Vikings rookie Chad Beebe needed one more face to finish off his NFL “Mount Rushmore.” One more 60-foot head he’d chisel into the side of a mountain to represent the entire history of a league that kicks off its 99th season with Thursday’s Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
The undrafted receiver had quite the position bias going with Jerry Rice, Antonio Brown and Wes Welker already on his mountainside.
“I could say Tom Brady,” he said. “Or Don Beebe.”
The son of former Bills and Packers receiver Don Beebe smiled.
“Give me Don Beebe,” he said. “Let’s do this.”
Sorry, Tom. Bring your playbook. You didn’t make the cut.
Ditto for Brett Favre, who was asked to leave Paul Wiggin’s mountainside when the Vikings’ 83-year-old personnel consultant realized he could pick a coach.
“Oh, Paul Brown for sure,” said Wiggin, who also selected Jim Brown, Eagles Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik and Barry Sanders. “I played for Paul in Cleveland. Best teacher I’ve ever been around.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer rolled through his first three picks.
“Vince Lombardi,” Zimmer said. “He was always pretty cool. Then I guess I’d throw Deion [Sanders] on there. And Joe Montana.”
Here’s where Zimmer had to call timeout to gather his thoughts.
“And then you could say Jerry Rice and Emmitt [Smith],” he said. “And Lawrence Taylor, too, I guess.”
What, no Parcells?
“I’ll put Bill on one end and Lombardi on the other,” said the Parcells protégé.
“That’s seven,” confused Vikings head PR guy Bob Hagan chimed in. “They’re going to have to expand the park in South Dakota.”
Brian O’Neill, a rookie lineman from Pitt, wanted his mountain filled with offensive linemen from, you guessed it, Pitt.
“First guy is a no-brainer,” O’Neill said. “Russ Grimm.”
Bill Fralic and Jimbo Covert also made the mountain. Jackie Slater didn’t go to Pitt, but he made it, too.
“And Larry Allen,” O’Neill said. “He’s not a Pitt guy, but he should be on there. I need five heads, man.”
Mount Rushmore, which features presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, was completed in 1941. It didn’t take long before it became synonymous with the four greats in any field.
Something like this comes in handy during early July, the only slow time on the NFL calendar. The idea to ask the Vikings to pick their Mount Rushmore of NFL history was hatched July 4 while reading an NFL.com piece that asked players on other teams the same question.
The best answer that site got came from Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who said, “My Mount Rushmore is me with four different expressions.”
Vikings All-Pro safety Harrison Smith is a tad humbler.
“I don’t like rating guys,” Smith said. “I just don’t agree with it.”
Too bad. Do it or we’ll have to rough you up a little, Harry.
“All positions?” he asked.
“I was told just safeties,” he said. “Can I get back to you?”
“I’m going safeties anyway,” he said.
“Zim always says Darren Woodson was the best, so I have to go with Darren,” Smith said. “And as a Viking, I have to go with Paul Krause.”
He also picked Brian Dawkins and Steve Atwater while trying to squeeze Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Rodney Harrison onto the mountain as well.
“I need more than four because that’s disrespecting the guys who came before who were ballers, too,” Smith said. “Guys like Ronnie Lott, [Jack] Tatum. I was born too late.”
Running back Latavius Murray picked Tom Brady, Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice before realizing mountainsides need defense.
“I’ll go with my man, my former teammate in Oakland, Charles Woodson,” Murray said.
To no one’s surprise, General Manager Rick Spielman came most prepared to his Mount Rushmore interview.
“I’m going from my Ohio roots in saying Jim Brown,” said Spielman, who has loved the history of the game since growing up down the street from the Hall of Fame. “Then Vince Lombardi because the trophy is named after him.”
Then Spielman reached all the way back to the league’s beginning in 1920.
“I would say Fritz Pollard because he was the first African-American to play in the league and the first African-American head coach,” said Spielman, referring to the former Akron Pros star who joined Minneapolis native Bobby Marshall as the league’s first two black players in 1920.
“And then you have my all-time favorite player.”
“No,” said Chris’ older brother. “Jim Thorpe. You walk into the Hall of Fame and there’s his statue. The first franchise athlete the league ever had. I think you got to dig deep if you’re doing the Mount Rushmore of NFL history.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org