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Vikings, City Partner on Street Dedication to Honor Bud Grant's Way

View photos from the Monday, Dec. 1 ceremony in which "Bud Grant Way" was unveiled near the new Vikings stadium.

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings storied past will intersect the organization's future with Monday's dedication of Bud Grant Way, a downtown street perpendicular to the new Vikings stadium.

Click here to listen to an interview that Grant did with KFAN's Dan Barreiro on Monday.

Vikings Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, NFL executive Joe Browne, longtime friend and fellow living legend Sid Hartman and Grant's son, Mike, were among the speakers who introduced Grant, the most successful coach in franchise history, at the ceremony.

The urban street is short in distance but symbolizes Grant's tremendous leadership of the Vikings four trips to Super Bowls and 11 division titles in his 18 seasons at the helm.

"Minnesota has been awful good to me," Grant said. "I've been in every town and hamlet in this state. I've been on every highway, every county road in this state for fundraisers, banquets, outdoor activities, traveling basketball teams. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the support I've had, from not only the people of Minneapolis, but from the whole state of Minnesota. I love all of them.

"Today is a special honor, and I want to thank the City and the Wilfs for carrying on the Viking tradition and all of you out there in the state of Minnesota."

Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf said Grant's contributions to the organization have continued beyond his Hall of Fame coaching career.

"When we first became owners of the Minnesota Vikings more than 10 years ago, it was a pleasure to know that next door to our office was Bud Grant's office," Zygi Wilf said. "And I want to tell you, over the last 10 years, the person who has given us the most advice about football, about life and not just who is a great athlete, but a great man and great adviser, it was a pleasure and honor to have Bud Grant be there many times. We're honored to have this street dedicated for you because you are a great inspiration to all of us. Thank you very much, Bud."

Owner/President Mark Wilf thanked the crowd of alumni players and coaches and Vikings fans who were undeterred by the cold temperatures in the single degrees because of the warm feelings they have for Grant, who was the first person to be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

"This is a special day not only for Coach Grant, who we all love here, but for the entire Vikings organization, and on behalf of the Vikings organization, we're happy so many alumni, former coaches, fans and many of Bud's family could make it here today for this special and so well-deserved dedication ceremony," Mark Wilf said. "I'd also like to thank City Council Members Jacob Frey and Abdi Warsame and Chief of Staff John Stiles, representing Mayor (Betsy) Hodges, for their support and leadership. We appreciate the City of Minneapolis and their efforts to make Bud Grant Way happen, and most of all, we appreciate Bud Grant, his example and what he represents for the Minnesota Vikings and our fans all over the world."

Grant's piercing blue eyes surveyed the crowd and occasionally glossed over with moisture as he reflected on his military service and years before becoming the second coach in team history in 1967.

Grant recounted the "Eskimo story" he told to motivate players he coached for many seasons who practiced, played and won in the elements. The military veteran recalled a plan the United States had after World War II to build a radar system in the Arctic Ocean because of worry that Russia might take that route. He said Americans that went up to do the work struggled with productivity, but the people from the area didn't, and a study was performed. 

"After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and bringing people down here and testing them, they found out one very important thing, and we applied this to the Minnesota Vikings," Grant recalled. "It was cold, you can work when you're in the cold and you can just be cold and go to work. That was all we did. I told players that story. They bought it, they played in it and they won in it, but I'll tell you they were cold, but they played when they were cold. That was one of our big military secrets."

Bob Lurtsema, nicknamed "Benchwarmer Bob" for his reserve role as a defensive end emceed the ceremony. Lurtsema opened by talking about Grant's claim that being cold is psychological. He joked that "I bought it when I was young, but I ain't buying it now."

In heartfelt seriousness, Lurtsema added: "One thing I have to say, we all loved Bud Grant. In order to love somebody, you have to respect them and boy the players in that group respect Coach Grant without a doubt."

Defensive end Jim Marshall (1961-79), who is in the Vikings Ring of Honor with Grant, told the crowd of a "mutual admiration society between Bud and I."

"It's a real pleasure for me to be here and be able to speak on behalf of this great honor to Bud Grant," Marshall said. "We've gone through the wars, a lot of wars together, and we have so much love and respect for him. I think it's just proper to have something like this that will last forever.

"I had an opportunity to play for some of the greatest coaches in the National Football League and college, and I can truly say that Bud Grant is the best of the best," Marshall added. "He's a man who came in, assessed his team, picked out the people he thought could do the job he wanted done, and was able to put us in position to be a winner."

Defensive tackle Gary Larson, who joined Marshall as members of the Purple People Eaters, told "Today was kind of special. He has the love and respect of everybody who has played for him. I'm glad and proud that I got to play for him."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was unable to attend the ceremony because of his preparations for this week's game, but he opened his Monday press conference by saying, "Congratulations to Coach Grant for having the street named after him, it's a great honor and he deserves it. He's a great man and a great coach."

Grant said he appreciates his family and the fact that so many were able to attend the ceremony. He also paid tribute to his wife, Pat, who passed away in 2009 after 59 years of marriage during which they raised six children.

Grant also recalled his friendship with Hartman that began on the campus of the University of Minnesota in 1946. Grant said Hartman bought him 99-cent plates of spaghetti when times were tougher and said he was grateful to be joined on stage by the columnist who recently celebrated his 70th anniversary with the Star Tribune.

"If I've got a best friend, it's Sid Hartman," Grant said. "He's the best friend that Minnesota ever had. I'm proud to say that Sid is here together with me. We've made it this far."

Hartman shared a similar sentiment, saying, "I'm the proudest guy in the world to call this guy my closest friend, the greatest person I've ever met. I love him. He's the best."

Browne, whose tenure with the NFL dates to 1965, said the original Bud Grant way "was to win, to win often, and to win with class, dignity and modesty."

"I've been fortunate to spend my entire career in the NFL, and Bud Grant to me and to my league office colleagues has always represented innovation, leadership and a deep respect for our sport on both sides of the U.S. and Canadian border," Browne said. "Over the years as I've traveled across the country, I've met many Vikings alumni, Bud Grant-coached players who are proud to say, 'I'm one of Bud Grant's guys.' Coach, I was not smart enough, nor tough enough to play for you, but today, I too, am proud to say I'm one of Bud Grant's guys. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor, Coach."

Below is a letter that Vikings Legend Alan Page -- who of course is currently an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court -- send to Bud to commemorate this day.


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