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Bud Grant, legendary Vikings head coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies at age 95

There are renowned names frozen for all time in Minnesota Vikings lore.

Fran Tarkenton, the Purple People Eaters, Paul Krause. They are reminders locked in time of the franchise's best of times.

The architect of all that success in the 1960s and 1970s -- highlighted by four Super Bowl appearances -- was head coach Bud Grant.

A Hall of Famer who constructed an NFC dynasty, Grant passed away on Saturday morning, the team announced. He was 95.

"No single individual more defined the Minnesota Vikings than Bud Grant," Vikings owner/chairman Zygi Wilf said in a statement Saturday. "A once-in-a-lifetime man, Bud will forever be synonymous with success, toughness, the North and the Vikings. In short, he was the Vikings. Words can never truly describe Bud's impact on this franchise and this community."

A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1994, Grant built the Vikings into a dominant bunch of marauders where the NFL/NFC Central was concerned. In an 11-season span from 1968-1978, Grant's Vikings sailed to 10 Central Division titles.

In total, Grant coached 18 NFL seasons -- all with the Vikings -- and compiled a 158-96-5 record to stand as the winningest coach in franchise history. In his time with Minnesota, Grant's Vikings earned 12 playoff berths and won 11 division titles.

"There are so many adjectives appropriate to describe Coach Bud Grant: legendary, determined, successful. Underneath his outwardly stoic demeanor that some misunderstood as a coldness laid the warm heart of a man who truly loved his players and the sport of football," said Jim Porter, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "Coach Grant remained connected to the Hall well into his 90s, often reaching out to staff members in Canton to share his opinions about the game and how the Hall was representing it and his beloved Minnesota Vikings. The Hall sends its condolences to the entire Vikings organization and Grant family. We will preserve his legacy forever in Canton."

Synonymous with the Vikings as their legendary coach, Grant was also a historically gifted athlete in his own right and an all-time great in the Canadian Football League coaching ranks.

History still holds Grant as the only person to have played in the NFL, CFL and National Basketball Association. Drafted by the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers and the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles in 1950, Grant would eventually play for both teams before moving on to play for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. Following his playing career with the Blue Bombers, Grant became their coach and a legendary one at that, leading the franchise to six Grey Cup appearances and four Grey Cup triumphs.

Grant was the first to coach teams to a Grey Cup and a Super Bowl, with the only other coach to do so being fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Marv Levy.

After his storied career on the gridiron closed, Grant found his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Vikings Ring of Honor.

Born May 20, 1927 in Superior, Wisconsin, Harold Peter Grant Jr. was a stellar multisport athlete.

At the University of Minnesota, Grant garnered nine letters in three sports -- baseball, basketball and football.

With the Lakers, Grant played two NBA seasons and was part of the 1950 NBA championship squad that featured the great George Mikan. Grant also was selected in the 1950 NFL Draft's first round by the Eagles, but he didn't join them until 1951 after he'd decided to give up his career on the hardwood. Grant played two seasons with the Eagles before heading to play for the CFL's Blue Bombers.

From 1957-1966, Grant coached the Blue Bombers, winning the aforementioned four Grey Cups during a career that led to a statue being erected in his honor outside of Winnipeg's IG Field.

Grant became the second head coach in Vikings team history, succeeding Norm Van Brocklin, in 1967. By 1968, Minnesota was in the playoffs and in 1969 it was in Super Bowl IV where it lost to the American Football League's Kansas City Chiefs.

Grant had brought in rough-and-tumble quarterback Joe Kapp, a CFL transplant like his coach, to lead his Vikings then, but the majority of his career saw Grant linked to Tarkenton at QB and the Purple People Eaters defensive line. Grant coached a cavalcade of Pro Football Hall of Famers, including Tarkenton, Krause, Alan Page, Carl Eller, Mick Tingelhoff and Ron Yary.

Page, Eller, Jim Marshall, Gary Larsen and later Doug Sutherland comprised the Purple People Eaters, who were a driving force in the success of Grant's squads.

Minnesota returned to the Super Bowl in the 1973 and 1974 seasons, but lost to the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively. The Vikings returned to the biggest game of them all for a fourth and final time in the '76 campaign, but this time were downed by the Oakland Raiders.

Grant retired as the Vikings head coach following the 1983 season, but his successor Les Steckel was fired after a 3-13 1984 campaign, so Grant returned in 1985. The Vikings went 7-9 that year and Grant retired as a coach for good, handing the reins to his longtime defensive coordinator, Jerry Burns.

Grant was the first NFL coach to pilot a team to four Super Bowls and though he was unable to win a Lombardi Trophy, his success is inarguable and the legacy he left on the Minnesota franchise unparalleled.

A stoic figure who preached discipline and toughness, Grant and his Vikings shined and dominated amid the frigid Minnesota winters, relentless in their focus as they called Metropolitan Stadium home, flexing their might while their opponents shivered.

The open air above them, the frozen ground below, these Vikings were emblematic of their coach. They were tough, they were enduring, and they were winners.

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