Dean Dalton was an assistant coach with the Vikings from 1999 to 2005, one of the most interesting eras in the franchise’s history. These days, he’s a senior vice president for Major League Football, a fledgling pro league slated to begin play in 2016. Dalton, who still lives in the Twin Cities, chatted this week with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand on a number of subjects:
Q First off, what exactly is Major League Football?
A The genesis was shortly after my time with the Vikings, I was at the Pro Bowl. Another former Vikings coach, Wes Chandler, was with me at a charity golf event. We were talking about the need for a developmental league for the NFL — and the need for a spring league to fill that void.
Q What makes it different from other leagues that have come and gone?
A We don’t have any official relationship with the NFL or colleges, but it’s designed to be a training league for guys who want to keep chasing the dream. Where it’s different is A) we’re founded with a football-first mentality and B) the concept of making a spring league for people to chase their dreams. You and I did not grow up dreaming of playing Sundays in April in Major League Football. We dreamed of playing Sundays in the NFL. We realize that. If a player gets signed to go to NFL OTAs, we welcome that.
Q You mentioned you still have the same 612 phone number you got from working with Dennis Green in the 1990s. Who from that era do you still keep in touch with the most?
A I talk to quite a few of those guys. I’ve been blessed to still be around the game in a number of ways. … Coach Green, I haven’t seen as often as I would enjoy. Mike Tice and I became close when we were assistants, and then I stayed on board when he became the boss. We’ve remained close. I texted with Mike and Todd Bouman the other day.
Q Your final year with the Vikings was 2005, one of the most eventful seasons in team history with the Love Boat, Daunte Culpepper’s injury, new ownership and many other things. How do you reflect, now, on that unbelievable year and the way it ended?
A It was a bumpy year. I was proud of our coaches and players for hunkering down and staying together. That was a testament to Mike Tice. He did a really good job of handling that and deflecting a lot of the challenges from the media. Brad Johnson — Old Man Brad — he came in and did a fantastic job as an extension of the coaches on the field. I was really proud of that season because of all the variables and negatives, potholes and challenges, and we hung together. Any time in the NFL, finishing 9-7 is a pretty good season.
Q Any thoughts on Jerry Kill and the all-consuming nature of working in football these days?
A We never coached together, but I have the highest regard for him. And everyone I knew has the highest regard for him. I was sad to see him retire because he’s good for football. … Coaches joke about [the business] with each other. We call it a sickness. But I always end up back around football. It’s like being in the mafia. You try to get out and it pulls you back in. But it’s the passion and relationships you make. It’s a small, special club.