The Vikings' public memorial service for former coach Bud Grant was a rare quiet Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Hundreds of fans sat in hushed reverence in the stands as Grant's family, friends and colleagues told stories about his life and career.
As they listened, the fans were transported back to their parents' living rooms or the old Metropolitan Stadium, remembering what it was like to watch Grant patrol the sidelines in the cold. Grant, who coached the Vikings from 1967 to 1983 and in 1985, was the first Vikings coach many fans remember. And for many, he still defines the team.
"Bud Grant was the Minnesota Vikings to me," said Michael O'Brien of Minneapolis.
The Hall of Fame coach died at 95 in March at his home in Bloomington. The tone Grant set as a coach and his record of coaching the Vikings to 158 wins, 11 division titles and four Super Bowl appearances inspired faith in the Vikings' possibility for fans too young to have experienced Grant's tenure. And those years stand out for fans old enough to remember him.
On Sunday, memories of those times roared back for fans like Sandy Carlson of Richfield.
"I couldn't wait to get home from church on Sundays," she said, to flip on the TV and watch the Vikings, tossing the football in the yard at halftime with her brother and father.
Grant's era was, for many, the era of watching games with their dads.
"My father had season tickets, and my brother never wanted to go. So that was something very special I shared with my father," said Jill Waite of Rosemont.
David "Sir Gunnar" Gunderson of Minneapolis said his family had season tickets for years. Gunderson, his father and grandfather would don snowmobile suits and zip into sleeping bags to stay warm. Newer indoor stadiums mean Gunderson no longer needs a snowmobile suit, so he now attends every home game in a different purple costume. On Sunday, he sported a somber purple suit to pay his respects to Grant.
"He was part of the Vikings family," Gunderson said. "I am, too."
Mary Fischbach of Mendota Heights said she and her father were always tickled to hear teams like the Los Angeles Rams whine about the Minnesota weather and to see them huddled around heaters, knowing that Grant had been training his team to play in the cold.
"I liked the whole mystique of the cold weather and Bud being stoic," she said. "He's the coach that got you to four Super Bowls."
When the Vikings came within a field goal of another Super Bowl appearance in 1998, Fischbach said, she wanted to hang a pennant on his grave if the Vikings ever win it all. Maybe 2023 will be the year, she said.
Grant taught his teams — and the fans — to bounce back after a loss and keep looking ahead, said Mark Hughes of Delafield, Wis. As a youth football and baseball coach, Hughes said, he tries to instill that outlook in his teams.
Hughes remembered meeting Grant in a parking lot once.
"We were just awestruck," he said, recalling that Grant chatted with him and his wife, and gave them Vikings stickers that Hughes still has.
Joshua Estes of Eagan is too young to remember watching Bud Grant's Vikings, but in a household of rabid Vikings fans, he was raised revering the coach's skill and work ethic.
Estes even attended a few of Grant's annual Bloomington garage sales, which had become an institution in the city, and bought a couple of his fishing poles.
On Sunday, he brought his 8-year-old daughter, Jaecie, to the service to make sure she knows who Grant was, too.
Being in the stadium with other Vikings die-hards made Estes appreciate the team's history, but he's even more excited for the future. Estes said current coach Kevin O'Connell even reminds him of Grant.
"We've had a lot of ups and downs," he said. "But I'm all in on it right now."