PITTSBURGH -- Fred Zamberletti was understandably emotional during a interview in the press box at Heinz Field. The former Vikings trainer and current team consultant/historian celebrated his 1,000th game with the organization Sunday.
Zamberletti, who served as the team's head athletic trainer from 1961-98, has attended every Vikings game since their inception. That includes all preseason, regular-season and postseason games. Sunday marked the fourth different stadium in Pittsburgh that he's seen a game.
Zamberletti said he initially thought he would stay 10 years with the team but he's at 49 and counting.
"I missed three out of four kids being born," said an emotional Zamberletti. "We didn't have anybody else in those days. If you were sick, didn't feel good, funerals or anything else, you still went to to work and you didn't miss. I was a pretty demanding trainer. If we expected that out of the players, I had to expect that out of myself too. So the numbers just keep coming."
Zamberletti, 77, tried to downplay the significance of his 1,000th game but it obviously is a special moment for him.
"I think the big celebration is next year when we have our 50th anniversary [as an organization]," he said. "Hopefully a lot of the players [will return] because I believe they were the cornerstone. They are the important people. A lot of them played back when we didn't have the medical technology, we didn't have the equipment. We didn't have the protective rules that they have today. A lot of those players are suffering the residuals of this game. I think it's very important that we remember them. That's when the big day is going to be. To me, to be with them once again, I hope a lot of them get back here."
"It's been very good," he added. "I've been very fortunate. It's been a good organization that gave me a lot of opportunities. Met a lot of nice people. It's like Lou Gehrig said, 'I'm the luckiest man alive.' When I came here I thought I would stay 10 years, but it kept on getting better. The longer you stayed, the more money you'd make."
Zamberletti laughed and said "now all we have to do is go out and win the game."