ATLANTA — Wrote about the death of former Vikings quarterback Wade Wilson in today's paper. Our coverage dictated a straight byline story instead of a column. I thought I"d pass on more personal thoughts here.
I moved to Minnesota to cover the Vikings in 1990. Wade was the Vikings' starting quarterback, and the team was the reigning NFC Central champion.
It wasn't always a pleasant lockerroom. Some players thought general manager Mike Lynn was a racist because he lived in a mansion in Mississippi, and a team filled with headstrong stars wasn't always happy about the allocation of money and attention.
Amid the chaos, Wilson was a kind, welcoming figure, always happy to chat. He had a strange habit of not smiling even when he said something funny. Once you grew used to that, you would find him to have a dry wit.
He got along well with his teammates and had to live under the pressure of being the starting quarterback on a team with Super Bowl aspirations in a maket that always wished the Vikings had a better quarterback.
As Brad Johnson told me yesterday, at one point in the spring of 1991, the Vikings' quarterbacks were Wilson, Johnson and Rich Gannon. Johnon and Gannon would meet in a future Super Bowl representing different teams, and Wilson would bounce around the league before retiring and becoming a quarterbacks coach.
Wilson had been dealing with severe effects of his diabetes in recent years. As a player, he kept himself in excellent shape. One of my strongest memories from that time was Wilson, Gannon and Johnson, all players who pushed themselves hard during every workout, sprinting laps around the practice field.
Fans tend to remember statistics and big moments. Writers tend to remember how athletes handle themselves in good and bad times. Wilson had his highlights as a player, but the strnogest memories he generated are of him being a decent and kind man.
You can find my podcasts at TalkNorth.com.