Former Vikings Coach Bud Grant still has that old animal magnetism.
I was standing within 2 feet of him Saturday at the Hall of Famer’s Mall of America book signing for his autobiography, “I Did It My Way,” when a woman for whom he had just signed a book said something diverting.
My attention was focused on setting up a shot for my startribune.com/video, so it took me a couple of seconds to understand what I’d heard. This woman — half, maybe a third of the coach’s age — remarked that she and her truck would be in the parking lot. There was a smile on her face, I noticed, when I looked at her just before she disappeared into the crowd.
I think she was trying to pick you up, coach?
“I know,” Grant said to me. “It didn’t work real well, did it?”
Later, while chatting with Mary Bruton, wife of Grant’s co-author, Jim Bruton, and another woman I’d seen lingering while others had left, I commented how Grant was being photographed like a pop star and how I even heard one woman hitting on him.
“Did she have all her teeth?” asked the woman who identified herself as Pat Smith.
That “teeth” remark rang a bell, but I didn’t know why without a lot of help from Smith.
When I interviewed Grant for a 2012 Q&A he told me he had a lady friend by the name of Pat, same name as his late wife and mother of his children. “That’s a coincidence, too,” Grant said. “She’s a substitute teacher in Mankato. Owns her own home, owns her own car, she’s got her own teeth, a great sense of humor, sports interest. It’s a great comfort.”
Well, I can tell you that Pat Smith has not just all her teeth but some beautiful, original-equipment pearly whites.
“I floss,” she quipped to me.
And she has rock hard biceps; I poked her in the arm while exchanging drolleries. “Got to keep him in line,” Smith said of her arms, which are well-toned because she swims when she can.
She also enjoys good debates on current sports issues with Grant, which would apparently find me on her side.
Asked whether he had any concussion-related problems, Grant told me, “I had three, that I know of; carried me off [the field].”
But no long-term problems because of those concussions? “People think I have,” he said with a laugh.
“Now, we don’t have time to discuss this, but I’ve got some thoughts on it. I’m not sure I agree with all of the diagnoses. Some [players] are more susceptible than others. Everybody who’s ever played has had ’em; some of us don’t respond or react like others.”
Smith told me she and Grant debate this “constantly.”
“I believe that concussions start from the time you’re little,” she said, “any time you bump your head, and build up over the years. And constant bruising and bruising is what’s taking a toll on people.”