Bud Grant, legendary Minnesota Vikings coach, was remembered with touching words from his son, Mike, and two former players at a memorial service at Grace Church in Eden Prairie on Saturday afternoon.
Grant, 95, died on March 11.
Mike, the longtime Eden Prairie High School football coach, began his eulogy with a humorous anecdote about his father’s habit of carrying multiple red handkerchiefs. “[I] have to get prepared here like only my dad would,” Mike said before taking out three red handkerchiefs from different pockets to wipe his face.
One handkerchief, Mike said, was not enough when Bud would get emotional.
During his eulogy, Mike described his father as a beloved and steadfast pillar in the lives of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as well as in the community and among his former players.
The service was attended by a number of people from the Vikings organization, including owners Zygi and Mark Wilf and Coach Kevin O’Connell, as well as several of Bud Grant’s former players, such as Carl Eller, Ahmad Rashad, Chuck Foreman, Scott Studwell, Dave Osborn, Ricky Young, and Paul Krause. Foreman, Rashad, Young, and Krause carried the urn ark containing Grant’s ashes into and out of the church.
“We know as a family that we shared Bud with all of you,” Mike said. “We shared my dad with Minnesota. When he walked across that frozen field in short sleeves to help with the coin toss, he was all of us. He was our pillar. When he opened his house to Minnesotans … to his crazy annual garage sale, you found out he was one of you when he sat and talked and talked to people.”
Pastor Rod Anderson officiated the service, and former Vikings greats Fran Tarkenton and Jim Marshall paid tribute to their coach in videos played at the memorial.
“Bud was a kind, kind man,” Anderson said. “A kind husband. Kind father. Kind grandfather. Kind great-grandfather. Kind forever friend. And the most important thing for great relationships, the most important thing, be kind to each other, be kind to each other, be kind to each other.”
Mike said his father “truly loved” his players, even if he didn’t talk to them. “As some of you know, he didn’t always say a lot to you at training camp, or it might take a year or two before he would say something,” Mike said.
And, Mike stressed, that “it goes without saying” that his father was a pillar of the Vikings. “I’m not as bold to say he is the Vikings but someone might say that,” Mike said. “He represents that.”
Tarkenton spoke of Grant’s leadership style, saying, “He never raised his voice to me or any of our teammates. But, he knew how to lead. Every player in the locker room could feel it and follow.”
He also highlighted Grant’s authenticity: “He wasn’t trying to be Lombardi, Landry or Shula, or anybody else. He was just himself, and his way was usually the exact right way.”
Marshall echoed Tarkenton’s sentiments, stating, “He had his own language. He has his own way of pointing. If he wanted you to do something and it was time to get it done, he might just give you a signal over there. Never say a word. Everybody looked to him for what do we do next.”
Both Tarkenton and Marshall praised Grant’s coaching style, with Tarkenton stating, “If you can’t play for Bud Grant, you can’t play,” and Marshall declaring, “He’s not just the coach of football, he’s the coach of men.”
Mike imagined what his dad would say if he were at the service.
“He would think for a minute and stare at you and say, ‘Well, you gotta get over it.’ The simple truth. And we will move on. We will never get over it, but we will move on.”
At the end of his eulogy, Mike summed up his father’s profound impact on his life by saying, “I am Bud Grant’s son. He was my pillar. And I loved him.
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