Fran Tarkenton “never knew Mick Tingelhoff to have a bad day,” and this may have been his best friend’s greatest moment yet.
The moment, 37 years in the making, has come and gone, and it’s one Vikings fans will never forget — Mick Tingelhoff is finally a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On the field, Tingelhoff was one of the greatest Vikings of all time, starting every game in his illustrious 17-year career and leading the franchise to 10 division titles. In 240 career games, he earned a reputation as one of the smartest, quickest, and strongest offensive lineman in the league, and his longevity is a testament to the toughness that led him to Canton, Ohio.
Off the field, he forged a lifelong friendship with Fran Tarkenton, the Vikings’ Hall of Fame quarterback and Tingelhoff’s best friend. They enjoyed 12 magical seasons together and have enjoyed an unbreakable friendship ever since.
“He had the look. He had the eye. He had the demeanor,” Tarkenton said during Tingelhoff’s tribute video. “He was a better protector of me off the field than on the field.”
When the video ended, Tarkenton and Tingelhoff took the stage together, much like they did when taking the field together in purple and gold so many years ago. Tears streamed down the faces of Tingelhoff’s family, and Vikings fans cheered in honor of the legends before them.
Tingelhoff, whose recent health issues include memory loss, did not speak, but his message was not lost upon those in attendance and those watching from home. In fitting fashion, Tarkenton took the microphone and spoke for Tingelhoff, a man who always let his helmet and shoulder pads do the talking.
“Mick’s a man of little words,” Tarkenton said, holding back tears. “He’s so proud to be in this class of 2015, and he’s waited 37 years to get to the Hall of Fame.”
Beaming, Tingelhoff waved to the crowd, and the undrafted lineman out of Nebraska was, at last, where he belonged — the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
From Vikings Territory and Vikings fans everywhere, congratulations Mick.