentimental moment on display for public consumption.
Studwell walked up to the podium in a tan baseball cap bearing the Vikings Norseman. His plaid shirt was earth-toned, but anyone who knows Studwell knows he's always been blue-collar.
Hard work accompanied each footprint — on the practice fields during his career and the sidelines and sidewalks of college campuses — as he chased an elusive dream of bringing the first Super Bowl title to Minnesota.
"I am so fortunate, and I am so grateful for the opportunity that I've had to spend this amount of time with this organization," Studwell said. "It's been a phenomenal run. It really has. I hope I've just given back a portion to this organization from what I've received from them.
"I came up here in 1977 with a lot of big dreams and had absolutely no idea what was going to happen," Studwell added. "After seven weeks of hell in Mankato [for training camp], I managed to make the football team. The rest is kind of history. I've been very lucky. I've worked extremely hard to stay and play here. Then I was lucky enough to get a call from [former Vikings executive] Roger Headrick to move into the front office, so that kind of started me on my scouting journey which has been quite a wild ride."
Studwell thanked Jenny, his wife of 35 yards, with a bit of humor.
"She has basically raised four kids, me being the fourth. The other three are doing pretty well, and I am still kind of a work in progress," Studwell quipped. "For her to allow me to pursue this dream, to stay in this business as a scout, it's been a tremendous sacrifice on her part. Being gone 225 nights a year and spending a life on the road is not easy on her and wasn't easy on the kids. I missed a lot of time with my kids, and that is something I have to make up for. I also owe it to my grandkids."
The passing of former teammate Keith Nord — "Keith was always kind of like my little brother" — ultimately led to the decision that Studwell said had been brewing for some time.
Once Studwell learned that Nord was ill, the two played phone tag.
Studwell tried to call Nord again in between campus visits of Ferris State and Western Michigan.
"I think it was a Wednesday afternoon and his phone didn't pick up," Studwell said. "I left a message and about a half an hour later, his wife texted me and told me that he passed away that morning."
The desire to spend more time at home hit home.
That's not to say that Studwell hasn't experienced a family atmosphere here as a player and in his second career.
"I had three unbelievable mentors with Jerry Reichow and Frank Gilliam and another scout that is still working for us, Conrad Cardano," Studwell said. "They showed me the way. They taught me how to do this job. I give all the credit in the world to those three guys for giving me a chance and teaching me how to do it. It's evolved tremendously from back in the day. It's still about doing the work, spending the time and having the knowledge of what football players look like."
That brings us back to the initial connection between Studwell and Spielman that has become so strong. Studwell remembered becoming acquaintances when Spielman was working his way up the ladder as a BLESTO scout.
"For whatever reason, we kind of clicked. We had a lot in common," Studwell said. "I think we are both pretty blue-collar people. I know he works for everything he deserves. I feel the same way about myself to a certain extent.
"There is nobody in this business or in this building, with the exception of maybe [Vice President of Player Personnel/Assistant General Manager] George [Paton] that spends as much time and effort for this organization," Studwell said. "We came from different backgrounds, and being the elder statesmen, I guess, we just had a kinship more so than a friendship. Now, the friendship has really taken over."
Studwell also remembered having an interest in the job that Spielman was offered back in 2006.
Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf called Studwell to ask his opinion of Spielman.
"I was like, 'Zygi, what the hell do you want me to tell you? You are asking me questions about a guy that wants my job.' I couldn't tell him anything bad about Rick because that is the type of person he is," Studwell said. "Quite honestly, thank God he got the job rather than me. We've always just hit it off and always will."