There were no Minute Men in St. Paul, so Rose developed another plan for this city. December 6, 1960 was designated as Blitz Day; between 100 and 150 young business executives of the staid old city met for breakfast that morning at 7, then fanned out to devote the whole day to selling Viking tickets. By the time they returned to their meeting hall for a beer bust and buffet dinner at 6 in the evening, they had disposed of another 2,000 season tickets.
"It's an easy sell," one of the blitzers admitted later. "The people here don't like to plunk down $234—the cost of a baseball season ticket—but they don't mind $40 for a football ticket. Especially since lots of them have been squeezed out of the University of Minnesota home games."
With season-ticket sales in the Twin Cities well in hand, Rose turned his attention to state sales. Again he called upon the Minute Men. This time he organized six crews and laid out 12 routes that involved 22,000 miles of driving. Each crew left Minneapolis early one morning, drove out for the day, spent the night near the state border, then returned by another route the following day. The crews stopped in some 90 cities in the state, giving the Viking sales pitch to Chamber of Commerce and service club meetings.
"They sold 500 or 600 season tickets," Rose says, still somewhat awed by his own success. "On the trips, that is. But we began getting a flood of mail orders from outstate after they got back, and they haven't stopped coming yet."
While he worked on the season-ticket sales, Rose considered a long list of possible head coaches—the second item on his list. He arrived finally at Norman Van Brocklin, who had just led the Philadelphia Eagles to a world championship as a quarterback. It required courage for Rose to name the Dutchman as head coach—although he was regarded as probably the best quarterback in pro ball, Van Brocklin had never coached so much as a high school team. More, or perhaps less than that, he was regarded by some experts as too hot-tempered to take the vicissitudes of major league coaching in stride.
"I wasn't worried," Rose says. "I knew Van from the Rams. I figured he'd work out."
So far, he has. Although the Vikings lost their first three exhibition games, Van Brocklin accepted adversity philosophically. "As soon as some of these guys get rid of their beer tumors," he said, "we'll be O.K."
Rose and Van Brocklin chose Bemidji, a resort town in northern Minnesota, as their training site, and it has turned out to be ideal. Not only are the facilities (dormitories and practice fields of Bemidji State College) more than adequate, the town itself offers commendably little distraction to the players. Basketball is the big sport in Bemidji; after looking the place over, Van Brocklin said: "Couldn't be better. This is the only town I ever saw where the definition of a juvenile delinquent is a kid who can't hit eight out of 10 from the free-throw line."
Because of the owners' foresight in hiring a talent scout before they took on anybody else, Van Brocklin has exceptionally good players to work with. Even before last year's player draft began, Rose worked out a trade with the New York Giants in which the Vikings gave away a future first-draft choice for George Shaw, who had spent a peculiarly frustrated pro career as a stand-in, first for Johnny Unitas of the Colts, then for Charlie Conerly of the Giants. Thus freed from the paramount necessity of drafting a quarterback, the Vikings were able to select Halfback Tom Mason of Tulane as their first-draft choice. Mason would have been the first man picked by most of the teams in the NFL.
The Vikings' second pick was Rip Hawkins, who will be a powerful linebacker in time and the key to their defense. They got backing for Shaw on their third choice in Fran Tarkenton, a quarterback from Georgia, then surprised the draft meeting by selecting a future (a player with another year of college eligibility) on their fourth round.