Sid Hartman, the Star Tribune sports columnist who was still writing when he died in 2020 at age 100, counted Bud Grant among his "close personal friends" — and thought of him as his best friend.
Hartman often went to Grant for opinions and insights. It started June 27, 1948, the first time Hartman mentioned Grant in a column, a passage on what Gophers athletes were doing to stay busy in the summer: "Bud Grant is spending his spare time building a cabin on 60 acres of land he purchased recently near Gordon, Wis. Bud is also pitching for Gordon." On that day Grant had just turned 21. Hartman was 28.
Hartman's takes on Grant burgeoned from there. Here's a sampling:
Grant's career was part McVay, part Belichick
Publication date: Feb. 3, 2019
One of the biggest story lines for this Super Bowl is the difference between the Patriots' long-running dynasty under Bill Belichick vs. the young startup squad in the Rams with Sean McVay, who was the youngest head coach in NFL history when he was hired by the Rams at 30 and is now the youngest head coach in Super Bowl history at 33.
Former Vikings coach Bud Grant knows how it feels to be in both positions.
When Grant was hired by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1957, he became the youngest head coach in Canadian Football League history at 29. His team would reach the Grey Cup, the CFL championship game, in his first season, and after that it would win the title in four of the next five seasons.
"You do not win with good coaches, you win with good players," Grant said when asked about being a winning coach at a young age. "[The Rams] had a nucleus of good players, they have drafted good players, and they have stayed healthy and done a good job.
"You get continuity, and that helps. Certainly there are young coaches coming in all the time, and a lot of them aspire to be head coaches, but it is not the X's and O's that you do as a coach. It is the recognition of positioning players on the team, keeping them healthy, your scouting is good — those are the things that are as important as the coach or a particular player."
Grant was a more seasoned coach during his time with the Vikings. From 1968 to 1980, they reached the playoffs 11 times in 13 seasons, including four Super Bowls in that stretch.
The Patriots have now reached the playoffs in 16 of 18 seasons and made nine Super Bowls in that time.
"Somebody is doing a good job," Grant said of the Patriots. "They have also had good fortune. But you have good coaches, good players and good fortune, and that is what you need to have a winning season and go to the Super Bowl.
"I keep referring to luck — there is so many things you can control and there are things out of your control, like officiating can rob you."
When Grant was asked about the four Super Bowl losses the Vikings had against the Chiefs, Dolphins, Steelers and Raiders, he said those were four of the best teams in league history.
"We played very good teams — Miami at their peak, Pittsburgh at their peak, Oakland, that was their run when we lost to Oakland," Grant said. "But I think it is harder today."
When asked how Grant would compare the Patriots dynasty to the Steelers dynasty in the 1970s — Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls in six seasons — he said the league is always improving.
"Well, it's hard. The thing you don't want to do nowadays is compare eras," the 91-year-old Hall of Famer said. "I mean, football going forward has gotten better every year. There are more players that aspire to be professional football players, that train at getting better, evaluations are getting better, the coaching is getting better, the pool of players is getting better. You cannot compare a player from that era and this era."
Still, Grant is very impressed by what the Patriots have done.
"It is hard to repeat nowadays with the movement of players and the draft and it kind of equals out so that every team — well, not every team, but half of the teams that start the season have a chance to get to the Super Bowl because the talent has leveled out and they are all pretty well equal now," he said.
Did Grant want to predict a winner for the big game?
"Sid, that's your job," he said. "I can't pick the winners. I never do. I never look at it that way. But the experts, you sportswriters, you pick the winners."
Grant's first draft was memorable one
Publication date: April 27, 2018
There certainly have been a lot of noteworthy moments for the Vikings over the years, from drafting Tommy Mason No. 1 overall as an expansion team in 1961 to landing Randy Moss 21st in 1998 to letting their time expire in 2003 and letting two teams pick ahead of them before picking Kevin Williams in the first round.
But looking back, perhaps the Vikings' most interesting draft came in 1967, when Bud Grant made his first picks as an NFL coach from the hospital.
The Vikings hired Grant to be their coach on March 10, 1967, only four days before the NFL draft was set to commence at the Gotham Hotel in New York City.
Grant said that because he had been so focused on coaching the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League, he wasn't well-versed in the college players available. But the Vikings had three first-round picks that year: The No. 2 overall pick, acquired from the Giants on March 7 when Fran Tarkenton was traded to New York; their own pick at No. 8; and the No. 15 pick, acquired from the Rams in a trade that sent Mason and Hal Bedsole to Los Angeles.
And mind you, back in 1967 there were 17 rounds in the NFL draft, and the Vikings ultimately ended up selecting 18 players.
"I was not privy to a lot of what was going on in the draft prior to my first year," Grant recalled. "When I came here, [General Manager] Jim Finks and [team scout and director of player personnel] Jerry Reichow and I talked about upcoming players in the draft. I knew very little about them because I was in Canada, but they knew a lot about them.
"Jim Finks had a medical condition. He was in the hospital. So we drafted from Jim Finks' room in the hospital. Jerry Reichow, myself and Jim Finks drafted from his hospital room on the telephone. I knew some of the top players. We drafted Clint Jones, Gene Washington and Alan Page."
Grant said that one of the biggest what ifs in Vikings draft history came in 1968, when the team had the No. 1 overall pick and took future Hall of Fame tackle Ron Yary.
Had the rules been different, the Vikings might have ended up with another player from Southern California instead. At the time, NFL teams only could draft college seniors, a rule that didn't change until 1990.
"It's kind of fate. O.J. Simpson was only a junior. Now in today's draft we would have taken Simpson, but in those days you couldn't take an undergraduate, you had to take seniors," Grant said. "... He was a great All-American player. But we were lucky we got a guy like Yary, who played for  years, got a great player, an All-Pro, a Hall of Famer. But if it had been today's thing, we would have drafted O.J."
Certainly, for the Vikings of the 1960s, scouting of college players was a whole different ballgame than it is today for the team and General Manager Rick Spielman.
"There is more information there for everybody to look at, and the Vikings have done a tremendous job in their draft," Grant said. "They have so much more information than we had because we had scouts, but we didn't have this film and reports they have on these players. They press buttons and they can see what these players are doing. So they don't make many mistakes on the draft."
Grant was asked if he had a favorite pick over the course of his 18 drafts with the Vikings.
"I am beholden to too many players to say one is the best," Grant said, mentioning Jim Marshall, who was acquired in a trade with Cleveland before the 1960 season, and Mick Tingelhoff, who became a Hall of Famer after signing as an undrafted free agent.
Grant added: "Being able to get an Alan Page and a Ron Yary and a Carl Eller, there weren't many better than those players that we got. When I came here, we had some good players. ... Timing is everything. I just came in at a good time."
Grant was one of the first players to understand the importance of a rookie contract and trying to control your value. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the draft in 1950. But he decided to stick with playing basketball with the Minneapolis Lakers, who had drafted him in the fourth round in 1950.
He was trying to make as much money as he could playing sports, so he decided to wait out the Eagles.
"They offered me a contract for $7,500, No. 1 draft choice. That was a lot of money when you don't have any money," Grant said. "I went and played with the Lakers for two years and I thought, 'Well now I'm in a good bargaining position, so I'll go back to the Eagles.' They cut me $500 and they only offered me $7,000. I said, 'Well I'll sign one contract,' and I played out my one year of my contract and when my second year was up, the option was up, and I was free to go to Canada to play."
Yes, there is perhaps no person better versed in the history of the NFL draft than Grant, even if things have changed drastically in the 68 years since he was first drafted.
Grant downplays impact of weather
Publication date: Jan. 10, 2016
When Bud Grant coached the Vikings in playoff games in freezing temperatures, conditions the current Vikings will face Sunday against the Seahawks, he said his teams prided themselves on embracing the cold.
"Remember the old Met, the teams were on the same side of the field. Next to us, the teams had heaters and any kind of thing to keep hands warm. We did not have them," Grant said. "Our players were looking at the field. When I looked down at the other team, they were huddled around their heaters, they weren't watching the game. Our players wanted to get in the game, not out of the game. A little different."
Did his players ever complain?
"Good-naturedly, yes, they said they were cold, I said fine, but I said they're cold too, you know how to play when it's cold," Grant recalled. "That's the only difference."
Grant, has taken calls from a number of media outlets about playing in the Minnesota cold. He said he doesn't think it was so big of a deal when he coached.
"We talked about it, didn't have meetings about it," he said. "We didn't make a big deal out of it like they're making now. It's a big deal. But it's not. It's the same for both teams. It's the same."
One difference was that Grant's Vikings did have to practice outside.
"That was by necessity. We didn't have an indoor practice field," said Grant, who will serve as Vikings honorary captain for the wild-card game. "... The benefit of that was we didn't practice very long. Ordinarily you practice an hour and a half or an hour and 40 minutes. We maybe had 45-minute practices. The players liked that part of it. It also gave us some time to get well at the end of the season, we didn't have a lot of time practicing."
Still Grant, thinks that the Vikings won't have any weather advantage when they take to TCF Bank Stadium.
"Pete Carroll has been in New England, New York, he's been here, he's been all over, it's not going to bother Seattle at all," Grant said of his former assistant coach. "They play in worse than cold — to be wet is worse than being cold. Also being hot is worse because if you play in Miami or Tampa or Texas in the hot weather, when a player becomes dehydrated, you can't hydrate them enough to get them back in the ballgame.
"But if we're a little cold out here, cold never keeps anybody from playing. Hot weather keeps players out of the game, cold weather doesn't bother them."
So it's not the same game today as it was in Grant's days?
"Don't make it a comparison, what it was, today is not the same," he said. "Players are bigger, players are better, players are faster."
Grant turned down coaching chances
Publication date: May 21, 2015
Wednesday was Bud Grant's 88th birthday, and the former Vikings coach celebrated it by having one of his garage sales with a lot of great memorabilia available. When I visited with him, people were lined up in the driveway.
Grant said his 88th birthday meant a lot to him, but it also was a melancholy day.
"It's the sad part that so many of my friends, including my good friend Verne Gagne, are not here," he said. "That's what it means when you live this long. You're missing a lot of friends."
It's amazing to think it has been 30 years since Grant coached a game. He could have continued for much longer if he had wanted.
"The Vikings said that I would be the highest-paid coach in the National Football League," he said about their offer to have him return after he coached the 1985 season. "They would have given me the highest contract in the NFL if I had continued coaching, but I turned it down."
Grant said he also heard about other teams wanting his services, such as the Detroit Lions, but nothing as concrete as the Vikings' offer.
"You never know what the offers are," he said. "There were inquiries. I had four or five teams that inquired if I would be interested in coaching. I was not interested in any of them. They were only inquiries, they were not offers."
Grant said the thing he misses most about coaching is winning but that one of his favorite accomplishments is that everything he earned in his life, he earned through sports.
"I've never made a nickel out of doing anything other than professional sports, as a player, as a coach, I never made a nickel in any other profession, any other investment," he said. "They wanted me to do color on TV and all of that, I never made a nickel doing anything other than being a professional athlete and coach."
So he turned everyone down? "Yeah," Grant said.