By Rick Gosselin
Talk of Fame Network
There are six modern-era centers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s hard for me to believe Mick Tingelhoff isn’t one of them.
Durability and longevity alone should merit Tingelhoff consideration for Canton. He walked into the Minnesota camp as an undrafted free agent in 1962 and went on to start every game of a 17-year career. His 240 consecutive starts are the most ever by an NFL center.
But there was quality in addition to that quantity in Tingelhoff’s resume. He was a six-time Pro Bowler on teams that won 10 division titles and four NFC championships. He was voted either first- or second-team All-Pro seven times.
“No center in NFL history played at an all-pro level for as long or as well as Mick Tingelhoff,” said quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who became a Hall of Famer behind the blocking of Tingelhoff.
Yet Tingelhoff has never been discussed as a Hall of Fame finalist.
His blocking spearheaded one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks in the 1960s and one of the best pass offenses in the 1970s.
The Vikings finished in the Top 5 in rushing five times in the 1960s. Tingelhoff blocked for running backs who went to a combined 13 Pro Bowls in his career. Not a single one of those backs, by the way, is in the Hall of Fame. Minnesota also finished in the Top 6 in passing in six of Tingelhoff’s final seven seasons. During that seven-year stretch, the Vikings were the only NFL team to pass for 20,000 yards.
Tingelhoff also was a four-down center, a rarity in today’s NFL. He was a 17-year deep snapper for the Vikings and chipped in 15 career special-teams tackles. His snaps allowed placekicker Fred Cox to become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 1,365 points.
“Mick played center with the mentality of a linebacker,” said Minnesota’s Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant. “I have no doubt that had he not played center he would have been a Hall of Fame linebacker.
“His intangibles were the thing that made him so great. He was the captain the whole time I coached Him (1967-82) and guys looked at him as an example of how to do things right.”
Had the Vikings won just one of those four Super Bowls, Tingelhoff might already be in Canton. He’s now in his 31st year of eligibility and is still waiting for his 15 minutes in the room to have his candidacy judged by the committee. The selection process has failed him. He’ll need the senior committee now to rescue his candidacy.
Follow Rick Gosselin on Twitter at @RickGosselinDMN
Courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings