1961 Minnesota Vikings Season
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1961 Minnesota Vikings Season
1961 Minnesota Vikings season
Head coachNorm Van Brocklin
General managerBert Rose
Home fieldMetropolitan Stadium
Division place7th NFL Western
Playoff finishdid not qualify

The 1961 season was the Minnesota Vikings' first in the National Football League after being created as an expansion franchise. Under head coach Norm Van Brocklin, the team finished with a 3-11 record. The team's first ever regular season game was a 37-13 victory against their divisional rivals, the Chicago Bears; in that game, rookie quarterback Fran Tarkenton came off the bench to toss four touchdown passes and run for another.

The Vikings' defense surrendered 5.41 rushing yards per attempt in 1961, the fifth-most of all time.[1]


Although the NFL originally had no interest in expanding, after Max Winter and Bill Boyer agreed to start an American Football League (AFL) franchise in Minnesota, the NFL approached them to change leagues. The "Vikings" name was given to the team by Ole Haugsrud, who had been given a 10% stake in the franchise as a result of having sold the Duluth Eskimos back to the league in the 1920s.[2]

1961 Draft

1961 Expansion Draft

Player name Position College Acquired from
Grady Alderman Guard Detroit Mercy Detroit Lions
Tom Barnett Running back Purdue Pittsburgh Steelers
Byron Beams Tackle Notre Dame Pittsburgh Steelers
Ken Beck Defensive tackle Texas A&M Green Bay Packers
Bill Bishop Defensive tackle North Texas State Chicago Bears
Don Boll Offensive tackle Nebraska New York Giants
Ed Culpepper Defensive tackle Alabama St. Louis Cardinals
Don Ellersick Defensive back Washington State Los Angeles Rams
Dick Haley Defensive back Pittsburgh Washington Redskins
Gerry Huth Guard Wake Forest Philadelphia Eagles
Charlie Janerette Guard Penn State Los Angeles Rams
Gene Johnson Defensive back Cincinnati Philadelphia Eagles
Don Joyce Defensive end Tulane Baltimore Colts
Bill Kimber End Florida State New York Giants
Bill Lapham Center Iowa Philadelphia Eagles
Hugh McElhenny Running back Washington San Francisco 49ers
Dave Middleton End Auburn Detroit Lions
Jack Morris Defensive back Oregon Pittsburgh Steelers
Rich Mostardi Defensive back Kent State Cleveland Browns
Fred Murphy End Georgia Tech Cleveland Browns
Clancy Osborne Linebacker Arizona State San Francisco 49ers
Dick Pesonen Defensive back Minnesota-Duluth Green Bay Packers
Mike Rabold Guard Indiana St. Louis Cardinals
Perry Richards End Detroit Mercy St. Louis Cardinals
Bill Roehnelt Linebacker Bradley Washington Redskins
Karl Rubke Linebacker USC San Francisco 49ers
Gene Selawski Offensive tackle Purdue Cleveland Browns
Glenn Shaw Fullback Kentucky Chicago Bears
Lebron Shields Defensive tackle Tennessee Baltimore Colts
Zeke Smith Linebacker Auburn Baltimore Colts
Jerry Stalcup Linebacker Wisconsin Los Angeles Rams
Louis Stephens Guard San Francisco Washington Redskins
Charlie Sumner Defensive back William & Mary Chicago Bears
Dave Whitsell Defensive back Indiana Detroit Lions
Paul Winslow Running back North Carolina Central Green Bay Packers
Frank Youso Offensive tackle Minnesota New York Giants



Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Attendance [1]
1 August 5 Dallas Cowboys L 13-38 0-1 Howard Wood Field (Sioux Falls, SD) 4,954
2 August 18 at Baltimore Colts L 3-13 0-2 Memorial Stadium 10,203
3 August 26 at San Francisco 49ers L 10-14 0-3 Multnomah Stadium (Portland, OR) 27,044
4 September 2 Chicago Bears L 7-30 0-4 Kingston Stadium [2] (Cedar Rapids, IA) 12,500
5 September 10 Los Angeles Rams L 17-21 0-5 Metropolitan Stadium 27,982

Regular season


Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Attendance
1 September 17 Chicago Bears W 37-13 1-0 Metropolitan Stadium 32,236
2 September 24 at Dallas Cowboys L 7-21 1-1 Cotton Bowl 20,500
3 October 1 at Baltimore Colts L 33-34 1-2 Memorial Stadium 54,259
4 October 8 Dallas Cowboys L 0-28 1-3 Metropolitan Stadium 33,070
5 October 15 San Francisco 49ers L 24-38 1-4 Metropolitan Stadium 34,415
6 October 22 Green Bay Packers L 7-33 1-5 Metropolitan Stadium 42,007
7 October 29 at Green Bay Packers L 10-28 1-6 Milwaukee County Stadium 44,112
8 November 5 at Los Angeles Rams L 17-31 1-7 Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 38,594
9 November 12 Baltimore Colts W 28-20 2-7 Metropolitan Stadium 38,010
10 November 19 Detroit Lions L 10-37 2-8 Metropolitan Stadium 32,296
11 November 26 at San Francisco 49ers L 28-38 2-9 Kezar Stadium 43,905
12 December 3 Los Angeles Rams W 42-21 3-9 Metropolitan Stadium 30,068
13 December 10 at Detroit Lions L 7-13 3-10 Tiger Stadium 42,655
14 December 17 at Chicago Bears L 35-52 3-11 Wrigley Field 34,539

Game summaries

Week 1: vs. Chicago Bears

This was the first regular season game in Vikings history. George Shaw started the game at quarterback for the Vikings, but he was soon replaced by rookie quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Tarkenton threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as the Vikings won 37-13. They were the last expansion team to win their first game until the 2002 Houston Texans.

Week 2: at Dallas Cowboys

Week 3: at Baltimore Colts

Week 4: vs. Dallas Cowboys

Week 5: vs. San Francisco 49ers

Week 6: vs. Green Bay Packers

Week 7: at Green Bay Packers

Week 8: at Los Angeles Rams

Week 9: vs. Baltimore Colts

Week 10: vs. Detroit Lions

Week 11: at San Francisco 49ers

Week 12: vs. Los Angeles Rams

Week 13: at Detroit Lions

Week 14: at Chicago Bears


NFL Western Conference
Green Bay Packers 11 3 0 .786 9-3 391 223 W1
Detroit Lions 8 5 1 .615 7-4-1 270 258 L1
Chicago Bears 8 6 0 .571 7-5 326 302 W2
Baltimore Colts 8 6 0 .571 6-6 302 307 W1
San Francisco 49ers 7 6 1 .538 6-5-1 346 272 L1
Los Angeles Rams 4 10 0 .286 3-9 263 333 L1
Minnesota Vikings 3 11 0 .214 3-9 285 407 L2

Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.


Both halfback Hugh McElhenny and receiver (end) Jerry Reichow were voted to the East-West Pro Bowl game, played January 14, 1962, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The coach for the West squad was Vikings head coach Norm Van Brocklin. McElhenny scored a third-quarter touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr, and the West won the game 31-30.[3]


Team leaders

Category Player(s) Value
Passing yards Fran Tarkenton 1,997
Passing touchdowns Fran Tarkenton 18
Rushing yards Hugh McElhenny 570
Rushing touchdowns Fran Tarkenton 5
Receiving yards Jerry Reichow 859
Receiving touchdowns Jerry Reichow 11
Points Jerry Reichow 66
Kickoff return yards Tommy Mason 603
Punt return yards Hugh McElhenny 155
Interceptions Rip Hawkins 5

League rankings

Category Total yards Yards per game NFL rank
(out of 14)
Passing offense 1,989 142.1 13th
Rushing offense 1,897 135.5 6th
Total offense 3,886 277.6 12th
Passing defense 2,926 209.0 13th
Rushing defense 2,667 190.5 14th
Total defense 5,593 399.5 14th


  1. ^ "Cold Hard Football Facts: The 5.0 Club: run defense in '11 lit up like hippies in '69". Archived from the original on 2012-05-14. Retrieved .
  2. ^ Gruver, The American Football League, pp. 22-23.
  3. ^ "Unitas' last-second pass nips East; 31–30". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. AP. January 15, 1962. p. 23. Retrieved 2012.

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