C.J. Q&A: Vikings legend Bud Grant still in the hunt at 84

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 18, 2012 - 7:54 PM

Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant probably wouldn't allow tweeting if he were in charge of the Vikings today. He doesn't even own a computer himself and says his cellphone is likely as not to have a dead battery. But Grant, now 84, was delightfully up for fielding questions about everything from his hair care regimen to his new companion discovered while looking for a decoy collector. ("You get lonely," said the coach who was married for nearly 60 years to Pat Grant, who died in 2009.) And of course we talked football! I know football, but I apparently don't know about the coaching ego, and that includes his son Mike. The Vikings great -- who amassed a 158-96-5 record from 1967-1985, with 11 division titles and four NFC championships -- gave thoughtful and humorous answers about everything from end-zone dancing players to over-officiating refs. Our Winter Park interview is broken into three startribune.com/videos, with the third installment being the least footbally. Oh yes, and Grant admits he still has a little bit of "show biz" left in him.

Q How do you spend your time until football season begins again?

A I hunt and fish a lot. I have 19 grandchildren, [with a sixth great-grand] on the way. I have six children. Everybody lives within 30 minutes of where we're sitting.

Q You coached during an era when almost anything went. If you could tear off the QB's arms, that was OK. Do you think the NFL has gone too far when it comes to protecting QBs?

A The quarterback is the most vulnerable one on the field. He's in an awkward position a lot of times when he throws the ball. So he does have to be protected. You lose a quarterback, you're in trouble. I don't know if they can make it too safe. I think health becomes an issue. They are making the right strides in reducing helmet-to-helmet hits. From the purist's standpoint, and I put myself in that category, I think they do over-officiate the games. They miss a lot -- instant replay has shown that. But still there are things that are questionable.

Q Do I correctly remember you standing outside at TCF stadium for that game the Vikings played in freezing weather wearing only a short-sleeve golf shirt?

A You must be from the South. Being cold for a short period of time is not life-threatening. You can perform a task when you're cold. We proved that when the Vikings played outside. Look at a lot of players even today. They wear short sleeves [in cold weather games]. But you might call that a little bit of show biz.

Q What do you think of touchdown celebrations?

A Hard to compare rules then and today. But the Vikings did not allow that. We felt that was unnecessary, and you seldom if ever saw any of our players do that. Now, exuberance is something that's uncontrollable. What you see today is controllable. My prediction is they will come down hard on that now. They're getting more attention after the touchdown than they are making the touchdown.

Q What would you say to Gisele Bundchen if you were Tom Brady? (Bundchen, the super mouthy model who is married to Brady, publicly defended him following his recent Super Bowl loss.)

A If she keeps talking like that she's going to be interviewed more and more. The best thing she can do is keep her mouth shut. Tom does a good job. He's a great personality, bright. He gives good answers. He's not a showboat. Best thing she can do is keep her mouth shut.

Q Does your son Mike, coach at Eden Prairie High, ever ask for coaching advice?

A Never. If you're a coach, you've got to have a lot of confidence in what you're doing. Your egos are so large that you know it all anyway, if you're a coach.

Q So you couldn't have drawn up that reverse flea-flicker Mike's team used in the big-school state champion game in November between Eden Prairie and Wayzata?

A It's a play he's used before. It's a play I've used before. Some of the most innovative things in football I see at high school games. It's not the play -- it's when you run it. The right time.

Q Your wife, Pat, has been gone since 2009, and I hear you're seeing someone?

A After 60, 59 1/2 years of marriage, it was the last thing I ever thought about because we had a wonderful marriage. But she passed away and, you know, it does get lonely. Met a wonderful person. Spend a lot of time together, travel together. Last thing in the world I ever would've imagined. She gets along well with my kids. She talks to some of them almost daily. She's become almost a part of the family.

Q Her name is Pat and your wife's name was Pat?

A That's a coincidence, too. 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.

Interviews are edited for space and clarity. C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or cj@startribune.com.

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