Blue Bombers lose an icon
Coach won four Grey Cups in Winnipeg, earned the admiration of all who knew him
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Bud Grant, who won four Grey Cups as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach and would later lead the Minnesota Vikings to four Super Bowl losses, died Saturday.
He was 95.
“Bud Grant is a Blue Bombers icon who set the standard as a coach in the Canadian Football League in Winnipeg and later became a Pro Football Hall of Famer in the same role with the Minnesota Vikings,” said Winnipeg Football Club president and CEO Wade Miller. “His teams were tough, disciplined, intelligent and won consistently, as evidenced by the Grey Cup championships won during his tenure.
“The WFC offers its deepest condolences to the Grant family and his many friends and former players, both here in Winnipeg and in Minnesota.”
The Vikings also delivered the news on social media.
“We are absolutely devastated to announce legendary Minnesota Vikings head coach and Hall of Famer Bud Grant has passed away this morning at age 95,” a statement read. “We, like all Vikings and NFL fans, are shocked and saddened by this terrible news.”
The 6-3, 199-pound Grant was a three-sport star (football, basketball and baseball) at the University of Minnesota and was selected in both the NFL and NBA drafts in 1950.
He earned an NBA title in 1950 with the Minnesota Lakers and registered eight sacks in ’51 and was second in receiving with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1952 before joining the Bombers, who had offered him more money.
The native of Superior, Wis., was the first player to play out his option and leave for another team.
Grant played four seasons with Winnipeg, leading the West Division in catches three times and receiving yards twice. He also had a CFL-record five interceptions in a playoff game in 1953, a mark that still stands.
Winnipeg reached the ’53 Grey Cup final but lost 12-6 to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“Growing up in Winnipeg, Bud Grant was a fixture in the community,” said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie in a tweet. “He impacted so many lives on and off the field. What he accomplished in his playing and coaching career was legendary and inspiring.
“Sending our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Grant became the Bombers’ head coach in 1957 at the age of 29. He led Winnipeg to six Grey Cup appearances from 1957-’66, winning four times (1958-59, ’61-’62). Grant recorded a club-record 102 regular-season wins and was named the CFL’s top coach in 1965 after posting a 11-5-0 record.
Grant also boasted a 16-8-1 record in 25 career playoff games.
All of Grant’s coaching success was because he had opted to take a later flight out of Vancouver following the 1956 CFL all-star game. The original flight Grant was booked on — Trans Canada Air Lines Flight 810 — crashed into Mount Slesse in British Columbia’s Cascade Mountains, killing all 62 passengers.
But Saskatchewan Roughriders Mel Becket, Mario DeMarco, Ray Syrnyk and Gordon Sturtridge along with Winnipeg offensive lineman Calvin Jones — a former Outland Trophy winner at Iowa — were all aboard the fateful flight.
Shortly after the crash Grant, still in Vancover, received a call from team president Jim Russell, who told Grant club officials wanted to speak with him upon his return to Winnipeg. Ultimately, Grant was asked if he’d be interested in coaching the team and so he thought he’d give it a try.
Grant left Winnipeg following the ’66 season to join the Vikings. He’d amassed a solid 102-56-2 regular-season record with the Bombers and was a stellar 13-4 in the CFL playoffs.
Grant led Minnesota and its might Purple People Eats defence to its first playoff appearance in 1968 and the first of four Super Bowl appearances the following year. He served 18 years as Vikings head coach (1967-1983, 1985), posting a 158-96-5 regular-season mark.
Grant is the winningest coach in Vikings history and when he retired, he was eighth on the NFL’s all-time victory list. Overall, he registered a 260-152-7 CFL/NFL coaching record, a solid .629 win percentage.
Grant was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1983, then the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 1994. In 2014, the Bombers unveiled a statute of Grant in front of Investors Group Field.
He was a mainstay among coaches of his era, a decorated group that included Don Shula, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, John Madden and Hank Stram. Grant, however, had little interest in accolades.
“The only reason I can see for a head coach getting credit for something good is that he gets so much blame when something is bad,” he once said. “The whole secret, I think, is to not react to either the good or the bad.”
— The Canadian Press / Staff