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Vikings Honor HOF Members with Evening at U.S. Bank Stadium

MINNEAPOLIS –It's not every day that nine Hall of Famers are in the same room together.

The Vikings on Wednesday hosted a dinner and reception at U.S. Bank Stadium to honor their Hall of Fame players who were then recognized during halftime of Thursday's game along with their bronze busts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

"We're all thankful to the Vikings and the ownership for keeping our memories alive, and that's what something like this does," said former Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant, a 1994 inductee. "We get together, we renew old memories and tell stories, and as you get older you maybe appreciate it a little bit more. So it's a great thing that the Vikings do for their alumni – they really appreciate it.

Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker was also on hand for the intimate event.

"We are in elite company here," Baker said. "One of the things I've seen is that, this incredible stadium that we're in, this incredible team, the league and the game itself, stands on the shoulders of guys like this."

Baker emphasized the significance of being inducted into the Hall of Fame by presenting the numbers: Of the millions of individuals who played football at some capacity in their lifetime, there have only been 2.2 million to ever play collegiately. Of that, 27,000 have been paid to play it, coach it or officiate it in the National Football League. And finally, only 303 have ever been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

 "One of the things that's really cool that I think [the Wilf Family Ownership group] realizes is that when you buy a franchise like the Vikings, not only do you get that team, not only do you get the stadium, but you get all the history that comes with it," Baker said. "I mean, you have enormous history here."  

In addition to Grant, eight Vikings alumni were present at the dinner: defensive tackle Alan Page (1988), safety Paul Krause (1998), offensive tackle Ron Yary (2001), defensive end Carl Eller (2004),guard Randle McDaniel (2006), defensive tackle John Randle (2010), linebacker Chris Doleman (2011) and wide receiver Cris Carter (2013).

Not in attendance were quarterback Fran Tarkenton (1986), offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman (2008) and center Mick Tingelhoff (2015).

Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren welcomed the alumni, thanked them for their contributions to the organization and emphasized their role as cornerstones of the team, past, present and future.

"What makes this so special is really the history associated with these players," Warren said. "These are the best players of all time.

"So many times with owners buy NFL franchises or businesses, they really focus on the present and the future, but one of the most important aspects of it is the history, the past," Warren added. "So, we're very thankful to the entire Wilf family [for letting] us dream and really empower our history and put our resources behind it."

The Vikings hosted a dinner at U.S. Bank Stadium to honor their Hall of Fame players who were then recognized during halftime of Thursday's game along with their bronze busts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Carter, who holds Vikings records for catches (1,004), receiving touchdowns (110) and receiving yards (12,383), said he is honored to hold company with the legends that came before him.

Carter was well aware of the storied franchise he was walking into when he joined the Vikings in 1990, but he said he didn't initially envision being a chapter himself.

"I was there when Krause got his gold jacket, and sitting there at that point in my career, I wasn't even dreaming of anything like this," Carter said. "To be able to experience all of this together for the rest of our lives is truly amazing. I think all of us are closer than we've ever been at any point in our careers.

Carter and Randle both expressed gratitude for the way they and other alumni continue to be included as an integral part of the Vikings family. Although none of the nine Hall of Famers were members of the Vikings under the Wilfs, Carter said they've been treated by the current ownership "as though they've owned the organization for 40 years."

Randle said he was extremely touched by Warren's effort to maintain strong relationships between the organization and its former players.

"Sometimes you feel like you've just been forgotten, but when you have a guy like Kevin Warren get up and tell you that you're part of the organization, part of the future, it's just wonderful," Randle said. "Just a special moment."

The alumni also enjoyed the physical space of U.S. Bank Stadium and the Founders Lounge, where the dinner was held.

Randle said being inside the venue took him back to his time as a player and conversations he had with Eller and Jim Marshall, who spent their careers at Met Stadium.

"I remember seeing those guys and hearing them talk about [wanting to play in] the Metrodome, and now I'm in the same position," Randle said. "Being in a new stadium and seeing the youth, the guys playing in it, and just saying how wonderful it would be to be a part of it."

Yary, who sounded the Gjallarhorn before the Cowboys game, described the experience of U.S. Bank Stadium as "a whole new world."

"It would be inconceivable for all the players that that played during my era to walk into a stadium like this," said Yary, who traveled from California with his wife and two sons for the weekend. "It's more than a stadium. It's a place for people to come and enjoy themselves."

As the event wrapped up, the group of former players gathered on the field for a group photo with their busts. From Page taking a selfie with his likeness, to Doleman adding his eyeglasses to his, to Carter and his daughter posing with the bust, the evening's finale offered a fun, informal time for legends to be nothing more than old friends.

"It's always great to see the guys, but to see them in this capacity is just wonderful," Randle said. "Especially with guys I played with, that we never looked at being in the Hall of Fame, and all of a sudden here we are. It's just unbelievable."

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