CANTON, Ohio – Mick Tingelhoff, the soft-spoken ironman who quietly captained the Vikings to four Super Bowls during their heyday, entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame as quietly as he played all those years ago.
For the first time since at least 1977, when Hall of Fame executive Joe Horrigan arrived in Canton, and presumably ever, a living enshrinee had his presenter speak for him during his induction acceptance.
Tingelhoff, who has had health issues and memory loss in recent years, stood at the podium next to presenter Fran Tarkenton as the Vikings Hall of Fame quarterback spoke instead for his "best friend."
"Short and sweet," said Phyllis, Mick's wife of 54 years, referring to what ended up being a 1-minute, 14-second acceptance speech delivered by Tarkenton.
"That's Mick. He always liked things short and sweet."
Tinglehoff's health issues, coupled with the exhaustion of the week in Canton, led the Tingelhoff family to change plans on Saturday and not have Tingelhoff try to give even a brief speech. Tingelhoff was a part of the initial group of players to sue the NFL because of the long-term effects of head injuries.
After helping unveil Tingelhoff's bronze bust, Tarkenton walked with Tingelhoff to the podium.
"Mick's a man of little words but a lot of action," Tarkenton said. "He's so proud to be in this class of 2015. He waited 37 years to get to the Hall of Fame."
At that point, Tarkenton choked up and started to cry. The crowd, which was dominated by Steelers fans in town for Jerome Bettis' enshrinement and Sunday's Hall of Fame Game against the Vikings, gave them a standing ovation that lasted about 20 seconds.
"He wanted me to tell all of his teammates who are here and thank them for being here. Our great coach and fellow Hall of Famer Bud Grant. All the Viking fans who came from all over the country. And all the rest of you fans, and even you Steeler fans who beat us in that Super Bowl. Thank you."
With that, Tingelhoff smiled and waved to the crowd before exiting the stage with Tarkenton.
In his 32nd year of eligibility, Tingelhoff was enshrined alongside seven classmates inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium next door to the Hall of Fame. Of the 295 Hall of Famers in the NFL's 95-year history, Tingelhoff is the ninth center, 16th undrafted free agent and 13th player who spent the majority of his career as a Viking.
Those who have known Tingelhoff for decades say he never was one to talk much off the field or on the field during a 17-year career (1962-78) that included 240 consecutive regular-season starts, third-most in NFL history.
"He was very humble, very reserved, very quiet," said Vikings Hall of Fame tackle Ron Yary, who was in Canton. "He didn't need to stand up and show off or have people applaud him."
About 30 former Vikings, including Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant, made the trip to Canton.
"I'd follow Mick anywhere," said former Vikings running back Chuck Foreman, who drove the 12 hours from the Twin Cities. "Mick was the best of the best as a center and a better person."
About 40 more friends made the trek. Longtime NFL coach and former Vikings assistant Monte Kiffin was there with about 15 fellow high school classmates of Tingelhoff's. Kiffin was a two-way tackle and Tingelhoff the center and middle linebacker on the 1958 Lexington High School team that went 9-0 and won the Nebraska state championship.
"Mick would have been a Hall of Fame linebacker, too," Kiffin said.
About 50 family members, including Phyllis, three sisters, three children and 12 grandchildren, were in Canton.
"I hired a bus from Sioux City, Iowa, and brought 18 of us," said De Saulsbury, Tingelhoff's sister. "I always told my family that if Mick ever got in, I'd take everybody to Canton. My treat. I've been waiting a long time for this, but it's the best journey I ever made."
Tingelhoff rode in Saturday morning's Hall of Fame parade with his daughter, Teri. The family also spent time in the Hall, where there's now a Tingelhoff display that includes one of Mick's helmets, a letter sweater from Nebraska and Mick's 1965 contract with the Vikings.
"It's for $16,500," Phyllis said. "There was an extra $1,000 if the team finished first or second. I don't think we saw the extra $1,000."
Tingelhoff went on to be a five-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler. Not bad for an old farm boy who wasn't raised in a football family.
"Dad thought football was a waste of time," Tingelhoff said in May. "Mom and Dad were from Germany. Mean Germans. They weren't real happy that I got a scholarship to Nebraska. They wanted me to stay on the farm."
The Vikings were glad he didn't.
"He wasn't a loud, rah-rah guy," Tarkenton said earlier. "But out of all of us who went into the Hall of Fame, Mick was always the most respected and most deserving."