A rare stop in Alexandria: Vikings coach Bud Grant to greet fans, sign autographs July 22
By Eric Morkenon Jul 13, 2016 at 12:15 p.m.
Legendary Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant has been through Alexandria many times through his travels across Minnesota.
He has friends in towns nearby — Glenwood and Fergus Falls, and a son's cabin on Battle Lake. On July 22, he'll make a full stop to greet fans and sign autographs in conjunction with the Broadway's Party in the Street festivities that day.
It's a rare chance for fans to see Grant these days. Now 89 years old with 19 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, he often has family and friends that he chooses to spend his time with in his retirement.
"I turn down most of them," Grant said of these types of signings during an interview with the Echo Press on July 12. "I just got a call today. A guy wanted me to go to New England. I'm 89 right now so I don't have to go to New England, but Alexandria is just up the road. I can go up and back in the same day if I wanted to, but I'll probably go to my son's place in Battle Lake and spend a couple days."
It's not that Grant doesn't like interacting with the fans. His garage sales that he hosts at his home in Bloomington have been well documented and quite famous with fans. But with such a big family, he's as busy now in his personal life as he ever was.
That's why Jeff and Lynelle Lanoue, owners of Past & Present Home Gallery in Alexandria, were happy to get him here. A seed was planted when Grant's son, Mike Grant, stopped into their shop a few days after the 2016 Super Bowl.
"We chatted a couple of hours and he said, 'My dad just loves places like this,' " Jeff said. "I said, 'Bring him up sometime.' My wife and I talked about it for a couple of days and I called his promoter, Jim Smith, that brought a few former Vikings out to Fat Daddy's on the Super Bowl, and I asked him about what the chances are of having Bud come out."
The Lanoues paid their own money to get him here. Grant will start signing at 5 p.m. rain or shine near the gallery at 619 Broadway where he will be autographing purchased items only. Jeff said any money the couple makes over what they paid to bring him here will be donated to a non-profit.
"I'm not doing this to make a bunch of money on this," Jeff said. "I think it will be something really great for the community. A lot of people respect him and rightly so. He's a great family man and Hall of Fame football guy, and people say he could have been Hall of Fame in pretty much any sport he did."
Grant is perhaps most known for the 18 years and four Super Bowls he guided the Vikings to as their head coach, but he had a decorated career as an athlete. He is the only man to play in both the NBA and the NFL after spending a couple years with the Minneapolis Lakers before moving to football with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Growing up, baseball was one of his first loves at a time when the game was still America's pastime.
"That's changed of course," Grant says. "Now football is number one and a little bit different, so any sport you're playing is your favorite at the time. I played a lot of baseball and then I played basketball at the University of Minnesota and played pro basketball with the Lakers. Then football kind of came into the picture when I graduated from college, and I found a home."
Grant served in the Navy during World War II before going on to play baseball, football and basketball with the Gophers. In 1953, he did what would be unthinkable in today's football climate — turning down an opportunity to return to the Eagles to go to join the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.
"It's a vagabond type of life but I went to Winnipeg and played up there for four years, incidentally for more money than I was making in the NFL at the time," Grant said. "That has drastically changed. I went up there and played and then went into coaching up there as a head coach at Winnipeg for 10 years. Then I came down here from Winnipeg when they wanted a coach. I spent a lot of years around football."
Professional sports were his life for more than three decades before retiring in 1985. In 1994, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I've been blessed you might say, being a professional athlete and a coach," Grant says. "Most of the time you move around a lot. You get traded by one team or another. You get fired and hired. I've been blessed that I haven't had to do that. At all the stops along the way, I've never been fired or released. I always left on my own volition. Then I came to the Vikings and coached here for 18 years and stepped down before they fired me, so I've got a good taste in my mouth. I've been very fortunate."
Grant says he's been fortunate in his retirement too. Good health has allowed him to enjoy his other passions outside of football — hunting, fishing and family.
All his grandkids and great-grandkids live within 30 minutes of him. That keeps him busy, but a rare free Friday on July 22 will give him a chance to spend a day among fans in Alexandria.
"This kind of falls in a time frame when I can come," Grant said. "With a big family like this; last weekend I had eight grandchildren under 10 at my place. The previous week before that it was six under 10 and seven before that under 10, all different families. This falls in a time when I don't have guests at my cabin. Every town out there has a celebration. Alexandria is a little bigger than most, so I'm looking forward to coming up there."
BUD GRANT DAY IN ALEXANDRIA
Former Vikings head coach Bud Grant will be in Alexandria on July 22 to sign autographs on purchased items outside of the Past & Present Home Gallery at 619 Broadway starting at 5 p.m.
The day was officially designated as Bud Grant Day in Alexandria by the Alexandria City Council.
Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
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