NFL: Tingelhoff’s HOF induction unites family, friends

CANTON, Ohio -- Friends, family members and former Vikings teammates have come from all over the United States for Mick Tingelhoff's induction Saturday night into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Some drove all night.

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Kirby Lee | USA TODAY Sports Returning Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees pose with 2015 inductees such as former Minnesota Vikings star center Mick Tingelhoff, front, third from right, on Friday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Other former NFL players who will be inducted alongside Tingelhoff today are Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Bill Polian, Will Shields and Ron Wolf.

CANTON, Ohio - Friends, family members and former Vikings teammates have come from all over the United States for Mick Tingelhoff’s induction Saturday night into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Some drove all night.
Tingelhoff’s sister, Dee Salisbury, 77, rented a bus in Sioux City, Iowa, that carried 18 friends and family members. They traveled about 15 hours to the shrine in Canton.
Another sister, Dorothy Bergstraesser, 79, drove with relatives even longer, about 18 hours from Tingelhoff’s native Nebraska.
Former Vikings running back Chuck Foreman and two others had a short drive in comparison, coming 12 hours from the Twin Cities.
“We’re here to see one the finest people I think you’ll ever meet,” Foreman said after his arrival in Canton.
Tingelhoff was a star Vikings center from 1962-78. Those who know him, though, talk first about his humility.
Foreman, Tingelhoff’s teammate during his final six seasons in Minnesota, recounted a conversation he had Thursday with former Vikings receiver Ahmad Rashad. They had little trouble agreeing on one thing.
“We were talking about some of the guys on the team and we concluded that Mick is probably one of the nicest and greatest teammates we ever had,” Foreman said. “So it’s great to see him in the hall of fame. He’s just a good, quality human being.”
Tingelhoff played in six Pro Bowls, was a five-time All-Pro selection and never missed a game in 17 seasons. And yet, elected as a Seniors Committee nominee, he had to wait for enshrinement 31 years after becoming eligible in 1984.
Through it all, Tingelhoff never expressed any bitterness.
“Mick always said, ‘If I don’t get in, I’ve had a wonderful 17 years playing,’ ” said Bergstraesser, who lives in Smithfield, Neb., 14 miles south of the family’s hometown of Lexington. “He never once complained.”
Tingelhoff had one brother, Lawrence, who is deceased, and has four sisters. Three of his sisters will be on hand for the induction. Only Rita Adams, 84, didn’t make the trip.
Relatives toured the hall of fame on Friday and got a good look at the Tingelhoff display. It features his No. 53 Vikings jersey, a letter sweater from his days starring at Nebraska, a Vikings helmet, a Pro Bowl helmet and his 1965 NFL contract for a whopping $17,500.
Tingelhoff will be the third of eight members of the class of 2015 enshrined at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The order is Ron Wolf, Charles Haley, Tingelhoff, Will Shields, Bill Polian, Tim Brown, Junior Seau (who is deceased) and Jerome Bettis.
Tingelhoff’s wife, Phyllis, said last week her husband’s induction speech will be “short and sweet.”
Of the seven living inductees, all but Tingelhoff, 75, spoke during a news gathering Friday. Family members thought it best for Tingelhoff to rest during a busy weekend that includes the Gold Jacket Ceremony on Thursday, a Friday dinner hosted by the Vikings, and Sunday an autograph session and attendance at the Hall of Fame Game between Minnesota and Pittsburgh.
Tingelhoff has had health issues in recent years, including the occasional loss of memory.
“I’m excited,” Tingelhoff said Thursday of his enshrinement. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
So are plenty of others. Expected to be on hand are about 50 family members, 30 former Vikings and 30 other friends.
“It’s very special to see him get in,” hall of fame defensive end Carl Eller, Tingelhoff’s Vikings teammate for 15 seasons, said in Canton. “I’m so happy for him. He’s waited quite a long time, but he’s finally getting in.”
Hall of fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton will be Tingelhoff’s presenter. The two were teammates for 12 seasons, and Bergstraesser said Tarkenton is like another family member.
“They always roomed together,” Bergstraesser said. “They were as close as brothers.”
Other Vikings hall of famers from Tingelhoff’s era in Canton for the induction are former coach Bud Grant, tackle Ron Yary and safety Paul Krause. Grant came from Minnesota with Jerry Burns, Tingelhoff’s offensive coordinator and later a Vikings head coach.
Hall of fame defensive tackle Alan Page, Tingelhoff’s teammate for 12 years and a Canton native, expressed disappointment he can’t make it because of a prior commitment. Page, inducted in 1988, wrote letters over the years to promote Tingelhoff for the shrine.
“It’s a long time coming,” Page said. “He should have been in a long time ago. But better late than never.”
The Pioneer Press is a media partner of Forum News Service.

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