For close to 35 years I had a vote on the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and year after year my biggest disappointment was that Mick Tingelhoff didn’t even get a sniff when it came to be considered to be enshrined in Canton.
Tingelhoff was finally voted in this weekend, after he was nominated by the Senior Committee in August and voted in by the entire Selection Committee on Saturday. The nine-member Senior Committee has the authority to nominate one former NFL player who is otherwise no longer eligible, and it chose Tingelhoff, who by any measure ranks as one of the NFL’s greatest centers of all-time after his 17-year career with the Vikings.
For years, I would return from the Super Bowl, and the late Vikings General Manager Mike Lynn would take out a book showing players’ ratings and show me that the centers being considered for the Hall Of Fame were not as good as Tingelhoff.
Since Tingelhoff’s retirement in 1978, seven centers were voted into the Hall of Fame. That included a couple of Dolphins players, Jim Langer in 1987 and Dwight Stephenson in 1998, thanks in part because former Miami coach Don Shula had enough influence with some members of the voting committee.
Bud Grant’s opinion of Tingelhoff was that of a player, not simply as a center. Tingelhoff played linebacker at Nebraska, and Grant tried to sign him at that position when he was coaching in the Canadian Football League in 1962.
“The only center I was involved in who matched Tingelhoff in ability was Chuck Bednarik, who I played with when I was with the Philadelphia Eagles and he played both ways,” Grant said. “Tingelhoff could have done it.”
It was original Vikings coach Norm Van Brocklin who signed Tingelhoff as an undrafted free agent and then moved him from linebacker to center.
“It was a good move because he [Tingelhoff] was the best there was in that era,” Grant said. “The other thing is that he had a mentality of a linebacker playing center. Most of your offensive lineman are introverts, and the extroverts are the defensive linemen. But Mick had the competitive spirit of a linebacker and he played center and he played it better than anybody in that era, in my opinion.”
Grant added that Tingelhoff had to be a genius to make that position switch so easily.
“He understood football,” Grant said. “Mick picked that up right away. It’s just a matter that everybody is on the same page. The center is in the middle of the offensive line, so he recognizes and makes a call as to whether blocking left or right or gaps or whatever the call. And he can convey that to the rest of the line because he’s in the middle.
“Mick did a good job of that, but beyond that, his durability was amazing. He played every game and played at a high level, played very competitive. We started every season with Mick at center. A lot of centers got into the Hall of Fame. A number of them, I don’t want to get into names, but he was as good or better than any of them.”
What hurt Tingelhoff’s chances to get in the Hall of Fame earlier was the fact that the Vikings lost four Super Bowls. Without a doubt, the voters while I was involved held that against a lot of Vikings players getting voted in.
That Super Bowl record hasn’t helped Jim Marshall any, and he remains outside of the Hall of Fame despite his long, excellent career.
Like Tingelhoff, Marshall is only eligible to make it via the Senior Committee. So maybe now that Tingelhoff is in Marshall will get a break.
Sees Gronk in Maxx
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill was asked to project the NFL potential of his former tight end Maxx Williams, who declared for the draft after a stellar junior season. Kill said Patriots star Rob Gronkowski might be a good blueprint.
“I think he’s going to be a great player,” Kill said about Williams. “Gronkowski with the Patriots, you have a lot of those tight ends right now, just like us, there are more people wanting to play tight end right now because of what is happening in the NFL. He’s going to have a tremendous opportunity, his stock just continues to rise. I’m partial, I think he’s the best tight end coming out in the draft, in my opinion, by far.”
CBSSports.com ranks Williams as the No. 1 tight end prospect in the draft and projects him to go in the first or second round.
Williams and Gronkowski do have very similar body types, with Williams at 6-4 and 250 pounds. Gronkowski was at 6-6 and 264 when he left Arizona in 2010.
Meanwhile, Kill was asked for an update on how recruiting is going, and he said the biggest goal right now is keeping the Gophers’ recruits committed for next season.
“If you follow the recruiting process, you get somebody that Nebraska had committed and that young man decides to decommit and now he’s going to go to Michigan,” Kill said. “Things flip back and forth right now, so as a coach you’re nervous.”
What do kids want to know when they choose to play for the Gophers?
“I think most of the time our people have done a good job of, when they come here and by the time they get to my house, I kind of get an idea of how good our people have done with them,” Kill said. “Then you get a chance to just sit with them in a relaxed setting. A lot of the questions come up about opportunities here in the Twin Cities. Once we get them here, we have so much to sell. … I’d say the biggest question is about how we set up things academically, but it all circles back around to, ‘Hey what are my opportunities? How many are at my position? Can I compete as a freshman?’
“They ask about, we’ve shown them the architecture of our new facilities, how quick that’s going to get done. They ask all those key questions. They leave out of here, some, not everybody we can offer scholarships to, so it’s kind of tough. You’d like to do everything for everybody, but you can’t. So you try to separate out on these visits is who fits and who quite doesn’t fit. These are big weekends for us.”
• Hopkins product Marvin Singleton continues to have a solid senior season at Northern Iowa. Singleton, who starts at forward, is averaging 5.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in 26.0 minutes per game. He had nine points on 4-for-4 shooting with two rebounds in the No. 18 Panthers’ 70-54 victory over No. 12 Wichita State on Saturday. It was Wichita State’s first conference loss in more than a year and moved Northern Iowa into first place in the Missouri Valley Conference.
• Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin on what he thought of Andrew Wiggins’ career-high 33 points in Saturday’s loss to the Cavaliers: “It’s just his maturation process. He’s going to be a special player. We’ve seen that since Day 1, and over this past month he’s been unbelievable. He took the challenge tonight and he succeeded.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com