Longtime Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant died Saturday at 95, the “absolutely heartbroken” team said in a statement.
“We, like all Vikings and NFL fans, are shocked and saddened by this terrible news,” the statement said.
Grant coached the Vikings for 18 seasons from 1967 through 1983 and again in 1985. He was the engineer of the Vikings vaunted “Purple People Eaters” defense that won 10 division crowns in 11 seasons starting in 1968.
Grant led the Vikings to four Super Bowls, though his team never won. His 1969 squad has the distinction of winning the final NFL Championship game before the NFL and AFL merged the following season.
“No single individual more defined the Minnesota Vikings than Bud Grant,” Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said in a statement. “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.”
Prior to his coaching success, Grant was drafted into both the NBA and NFL. He played two seasons in the NBA for the Minneapolis Lakers, winning the inaugural NBA Championship in his rookie season in 1950.
Grant left the NBA to join the NFL as a player for the Philadelphia Eagles. After two seasons, Grant headed to Canada, where he spent 14 seasons as a player and later a coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He coached the Blue Bombers to four Grey Cup wins before returning to the NFL to coach the Vikings.
Grant was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.