erik lundegaard


Wednesday September 15, 2021

Mick Tingelhoff (1940-2021)

It was a name I heard all the time from about ages 9 to 15, one of many monumental Minnesota sports names from that period—names you could see chiseled in granite: Killebrew, Tarkenton, Goldsworthy, Hilgenberg, Tingelhoff. We don't get names like that anymore, do we? As Harmon was the only Killebrew in MLB history, Mick was the only Tingelhoff in NFL history. They were singular men.

From the Star-Tribune obit:

Tingelhoff came to the Vikings as an undrafted free agent linebacker from Nebraska in 1962, the Vikings' second season. He shifted to center in the second preseason game, and never missed a regular-season or postseason game over the next 17 seasons. His 240 consecutive starts are a record for an NFL center and second in Vikings' history behind only [Jim] Marshall's 270.

Think about that for a second. He was basically unwanted, had to pivot from his original position, but kept showing up for work. And Vikings history, Star-Trib? Think bigger: NFL history. The only player who has passed Marshall and Tingelhoff for consecutive NFL starts is Green Bay's Brett Favre. Crazier still? Alan Page is still tied for seventh on this list, and—excluding Marshall and Tingelhoff—the others above him all came afterwards. Meaning, for a time, the top three players with the most consecutive NFL starts were all 1960s-70s Minnesota Vikings. Maybe there's something to what Rhoda said: “Eventually I moved to Minneapolis, where it's cold and I figured I'd kept better.” They kept better.

Or were they just tougher? Tingelhoff still holds the consecutive game streak for offensive linemen. Second is Will Shields of KC at 223, a season away, and only one other guy has more than 200. And none of them are centers. 

Tingelhoff didn't just show up, didn't just last, he excelled: six-time Pro Bowler, five-time All Pro, co-captain of those great Vikings teams with Jim Marshall. He was the introvert to Marshall's extrovert. Apparently at 6'2“, 237, he was undersized for a lineman, but he was tough. Football Reference has something called AV, Approximate Value, which is its attempt at WAR, and Tingelhoff had the highest AV rating on the 1966 Minnesota Vikings—as a center!—and the sixth-highest overall in Vikings history. His number 53 is one of five numbers retired by the Vikings. (Not sure why they're waiting on Carl Eller.) He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015—the ninth center to receive the honor. ”Mick Tingelhoff wasn't a Minnesota Viking,“ Fran Tarkenton said as his HOF presenter. ”Mick Tingelhoff is the Minnesota Viking.“

Tough, durable, monumental, Tingelhoff died this week at age 81 ”after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's,“ according to the STrib. Such sadness in those words. One wonders if it wasn't football related. The New York Times has it slightly different: ”The cause was Parkinson's disease with dementia." But the same question arises. For now, chisel his name in granite.

Posted at 08:08 AM on Wednesday September 15, 2021 in category Sports