Saturday, August 8, 2015

Tingelhoff's Hall of Fame Moment is Long Overdue

Mick Tingelhoff waited 32 years to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Now, the wait is over and he will be inducted with a illustrious group of NFL greats. 

Updated:August 8th, 2015 6:25am

By: Daniel House


Thirty-two years ago, gas was $1.31 per gallon, the San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl XVI, and Mick Tingelhoff became eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It took 11,680 days, but Tingelhoff finally got his long overdue ‘call to the hall’ last August. Mick Tingelhoff played 17 seasons in the NFL, all for them for the Minnesota Vikings. During that time, he cemented himself as one of the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history. Tingelhoff played in 240 consecutive games and never missed a start in his 17-year career. He was a six-time All-Pro center and will become just the 14th center in NFL history to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Back in 1962, the Vikings signed Tingelhoff as an undrafted rookie out of Nebraska. Little did the Vikings know he would become one of the game’s all-time greats. He helped Minnesota win 10 division titles and appeared in four Super Bowls. While Tingelhoff played center, the Vikings’ offense ranked in the top-10 in rushing 10 times. Not to mention, running backs rushed for 100-yard performances 40 times in that span. During this era, he faced some of the greatest linebackers in NFL history, which included Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Ray Nitschke and Sam Hunt.

Tingelhoff was one of the least recognized Vikings during the 1960’s and 70’s. He was left in the shadow of Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton and the infamous ‘Purple People Eaters’ on the defensive line. However, he was one of the main reasons why the Minnesota Vikings were one of the toughest teams back in that era. His reliability and tenacity rubbed off on his teammates. Former Vikings Hall of Fame head coach Bud Grant has always noted that Tinglehoff was one of the pivotal reasons why the Vikings were successful in that decade.

“Mick was a catalyst for our team and one of the most respected players on those teams,” coach Bud Grant said in a statement following the induction announcement. “I have no doubt that had he not played center he would have been a Hall of Fame linebacker. He played center with the mentality and tenacity of a linebacker. Mick’s intangibles were the thing that made him so great. He was a captain the whole time I coached him and guys looked at him as an example of how to do things.”

When Tingelhoff is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Fran Tarkenton, the quarterback he snapped the ball to for six seasons, will present him to the audience. Tarkenton and Tingelhoff shared a connection on-the-field that not many people get to experience in their lifetime. Now, the quarterback will be joined by the center that snapped him ball in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Mick Tingelhoff played 17 years at an All-Pro level, and in all of those years he never missed a game or practice. He was smart, really quick, and a fierce competitor,” Vikings Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton said in a statement following the induction announcement. “No center played at an All-Pro level for as long or as well as Mick Tingelhoff.”

While Tinglehoff takes part in the Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities in Canton, OH, his former team will be taking the field for a matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame game on Sunday. During this contest, the Vikings will be honoring a player who exhibited the superior characteristics of a football player: reliability, tenacity, and toughness. All values of which Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is trying to instill in his current crop of players.

It is sure to be a surreal moment for Mick Tingelhoff as he is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. A man who waited 32 years for a phone call into the hall of fame, can finally hang up, and enjoy being called one of the greatest to ever play in the National Football League.

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