Vikings ironman and Hall of Famer Mick Tingelhoff dies at 81
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hall of Fame center Mick Tingelhoff, the ultimate ironman who started 240 consecutive games at a bruising position for the Minnesota Vikings and played in four Super Bowls, has died. He was 81.
Undrafted in 1962, Tingelhoff played 17 years for the Vikings and was never sidelined once. His games started streak is the third longest in NFL history, behind only Brett Favre (297) and Jim Marshall (270). Before retiring, Philip Rivers tied Tingelhoff’s record.
“Mick was one of the guys who, after they made him, was thrown out of the mold,” Chuck Foreman, his former teammate, stated in an interview Saturday after Tingelhoff’s funeral was announced by the Vikings and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
No cause of death was provided. Tingelhoff’s cognitive function was in decline as a result of being in a difficult position so long and during an era where safety measures were scarce. Tingelhoff was among the original concussion players to join the lawsuit against the league, a decade ago. They claim they were misled about long-term consequences of head injuries. The 2013 settlement will cost the NFL an estimated $1 billion over a 65-year period.
Tingelhoff was born on a Nebraska farm and played for his home state team before he signed with the Vikings. He made the move from linebacker to quarterback during the rookie season. He became the anchor of an imposing offensive line that helped them win 10 division titles in an 11-season span from 1968-78. He was a five-time All-Pro selection, despite his undersized listing of 6-foot-2 and 237 pounds.
“Mick is a catalyst for our team, and one of the most highly respected players on those teams,” said Bud Grant, a former coach. He would have been a Hall of Famer if he had not played center. He was a center player with the mentality, tenacity and determination of a linebacker. Mick’s intangibles are what made him so special. He was a captain the whole time I coached him, and guys looked at him as an example of how to do things.”
Foreman joined the team in 1973 and made the Pro Bowl his first five years, passing the 1,000-yard mark for rushing in three straight seasons from 1975-77 due in large part to the blocking and leadership in front of him from Tingelhoff. Foreman recalled that as a rookie Grant advised him to pay attention to Tingelhoff, and to Dave Osborn, his fellow running back.
“He stated, “Just do what the guys do and you’ll all be fine,”” Foreman added. “I don’t think you could give a better compliment to a teammate.”
Tingelhoff also had a big hand in the success of quarterback Fran Tarkenton, another one of the six Hall of Famers from Minnesota’s dominant teams from the 1970s. Tingelhoff’s No. 53 jersey was retired in 2001 when he was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor.
“He gave 150% every play,” Foreman said. “That’s what separated him from everybody else.”
Tingelhoff met his wife, Phyllis, at Nebraska and was already married by the time the 20-round NFL draft was staged in 1962. He was determined to become a professional, even though he was passed over.
Tingelhoff had to wait 31 years for induction into the Hall of Fame after he first became eligible, finally having his moment in 2015 through election by a senior committee. Tarkenton was his presenter. As he was joined by Tarkenton and safety Paul Krause, Tarkenton, defensive lineman Alan Page, and offensive lineman Ron Yary in Canton, Ohio, his speech was short. Grant, the coach, has also been enshrined.
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