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Minnesota Vikings

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Vikings LogoMinnesota Vikings, professional football team and one of five teams in the Central Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) of the National Football League (NFL). Under the league’s realignment plan, which will take affect in 2002, the Vikings will move into the North Division of the NFC. The Vikings play at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and wear uniforms of purple, gold, and white. The team’s name refers to the Nordic peoples who were ancestors to Minnesota’s large population of Scandinavian Americans. Since the late 1960s, the Vikings have been one of the most consistently successful franchises in the NFL. During the 1970s head coach Bud Grant steered the team to four Super Bowls.

Quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who spent much of his career with the Vikings, became the most prolific passer in NFL history, compiling the most career yards, completions, and touchdown passes during his 15 years in the league. (Tarkenton’s records were broken by Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins in 1995.) Grant also assembled one of the fiercest defenses in NFL history. Known collectively as the Purple People Eaters, players such as linemen Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, and Alan Page “devoured” opposing offenses. The Vikings joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1961 and selected Fran Tarkenton in the NFL draft. The franchise got off to a slow start, producing only one winning record in its first seven seasons.

Vikings Helmet

  In 1967 Minnesota traded Tarkenton to the New York Giants for the rights to four draft picks. These picks yielded several talented rookies, including Alan Page. In the 1968 season Bud Grant guided the Vikings to the NFC Central Division championship. A year later, Minnesota’s defense, the league’s toughest, powered the Vikings to Super Bowl IV, where the team lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Vikings’ offensive performance in 1969 was also the league’s best.

Quarterback Joe Kapp directed a balanced unit that relied on both running and passing. In the 1970s safety Paul Krause and linemen Page, Carl Eller, and Jim Marshall anchored the era’s most feared defensive unit, which ranked first in the NFC five times from 1969 to 1976. Minnesota dominated the NFC Central Division during this time, and in 1971 Page became the first defensive player to receive the most valuable player (MVP) award. Tarkenton returned to the Vikings in 1972 and subsequently piloted the team to three Super Bowl appearances.

Running back Chuck Foreman and wide receivers John Gilliam and Ahmad Rashad were his favorite targets. An elusive scrambler, Tarkenton also used his agility to confound opponents. He was named league MVP in 1975. Although they were clearly the NFC’s dominant club, the Vikings repeatedly fell to their American Football Conference (AFC) opponents in the Super Bowl. Minnesota lost to the Miami Dolphins 24-7 in 1974, to the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-6 in 1975, and to the Oakland Raiders 32-14 in 1977. Many of the star Viking players retired by 1979, and the team entered a period of decline, but Minnesota soon recovered its success with a collection of new stars.


Vikings Players

From the mid-1980s through the late 1990s, the Vikings consistently recorded winning records, and the club reached the NFC Championship Game after the 1987 and 1998 seasons. Stars for the Vikings during this time included quarterbacks Tommy Kramer, Warren Moon, and Wade Wilson, and wide receiver Anthony Carter, who produced three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Safety Joey Browner and linemen Chris Doleman, Keith Millard, and John Randle were among the league’s premier defensive players.

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