Trimble took over as head coach prior to the 1952 season, and it was the Pennsylvania native who converted Grant to a wide receiver. Grant went on to rank second in the NFL with 997 receiving yards on 56 catches and scored seven touchdowns that season.
When Jim Trimble, Jr., recalls his father’s relationship with Grant, however, he’ll tell you the key connection really took off when the two faced each other as coaches.
Grant went on to play for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1953-56, where he led the Western Conference in receptions three times (1953-54; ’56) and receiving yards in 1953 and 1956. In 1957 and at the age of 29, Grant became the youngest head coach in Canadian Football League history when he took over the reins at Winnipeg.
Meanwhile, Trimble was entering his second season as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Nixon was sworn in as the 37th President of the United States on Jan. 20, 1969. On Nov. 16 of that year, he became the first President to attend an NFL regular-season game while in office (Lyndon B. Johnson saw the Baltimore Colts defeat Washington 35-0 in an exhibition game three years prior). Tom Landry’s Cowboys defeated Vince Lombardi’s Redskins 41-28 with Nixon present.
A California native, Nixon was an early fan of the Los Angeles Rams and later adopted the Washington Redskins.
Several newspapers reported on Nixon’s attendance of the game. According to an AP report in The Bridgeport Post, the President’s presence was announced over the in-stadium PA system, and “a cluster of Dallas fans” seated above Nixon taunted him by floating down blue-and-white balloons.
The President had a cup of block coffee at one point during the game but passed up hot dogs or popcorn. At halftime he signed a few autographs and let the photographers crowd around.
- The Associated Press, Nov. 17, 1969
Former NFL Vice President Joe Browne, the league’s longest-serving employee after a 50-year career, recalled the influence that Nixon, “America’s No. 1 Football Fan,” had on the game.
“President Nixon was such a football fan that his interest in the Redskins was the driving force behind Congressional legislation that changed NFL television policy,” Browne told Vikings.com. “Upset that he could not watch Redskins home games even on his White House TVs in the early 1970s because of that policy, Nixon pressed Congress to pass TV legislation, which he said he would sign.”
The Sports Antiblackout Bill of 1973, which was signed by Nixon, lifted the local-market-television blackouts of games, whether or not they were sell outs. From then through 2014, teams generally had until 72 hours prior to kickoffs to sell out tickets and avoid a blackout.
While Nixon did not affiliate with the Vikings, he self-identified in his letter to Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant – written nearly 10 years after his resignation from office – as “a football fan and a Bud Grant fan.”
Nixon and Grant both served in the U.S. Navy during the 1940s, and the former President also revered Grant for a number of other reasons.
Browne came to learn of Nixon’s affinity for Grant through the late Herb Klein, who served as Nixon’s White House Communications Director and later became the publisher of the San Diego Union Tribune.
The victors of AFC Championship games hoist the Lamar Hunt trophy, signifying a silver ticket to the Super Bowl.
Hunt’s impact on the league moves far beyond the trophy, however, from the naming of the NFL’s biggest game to actually influencing early Vikings rosters.
And while teams coached by Bud Grant and owned by Hunt faced each other just four times during their respective careers, the first was for it all.
Hunt was raised in Dallas, Texas. A reserve player at Southern Methodist University in the early 1950s, he had a great affinity for the sport of football and, as the son of an oil tycoon, went on to focus on the executive level.
After being initially turned down for an expansion franchise by the NFL, Hunt established the American Football League in August of 1959. He and a group of seven other men went on to originate AFL teams; Hunt founded the Dallas Texans – which became the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963 – and hired future Hall of Famer Hank Stram as the club’s first head coach.
Hunt is credited with coining the term “Super Bowl” following the NFL-AFL merger and concurrent plan for a championship game between the two leagues. The league’s owners decided first on the “AFL-NFL Championship Game,” but the media adopted Hunt’s “Super Bowl” nickname, which was officially used for the first time in reference to Super Bowl III.
What some may not realize, however, is that the battle between Hunt and Grant started long before facing each other on the Super Bowl stage. It rather dates back to separate leagues competing not for a trophy but for players.
The Vikings, who originally had been slated as an AFL team before being approved as an NFL expansion franchise for the 1961 season, drafted Golden Gophers standout Bobby Bell in 1963. Bell instead signed with the AFL’s Chiefs, and six years later, he helped Kansas City defeat Minnesota 23-7 in Super Bowl IV.
“I have to believe that loss … probably bothered Vikings [Head Coach] Bud Grant as much as any in his long coaching career,” opined Grant’s lifelong friend and Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman in a 2015 article.
Before Paul Brown co-founded the NFL team that still bears his namesake, he served at the Great Lakes Navy Training Station outside Chicago.
Brown was the head coach of the Bluejackets football team, and it was there that Bud Grant first interacted with the football legend who would become his friend and mentor. The two crossed paths in 1945, one year before Brown moved on to Cleveland.
In his book I Did It My Way, co-written by Jim Bruton, Grant recalled the following:
We had a young team, and Paul Brown really knew how to get us ready to play. That was a real highlight of my time there. At the end of the season, Brown had a few of us at a football banquet.
I remember he said some very kind things about me as a player. He said for people to keep their eye on where I went to school because they would be reading about me on the sports pages. I was quite humbled by his remarks.
Brown gained a reputation for being forward-thinking, and Grant picked up on many coaching tips during his time at Great Lakes, including the format of the playbook and team itinerary.
He recounted in I Did It May Way:
"I was very impressed with Paul Brown’s organization and his way of coaching. We would have meetings and learn techniques. I never had encountered anything even remotely like that in the past. I was enthralled by it all."
Mike Brown, Paul’s son and current Owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, recalled a story his father told him about Grant first arriving at Great Lakes.
“My dad said that Bud was a fullback when he showed up there,” Mike Brown said. “Marion Motley (now a Pro Football Hall of Famer) also was there, and he also was a fullback. The way the old story went was, when Bud stood in line with the other fullbacks at practice, he noticed how Motley practiced and saw all the things that Motley could do, and once he saw that, he decided to switch positions and instead play [defensive] end. And he did. He played end there and later in pro football.”
While Brown coached the Browns from 1946-62, Grant excelled as a player for the Philadelphia Eagles (1951-52) and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1953-56) before implementing things he’d gleaned from Brown in his own coaching career, starting first with the Blue Bombers from 1957-66.
Brown went on to co-found the Bengals and coach Cincinnati from 1968-75, overlapping with Grant’s early years with the Vikings.
When Brad Durrell was growing up, his father, Richard, would take him and his siblings to Vikings training camp in Mankato, Minnesota.
Among those visits were a handful of post-practice interactions with Bud Grant, a fellow Gophers alum and basketball teammate of Richard’s. Alex, five years younger than Brad, was an “absolute football fanatic,” and the brothers collected autographs during the early '70s from players in purple who obliged their requests at camp.
While Durrell doesn’t recall his father, who passed away in 2008, to have been intimate friends with Grant, he said the two did correspond from time to time.
“Even though my dad was on the business side, he was sort of known for writing a lot of letters to a lot of people,” Brad said. “He really believed in doing that.
“Of course, that was a little bit of a different era,” Brad continued. “When you sent everything through the mail.”
When Grant and Durrell shared a court at the U of M, it’s likely they couldn’t predict the type of success they’d both encounter down the road.
Durrell, like Grant, was a talented athlete. After serving three years with the Marines and spending time in occupied Japan, and prior to attending the U of M, Durrell was offered a contract from the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. He turned them both down in order to complete his education.
While Grant went on to be a two-sport professional athlete and eventual head coach for Minnesota, his former Gophers teammate left behind his cleats and joined the business world instead. According to the New York Times, Durrell in 1950 answered a newspaper ad for a circulation newsstand representative in Minneapolis.