Back in January 1970, Kathy Igo of West St. Paul recalled Saturday, she along with family and friends drove a rented 24-foot RV to New Orleans to see Bud Grant and the Vikings in Super Bowl IV. She and her husband, Mike, would make it to all four of the Vikings' Super Bowls, all coached by Grant.
But the memory she went to upon learning of Grant's death was more recent: how, in 2016, the 88-year-old strode out for the opening coin toss of a Vikings playoff game, wearing only a short-sleeved shirt against below-zero temperatures.
"Old Bud Grant," Igo said, echoing Minnesotans and Vikings fans in mourning and remembering a sports hero. "He was tough."
Grant, who died at 95, had an appeal that reached far beyond the sidelines at the old Metropolitan Stadium, the site of the Vikings' '70s-era glories.
Grant was an "uncommon common man," former Gov. Arne Carlson said.
"He exuded common sense, he didn't dazzle anyone with malarkey," Carlson said. "He had a natural way of being the best representative for all of us."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar knew Grant for most of her life. Her father, Jim Klobuchar, covered Grant as a journalist , and the two became friends. Jim Klobuchar, a longtime columnist for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, died in 2021.
As a girl, Klobuchar said, she recognized every phone call from Grant by the way he paused before saying, "Jim." She later got to know him as an adult, as she rose in public service and he worked on issues of outdoor recreation and conservation.
Klobuchar, too, fondly recalled the subzero coin toss.
"It was more than a coin toss, it was grit. Grit," Klobuchar said.
Grant befriended other journalists who covered him. Star Tribune sportswriter Sid Hartman, who died at 100 in 2020, considered Grant his best friend.
"They were best friends for decade, after decade, after decade," Chad Hartman, Sid's son, said Saturday.
The COVID-19 pandemic limited attendance at Hartman's funeral, but Grant made it, brought to the gravesite in a car given his own physical limitations. When it came time for those present to shovel dirt into the grave, Chad Hartman said, Grant "grabbed a shovel."
Grant seemed to inspire that same loyalty in people who didn't know him personally.
Bill Hammill was hanging out Saturday at Blue Door Pub near the campus of the University of Minnesota, Grant's alma mater. Hammill, now 60, recalled bringing his 6-year-old son to see Grant at a sports show years back. When another fan interrupted their conversation to ask for Grant's signature, the coach told the man to wait: he was talking to Hammill's son.
"He's always been fantastic, always nice to everybody — to, pretty much, nobodies," Hammill said. "We lost an individual that had Minnesota values across the board."
Vikings fans too young to have ever seen Grant coach nonetheless recognized his death as an end of an era.
"He did a lot to put us on the map," said Brady Freese, 26, who was born and raised in Minnesota. "If you are a fan of the Vikings in any way, he was like one of the cornerstones of the organization."
Matt Kane, 49, recently moved to Minnesota. He said Grant's football career, as important it was to this state, also transcended it.
"He's a big deal for anyone who's a fan of the NFL," Kane said.
But it's Minnesotans who claim him as their own. Joe Igo, 61, grew up watching Grant and the Vikings. A while back, he heard the retired coach was holding a garage sale at his home in Bloomington. Igo decided to stop by, he recalled.
"He was just this regular old guy in a regular old neighborhood in Bloomington, sitting in a lawn chair, selling the same old stuff that anyone else would have," Joe Igo said. He ended up finding a dusty old boat seat cushion. He bought it for $8 and still has it today.
"He didn't even jack up the prices," he said.