Harry Peter Grant Jr. was born on May 20, 1927, in Superior, Wisconsin, and was given the nickname Bud by his mother. He overcame a bout of polio as a child and became a three-sport high school star. He learned early about the coaching business after enlisting in 1945, and played on a team at Naval Station Great Lakes outside Chicago led by Paul Brown, who would go on to a Hall of Fame coaching career. , NFL executive and owner.
From there, Grant played football, basketball and baseball at the University of Minnesota, a nine-time letterman who was drafted by both the NBA and NFL. He first took up basketball, he played two seasons for the Minneapolis Lakers and won a title with them in 1950.
But it was football where Grant really excelled, first for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was second in the NFL with 56 receptions and 997 yards in 1952, before a contract dispute landed him in the CFL’s Winnipeg. After starring as a two-way player for the Blue Bombers, once hooking five interceptions in a playoff game, he became their coach and led them to six Gray Cup games, winning the title in 1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962. Grant won 102 games as a CFL coach.
That piqued the interest of the Vikings, who lured him back across the border in 1967. With stars like Fran Tarkenton, Carl Eller, Alan Page, Paul Krause and Ron Yary all inducted into the Football Hall of Fame A professional, Grant led the Vikings to 10 Central Division Crowns in 11 seasons.
Disciplined to the core and insisting on sharp mental focus, Grant went so far as to have his players practice standing at attention during the national anthem. Infamously, he took the Vikings outdoors in the frigid winter for training and banned side warmers during games at Metropolitan Stadium.
On January 10, 2016, when the Vikings hosted the coldest game in franchise history in the first round of the playoffs against Seattle, at the university’s outdoor stadium while their building was under construction, Grant served as honorary captain. He stepped out for the pregame coin toss in a Vikings cap and purple short-sleeved polo shirt, looking ready for a round of golf braving temperatures of minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit and minus 25 with the wind chill.
Grant retired after the 1983 season, replaced by Les Steckel, whose ferocious approach was the opposite of his quiet predecessor’s and went 3-13. Grant returned for one season, a 7-9 finish, before longtime offensive coordinator Jerry Burns was promoted to the top job.
Although Grant was done with coaching by then, his influence on his team and city remained. Grant continued to live in the same suburban home he bought upon his arrival in 1967, in Bloomington, less than 10 miles from Metropolitan Stadium. He became something of an ambassador for the Vikings in the community, sometimes lending his voice to the lobbying effort to replace the Metrodome, where he played the team from 1982 to 2013.
He went on hunting and fishing trips with friends and family as often as possible. In a particularly harrowing visit to hunt in Canada in 2015, Grant’s pilot safely flipped a twin-engine plane after landing gear and dash instruments failed.
Grant also showed more of his softer side. In the university’s return to on-campus soccer, at TCF Bank Stadium in 2009, the Gophers named him and eight other former players their honorary captain. His face trembled and his eyes filled with tears as fans cheered his name at the pregame ceremony.
There were also Grant’s famous garage sales, where he gave out autographs to those who bought at least $25 worth of his items, including memorabilia from his playing and coaching days and even used outdoor gear. For the 2017 three-day event, custom bobbleheads made in his likeness were available for purchase. Grant would sit in a chair outside his house and sign in for an unbroken line of admirers, some coming from abroad to look at the old coach’s stuff.
The Vikings kept a spacious office for him at their suburban headquarters and continued to list him as a consultant on all team directories. Whenever a new coach or executive was hired, Grant was usually one of the first people the Vikings made sure to introduce.
On his 95th birthday on May 20, 2022, the team hosted a Zoom call for him and several of his former players. Jim Marshall led the group in the virtual singing of «Happy Birthday.»
She is survived by her partner, Pat Smith, six children, 19 grandchildren, and as of 2021, 13 great-grandchildren. His wife of 59 years, Pat, died in 2009. A son, Mike Grant, built a powerful football program at Eden Prairie High School, a 15-minute drive from his father’s home, winning 11 state championships in a span of 22 years old from 1996-2017.