I remember as a kid one of my favorite players being Jim Kleinsasser. It wasn’t that he was an incredible pass catcher (he wasn’t). It wasn’t that he ran great routes and always found ways to get open (he didn’t). Nor was it that he managed to bring in tons of touchdowns (he never really did). To be absolutely, 100% honest, it was his name.
Yes, that’s right – his name.
As a kid, it was just fun to shout out Jimmy’s last name. Go ahead, try it. (See?) It just sounded like he was a Viking. I couldn’t imagine a better last name for a Vikings player. My family and I would also come up with other odd names that we could give him – just random things that started with “Klein” and ended with something sounding like “saucer.” I remember “Kleinsausage” being one of them… The point, though, isn’t why Kleinsasser was one of the most interesting Vikings to me as a kid. Instead, it’s that as a kid, Jim Kleinsasser was a Viking.
As I grew up Kleinsasser was always there. Yet, he was always not there, too. I know, confusing, right? But let me explain… Kleinsasser is not a flashy guy. He doesn’t make one hand grabs, shake defenders and bolt to the end zone. He doesn’t have any clever celebration dances. And you probably won’t see him be the star in any Sportscenter highlight reels. But look closer and, I assure you, he is there.
Kleinsasser is the type of player who lives in the shadows of big name playmakers – constantly contributing but never really getting full recognition for it. He is an incredibly hard worker and, for a long time, was one of the best blocking Tight Ends in football. Kleinsasser has started 119 times for our Vikings. 119 times. He bulldozed through defenders as he made 7 of the 8 single-season rushing records in Vikings history. And on top of that, Kleinsasser has not missed a single game since 2005.
Everything about Kleinsasser just screams Viking which is why it pains me to report that, after this season, he won’t be back for another year.
I’m not going to say he has “thrown in the towel” because I don’t think Jimmy is a quitter. And I won’t say this is his last season as a Viking because I think he will always be one (at least in my mind). Instead, I will say that Kleinsasser has simply made the decision to move forward with his life and do other things.
When asked what has been the highlight of his career, Kleinsasser said, “…But coming into work and just hanging out with the guys and sitting in meetings and just the camaraderie of a bunch of guys sweating and bleeding together for a common cause, I think that’s one of my biggest memories.”
And that says it all right there, folks. Jim Kleinsasser is a class act and a great model for future players of what it is to be a Minnesota Viking. I know I’m not the only one who will miss him.