Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings both made strong first impressions in their NFL debut in 1961.
The expansion Vikings selected Tarkenton, a quarterback from the University of Georgia, in the third round of the 1961 draft. Tarkenton did not start the Vikings' first game on Sept. 18, 1961, but he came off the bench to throw four touchdown passes and run for a touchdown while leading the Vikings to a surprising 37-13 victory over the Chicago Bears.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame website notes, "for the next 18 seasons, the 6-0, 190-pound field leader never let up in his relentless quest of yardage and touchdowns."
Tarkenton became the Vikings starting quarterback early in his rookie season and remained the Vikings' starting quarterback for six seasons. Following the 1966 season, he was traded to the New York Giants in exchange for four (two No. 1 and two No. 2) future draft picks.
He played for the Giants for five seasons before being traded back to the Vikings in 1972 in exchange for three players and two draft choices. Over the next seven seasons, he led the Vikings to six NFC Central Division titles and three Super Bowl appearances.
At the time of his retirement, Tarkenton held every major passing record — 3,686 pass completions, 47,003 passing yards, and 342 touchdowns. Tarkenton also had gained notoriety as a scrambling quarterback. In his career, he rushed for 3,674 yards (5.4 yards per attempt) and 32 touchdowns. Only three quarterbacks have rushed for more yards during their NFL careers.
During his career, he was named first- or second-team All-NFL three times and selected to play in nine Pro Bowls.
Tarkenton was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. The following year, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Team: Minnesota Vikings.