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Carl Eller made such an impression as a player on the University of Minnesota football team that the program's annual award for top defensive player is now named the Carl Eller Award.

Eller, who was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was a standout during his three-year career with the Gophers. After his senior year in 1963, the 6-foot-6, 247-pound Eller was named first-team All-Big Ten, first-team All-America and the team's MVP.

Eller signed with the Vikings after being selected in the first round of the 1964 NFL draft (he was also taken in the first round of 1964 AFL draft by the Buffalo Bills). He became a starter during his rookie season and for the next 15 years was a fixture at left defensive end on the Vikings' defensive line, which became known as the "Purple People Eaters."

Beginning in 1967, his fourth NFL season, Eller was named first- or second-team All-NFL for the next seven seasons. In 1971, he was named the NFL's top defensive player (called the George Halas Award). He was selected to play in six Pro Bowls during his career.

In a three-year stretch from 1975 to 1977, Eller recorded 44 sacks. During his career he recovered 23 opponents' fumbles — the third-most in NFL history at the time of his retirement. At the time of his retirement, his 134 career sacks was a Vikings team record.

Between 1968 and 1978, the Vikings won 10 NFL/NFC Central Division titles and played in four Super Bowls.

Eller spent his final season in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks in 1979.

In 2000, Eller was named to the Vikings' 40th Anniversary Team and in 2010, he was named to the Vikings' 50th Anniversary team.

"Carl Eller was ahead of his time," former Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton told the Star Tribune in 2004. "He was a huge man, he had great speed, he had great athletic ability, he had great intellect, he understood the game, and he was the dominant outside pass rusher of his day. Deacon Jones certainly was a great outside pass rusher, but Deacon Jones didn't have the strength that Carl Eller did, and was no better than Carl as a pass rusher and a defender against the run. No defensive end has ever been any better than Carl Eller."

He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and two years later was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.


Class: 1989.

Sport: Football.

Teams: Gophers, Vikings.