When asked about his penned words three decades later, Bryant said that playing for one coach and for one team over his entire career was special because Grant’s coaching philosophy differed so much from the norm.
“Bud had his core principles that he really believed in, and he really knew from experience what it took to be successful as a football player and as a coach,” Bryant said. “He knew that there were certain things that you could do that would help you achieve success, and he stuck to those things.”
Bryant added that Grant cared more about the number on a player’s jersey and how he performed than of the number of years that player had been in the league.
“He knew that veteran players or guys that were older would not necessarily be the team’s best physically, but with their mental ability and discipline they’d developed, they could build a winner. And he proved that year after year with guys that played, some of them, into their late 30s,” said Bryant, who stepped away from the gridiron at age 36.
Unrestricted free agency didn’t begin in the NFL until 1992, meaning that during Bryant’s era, players only changed teams if they were cut from the roster or traded.
Grant opted for neither with Bryant.
Jeff Siemon learned a lot from Bud Grant, but it wasn’t all tackles and toughness.
Siemon, who spent his entire 11-season career in Purple and Gold and under the guidance of Grant, said the most important lesson he gleaned was to keep football in perspective.
“It wasn’t that football wasn’t important or that he didn’t give all he had on a given Sunday,” Siemon said of Grant. “But it didn’t dominate, rule or control his life.
“I think Bud, more than any coach I think I’ve ever had, kept the game in perspective,” he added. “I think it was down the list of priorities in his life, and he’s to be commended for that.”
Siemon played 156 games for the Vikings, starting 123 of them, from 1972-82. He totaled 1,375 tackles (1,002 solo) over that time, placing him third all-time in franchise history behind Scott Studwell (1,928) and Matt Blair (1,404).
Among the many lessons Henderson learned from Grant was one that stuck with him long after he retired.
Met Stadium at one point garnered negative publicity due to its unfavorable field conditions, and Henderson fell victim to the loose sod during a Sunday afternoon game. While running an out route, the receiver lost his footing and watched as the intended pass sailed over his head and into the sideline.
When the team gathered to review the game’s film the following Tuesday, Grant had something to say.
“Henderson, if you can’t find a way to keep your feet and catch the ball, we will have to find someone else who can.”
When Dan Beaver entered the 1977 NFL Draft, he didn’t expect to be selected.
The league had recently cut back from a 17-round draft to a 12-round draft, and the accepted assumption was that teams wouldn’t use a pick during the truncated process on a kicker.
The Vikings, however, did just that. With the 250th overall pick in the 10th round of the draft, Minnesota selected Beaver, just 28 spots after Minnesota selected Beaver’s Illinois teammate, linebacker Scott Studwell.
Beaver was far from unqualified, however.
Over four seasons for the Fighting Illini, Beaver racked up 198 points. He was a two-time First-Team All-American and in 1976 broke "The Galloping Ghost" Red Grange's 51-year-old school scoring record.
A few months after setting the new record, Beaver participated in the 1977 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. There, Grange himself spoke at the Friday night banquet and publicly acknowledged Beaver’s accomplishment.
“I felt tremendously honored meeting Red Grange that night and getting to shake his hand,” said Beaver, who was also given a personalized, autographed copy of Grange’s book. “If only I had an iPhone back then for that opportunity of a lifetime, I could have taken a selfie with the man known as the ‘Galloping Ghost.’ ”
(Photo courtesy of Dan Beaver)