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The 1968 Vikings finally put it all together. Bud Grant taught us such things as how to retain our zest and enthusiasm but to use them with a little more common sense and not take stupid penalties. The results of his teaching hit a high point in the last game of 1968, against the Philadelphia Eagles. We won 24-17 and didn't draw a single penalty. Not even an offside. We won the Central Division for the first time with a record of 8 and 6—but then we blew the playoff game against Baltimore. The Colts scored three touchdowns, one of them on a safety blitz when the ball was knocked into the air before I could get off a pass. Mike Curtis grabbed it and went 60 yards for a score. That was the game I cooked on during the winter. By the time we went to camp before the 1969 season I had played and replayed that Baltimore game in my nightmares and daydreams.
In camp last summer we began to look good, but we had a major problem: John Beasley, our star tight end, was in the Army, and we were looking for help. We had high hopes for a green rookie about half a foot over six feet and around 250 pounds with the moves of a Gene Washington and the power of a John Mackey and the disposition of Ferdinand el toro. Potentially, this rook was the best tight end in football, except that he was so overawed about being in an NFL training camp that he couldn't bring himself to hit anybody. He would bump somebody and say, "Excuse me, sir." Sir! To a guy who's trying to beat him out! One day I took him aside and I asked him how he was enjoying training camp. "Oh, just fine, Mr. Kapp," he said. "Yes, sir, just fine."
This really got me. He wasn't supposed to be feeling just fine. He was supposed to be working his tail off, hurting, stretching his body to the limit because he needed a job and we needed a tight end. So I decided to call in my old pharmaceutical ally, tequila, to solve the problem. That night I took this big kid and his roomie to a pub. "You ever had tequila?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, sir," they both answered.
"O.K.," I said. I ordered a dozen.
Well, the drinks were served and I started sipping on one and the roommate started sipping on another and the big tight end started tossing them down like lemonade.
"Man," I said, "don't you want to make this team?"
"Yes, sir," he said.
"Well, to make the team you've got to go out there and hit people. Be aggressive! Do anything in your power to overcome the other guy."
"Yes, sir," he said. "Yes, sir."