The only man to play in the NBA and NFL turns 89 years old today.
Harry Peter Grant, Jr. was born in Superior, Wisconsin, on this date in 1927, the same year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. His mother called him “Buddy Boy,” which later became “Bud.” As a child, Grant was diagnosed with polio and a doctor suggested he become active in sports to strengthen his legs. Grant complied, becoming a star in baseball, basketball and football at Superior Central High School. Following graduation in 1945, he enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago, playing on the football team for legendary coach Paul Brown. After being discharged from the service, Grant enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where was a three sport, nine letterman athlete. Grant was a two-time All-Big Ten end, two-year baseball star and played three basketball seasons for the Golden Gophers. In 1950, the Philadelphia Eagles made him the 14th overall pick of the NFL Draft and the Minneapolis Lakers selected him in the fourth round of the NBA Draft.
Bud Grant chose basketball, making his debut for the Lakers on Christmas Day 1949. Grant played two seasons in the NBA, tallying 249 points in 96 games while teaming with Hall of Fame center George Mikan to win a league title in 1950. The following year, he joined the Eagles, leading the team in sacks as a defensive end. In 1952, Grant switched to offense and finished second in the league in receiving yards. Philadelphia offered the 6’3”, 199 pound Grant an $ 8,000 contract after the 1952 season. The Canadian Football League’s [Daily Dose, November 25] Winnipeg Blue Bombers offered $ 11,000, and Bud Grant became the first pro to “play out his option” and leave for another team. Grant was a three-time CFL All-Star, led the Western Conference in receptions and yards, and, in October 1953, intercepted a CFL-record five passes in a playoff game. In 1957, the Blue Bombers hired the 29-year-old Grant as coach, making him the youngest head coach in CFL history. In ten seasons in Winnipeg, Mr. Grant led the team to six Grey Cup appearances, winning the championship four times. He compiled an overall record of 112-66-2, was 13-4 in the postseason and was named Coach of the Year in 1965.
In 1967, the Minnesota Vikings hired Grant to take over for Norm Van Brocklin, the only man to have coached the team since their inception. He instilled discipline and attention to detail—the Vikings practiced lining up and standing at attention for the entire National Anthem. After going 3-8 in his first season, Grant led Minnesota to the NFC Central Division title ten of eleven times from 1968 to 1978, missing only in 1972. He led the Vikings to four Super Bowls and lost each one, but was the first coach to reach the game four times. Prior to Grant’s arrival, the Minnesota Vikings had never won more than eight games in a year. Under Grant, they went 12-2 in four different seasons. Grant won ten postseason games and went 161-99-5 in 18 seasons as head coach of the Vikings. The Vikings finished with a losing record only four times. Bud Grant retired in 1985 with a career winning percentage of .620.
Harry Peter Grant is the greatest coach in Minnesota Vikings history. At the time of his retirement in 1985, only two men in pro football history had won more games. Under Grant, the Vikings won 11 Central Division and four Conference titles. Grant had a clear, no-nonsense way of thinking. His teams were tough—they practiced outside during Minnesota winters and he did not allow heaters on the sidelines during games. “Bud Grant has more leadership ability and common sense than any person I have ever known or been around in my life,” said Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who played seven seasons for Grant. He was the stoic, expressionless face of the franchise and treated everybody with dignity and respect. Grant let his assistants do their jobs. He had dinner at home every night, believing in a balanced lifestyle. He often got up at 5:00 am to hunt ducks before reporting to his office at 7:30. Tarkenton swears that Grant did not step up to the blackboard and diagram a single play during his entire time in Minneapolis. Mr. Grant was voted NFL Coach of the Year in 1976 and is the first man in history to guide teams to the Grey Cup and Super Bowl. He was elected to the CFL Hall of Fame in 1983 and Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994. Bud Grant still fly fishes, hunts and maintains an office at Vikings’ headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.