Grant reminisces about SuperiorIn his 18 years as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Bud Grant became well known for his even and unemotional temperament. Wednesday at Superior High School, he showed a different side as he cracked jokes and shared stories from his childhood growing up in Superior.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
In his 18 years as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Bud Grant became well known for his even and unemotional temperament.
Wednesday at Superior High School, he showed a different side as he cracked jokes and shared stories from his childhood growing up in Superior.
“It’s a humbling experience to come back here … and have something like this awarded to you,” said Grant, who graduated from Superior Central High School in 1945.
Grant, 85, was honored through the Hometown Hall of Famers program, presented by Allstate and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The program pays tribute not only to Hall of Fame athletes but to the communities that helped shape them.
During Wednesday’s event a plaque honoring Grant was presented to Superior High School to be put on permanent display. With the honor, the high school becomes an official extension of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Grant spoke before a large group of students and community members Wednesday at Superior High School. Near the end of his speech, Grant’s eyes welled with tears as he spoke of his hometown.
“I thank the school for accepting this and displaying this,” Grant said. “And just let me say, I’m proud to be American, I’m proud to be a member of the Hall of Fame; and I’m always proud to say I’m from Superior, Wis.”
Grant’s closing words drew a standing ovation from the crowd.
His opening gesture received a similar response.
Before Grant took the microphone, he slipped off his Hall of Fame jacket and pulled on his purple letterman’s sweater from Superior Central High School.
Grant’s contemporaries, sitting in the front row, broke into wide smiles and applauded.
“That made my whole day when he put that on,” said Curt Christianson, who graduated from Superior Central in 1944 and played basketball with Grant.
Following the presentation ceremony, Grant posed for pictures, signed helmets and footballs and chatted with fans.
UW-Superior women’s basketball coach Don Mulhern was among the Minnesota Vikings fans eager to shake Grant’s hand. He ranks Grant near the top of his all-time sports idols.
“To be honest, I’m giddy here about seeing Bud Grant,” Mulhern said. “He was my first memory of what a successful coach is.
“He is a good role model for how to be successful without having to be showy. The focus wasn’t upon him. He did things the right way, and his teams played the right way.”
Grant coached the Minnesota Vikings for 18 years, from 1967 through 1983 and in 1985. The Vikings played in four Super Bowls during that time, won 11 divisional championships and held a .620 winning percentage.
For his exploits, Grant was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1994.
“I followed him all the way along,” said Len Ward, who graduated with Grant in 1945. “In my family it was all Packers fans. I was the only Viking.”
Ward played with Grant on both the basketball and football teams in high school. Even then, he expected a bright future for Grant.
“We had some good teams,” Ward said. “I think we won the Twin Ports championship a few years. Bud was our mainstay.”
Grant was a three-sport athlete in high school and earned all-state recognition in football and basketball. He played for the University of Minnesota at the collegiate level and earned four letters in football, three in basketball and two in baseball. He earned All-Big Ten honors twice in football and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round in 1950.
Grant deferred his entrance into the NFL to spend two years playing for the Minneapolis Lakers in the NBA. He then joined the Eagles and became the No. 2 pass receiver in the NFL in 1952 with 57 catches for 997 yards.
Grant launched his coaching career in Canada in 1956 when he was just 29 years old. He compiled a 105-53-2 over 10 years.
In 1967, Grant took over as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
Doug Sutherland, also a Superior native, played for the Vikings as a defensive lineman from 1971 to 1980. He remembers Grant as an honest and straight-forward coach.
“Some of my management style came from Bud,” Sutherland said. “Just let people do their job and stay out of the way. Everybody gets blocked, everybody falls down, everybody get beat — just as long as you don’t make a habit of it.”
Players always knew where they stood with Grant, Sutherland said. Every man was expected to do his job and work alongside his teammates.
“He never yelled at you unless you made a mental mistake,” Sutherland said. “That look he had, if you did something or had a bad play, he would give you that stare and he didn’t have to say anything.”
Grant’s players respected him, Sutherland said, and that respect has not diminished over the years.
“I even got a haircut yesterday so he wouldn’t get on me about my hair,” Sutherland said. “He’s quite a guy.”