John Hankinson, one of the top quarterbacks in Gophers football history and the father of three former Gophers hockey players, died early Friday evening.
Hankinson, who lived in Edina, was 77.
Hankinson, a three-sport star at Edina-Morningside High School, was described by the Minneapolis Tribune in 1965 as the “finest marksman Minnesota football has ever known.”
He started for the Gophers in 1964 and 1965 and held 10 school passing records by the end of his senior season.
One of the highlights as a senior came when he directed the Gophers on an 80-yard scoring drive in the game’s final 77 seconds to rally the Gophers to a 27-22 victory over Northwestern at Memorial Stadium.
Hankinson, who capped the drive with a 1-yard run on fourth down, completed all seven of his passes on the drive to prompt the Minneapolis Tribune’s Bill McGrane to write “It was, for this lean senior who brings a poise bordering on dignity to the quarterback position, a career high point.”
As a high school senior, he led the Hornets football team, coached by former Gophers great Billy Bye, to an undefeated season (8-0-1). During his high school years, he earned four letters in baseball and three each in football and basketball.
He was the MVP of the Gophers football team in 1965. Following the season, he played in the Hula Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game. He was drafted by the Vikings in the eighth round of the 1965 NFL draft. He didn’t see any action with the Vikings, who had Fran Tarkenton as a starter.
Hankinson played for the Des Moines Warriors of the Pro Football League of America in 1966 and later had brief stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos.
After his playing days he went into the real estate development business. He was a partner in Sienna Inc., which developed several golf courses. The company developed the Jack Nicklaus-designed Bearpath Golf & Country Club in Eden Prairie and also developed five courses with Arnold Palmer.
Hankinson and his wife, Bonnie, met in the fall of 1961. They were both first-year students at the university, but they initially met through the Vikings.
College freshmen were ineligible to compete then, so Hankinson was asked by Bye, who had gone to work for the Vikings, to be a ball boy for the team. Bonnie, originally from Willmar, Minn., was a member of the first Vikings cheerleading squad.
Living in Edina, the Hankinsons raised sons Peter, Ben and Casey. John Hankinson, who hadn’t played hockey in high school but played intramural hockey at the university, built an ice rink in their backyard.
All three eventually played for the Gophers and on professional hockey teams. Ben and Casey played in the NHL.
In 1997, John Hankinson was a member of the inaugural class of the Edina Hornets Hall of Fame. He retired from the real estate business about 12 years ago.
In addition to his wife and sons, Hankinson is survived by eight grandchildren. A private family service will be held; a public celebration of his life will be held next year.