Fran Tarkenton
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Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton
Tarkenton in January 2010 after a speech by General David Petraeus in Atlanta, Georgia
Tarkenton in January 2010
No. 10
Personal information
Born: (1940-02-03) February 3, 1940 (age 80)
Richmond, Virginia
Height:6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight:190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
High school:Athens (GA)
NFL Draft:1961 / Round: 3 / Pick: 29
AFL draft:1961 / Round: 5 / Pick: 34
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Passing yards:47,003
Completion percentage:57.0
Passer rating:80.4
Rushing yards:3,674
Rushing touchdowns:32
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Francis Asbury Tarkenton (born February 3, 1940) is a former American football quarterback who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 18 seasons, primarily with the Minnesota Vikings. He played college football for the University of Georgia, where he was recognized as a two-time first-team All-SEC, and was selected by the Vikings in the third round of the 1961 NFL Draft. After retiring from football, he became a television personality and computer software executive.

Tarkenton's tenure with the Vikings spanned 13 non-consecutive seasons, playing with the team for six seasons from 1961 to 1966, then for seven seasons from 1972 to 1978. In between his years in Minnesota, Tarkenton was a member of the New York Giants for five seasons. At the time of his retirement, Tarkenton owned every major quarterback record. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

In addition to his football career, Tarkenton served as a commentator on Monday Night Football and a co-host of That's Incredible!. He also founded Tarkenton Software, a computer-program generator company, and he toured the U.S. promoting CASE (computer-aided software engineering) with Albert F. Case Jr. of Nastec Corporation. Tarkenton Software later merged with KnowledgeWare (with Tarkenton as president), until selling the company to Sterling Software in 1994.

Early life and education

Fran Tarkenton was born on February 3, 1940, in Richmond, Virginia. His father, Dallas Tarkenton, was a Methodist minister.[1][2] Tarkenton went to Athens High School in Athens, Georgia, and later attended the University of Georgia, where he was the quarterback on the Bulldog football team and a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.[3]

Under Coach Wally Butts and with Tarkenton as quarterback, Georgia won the 1959 Southeastern Conference championship.[4] Tarkenton was a first-team All-SEC selection in both 1959 and 1960.[5][6]

Professional football career

The Minnesota Vikings drafted Tarkenton in the third round of the 1961 NFL Draft, and he was picked in the fifth round of the 1961 AFL draft by the Boston Patriots. He signed with the Vikings. Tarkenton, 21, played his first NFL game (and the Vikings' first game) on September 17 against the Chicago Bears, coming off the bench to lead the Vikings to a come-from-behind victory by passing for 250 yards and four touchdown passes and running for another[7] as the Vikings defeated the Bears 37–13. He was the only player in NFL history to pass for four touchdowns in his first NFL game, until the feat was repeated by Marcus Mariota in the Tennessee Titans' 2015 season opener versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[8]

Tarkenton scrambling (1974)

He played for the Vikings from 1961 to 1966. His early years with the team were plagued by the trouble expected for a newly created team, with the Vikings winning a total of 10 games combined in their first three seasons, with Tarkenton winning eight of them. He threw 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for 1,997 yards in his first season. He rushed for 308 yards on 56 rushes for five touchdowns. The following year, he threw 22 touchdowns and 25 interceptions for 2,595 yards. He rushed for 361 yards on 41 rushes for two touchdowns.

Tarkenton was traded to the New York Giants in 1967, at which time he moved to the New York City suburb of New Rochelle, New York.[9] In the first game of the 1969 season, Tarkenton's Giants played the Vikings. After trailing 23-10 in the fourth quarter, Tarkenton threw two touchdown passes to secure a 24-23 comeback victory over his former team.[10] The 24 points allowed by Minnesota's defense were a season-worst for the unit, one more point than the Vikings allowed in losing Super Bowl IV to the Kansas City Chiefs.[11]

Tarkenton enjoyed his best season with the Giants in 1970. The club overcame an 0-3 start to win nine of the next 10 games and move into position to win the NFC East division championship in week 14. However, New York was routed 31-3 by the Los Angeles Rams at Yankee Stadium, leaving the Giants 9-5, one game behind the division champion Dallas Cowboys and the wild card Detroit Lions. The 1970 season was the closest the Giants came to making the playoffs during a 17-year drought, spanning the 1964 through 1980 seasons.

Tarkenton was traded back to the Vikings from the Giants for Norm Snead, Bob Grim, Vince Clements, a first rounder in 1972 (24th overall–Larry Jacobson) and a second rounder in 1973 (40th overall–Brad Van Pelt) on January 27, 1972.[12][13] He led the Vikings to three National Football Conference championships, but in each instance the Vikings lost the ensuing Super Bowl. In Tarkenton's first Super Bowl appearance his team lost to the Miami Dolphins 24–7 in Houston. They lost the second to the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-6 in New Orleans, and in the last Super Bowl Tarkenton played (and Minnesota's last Super Bowl to date), the Vikings lost to the Oakland Raiders 32-14 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Tarkenton calling signals for the Vikings

In his 18 NFL seasons, Tarkenton completed 3,686 of 6,467 passes for 47,003 yards and 342 touchdowns, with 266 interceptions, all of which were NFL records at the time of his retirement. Tarkenton's 47,003 career passing yards rank him 12th all time,[14] while his 342 career passing touchdowns is 10th all time in NFL history.[15] He also is 8th on the all-time list of regular-season wins by a starting quarterback with 124 regular season victories. He used his impressive scrambling ability to rack up 3,674 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns on 675 carries. During his career, Tarkenton ran for a touchdown in 15 different seasons, an NFL record among quarterbacks. He ranks fifth in career rushing yards among quarterbacks, behind Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, Michael Vick and Cam Newton. He is also one of four NFL quarterbacks ever to rush for at least 300 yards in seven different seasons; the others are Cam Newton, Michael Vick and Tobin Rote. When he retired, Tarkenton held NFL career records in pass attempts, completions, yardage, touchdowns, rushing yards by a quarterback, and wins by a starting quarterback.

The Vikings finished the 1975 season with an NFC-best 12-2 record and Tarkenton won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award and the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award while capturing All-Pro honors in the process. He was also a second-team All-Pro in 1973 and earned All-NFC selections in 1972 and 1976. He was named second-team All-NFC in 1970 and 1974. Tarkenton was selected to play in nine Pro Bowls.[16]

Tarkenton was indecisive on his retirement during the last seven years of his playing career.[17][18]

Despite not winning a Super Bowl, he won six playoff games, and in 1999 he was ranked #59 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

Tarkenton was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1977,[19] the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986,[16] the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987,[20] and the Athens, Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.[21]


A biography of Tarkenton titled Better Scramble than Lose was published in 1969.[22] This followed Tarkenton's 1967 autobiography No Time for Losing and preceded by several years his 1977 autobiography Tarkenton co-written with Jim Klobuchar. The autobiographies chronicle not only his football career but also his personal evolution from his early football days as a preacher's son. Tarkenton co-wrote with Brock Yates a book in 1971 titled Broken Patterns: The Education of a Quarterback, a chronicle of the 1970 New York Giants season.[23]

In 1986, Tarkenton, with author Herb Resincow, wrote a novel titled Murder at the Super Bowl, the whodunit story of a football coach killed just before his team is to participate in the championship game.[24]

Tarkenton wrote the self-help, motivational books Playing to Win in 1984,[25] and How to Motivate People: The Team Strategy for Success in 1986.[26] He also wrote the motivational self-help business book titled What Losing Taught Me About Winning,[1] and Every Day is Game Day.[27] In 1987, Tarkenton hosted a Think and Grow Rich TV infomercial that sold the book with an audio cassette version (the audio cassettes contained an introduction and conclusion by Tarkenton).[28]

Business ventures and investments

Mark McCormack helped Tarkenton invest, making him wealthy enough to "retire this week if [he] wanted to", as New York magazine wrote in 1971.[29] Tarkenton was a pioneer in computer software, and founder of Tarkenton Software, a program generator company. He toured the United States promoting CASE or "computer-aided software engineering" with Albert F. Case, Jr. of Nastec Corporation, but ultimately merged his software firm with James Martin's KnowledgeWare, of which Tarkenton was president until selling the company to Sterling Software in 1994.

In 1999, Tarkenton was fined by federal regulators as part of a securities fraud sweep. According to the LA Times, "In Tarkenton's case, the Hall of Fame quarterback and 10 other former executives of his computer software and consulting firm, KnowledgeWare Inc., were accused of inflating by millions of dollars the company's earnings in reports for its fiscal year ended June 30, 1994. The former Minnesota Vikings quarterback agreed to pay a $100,000 fine and $54,187 in restitution. He did not admit any wrongdoing".[30]

Since then, Tarkenton has been promoting various products and services including Tony Robbins and 1-800-BAR-NONE. He also founded GoSmallBiz, a small-business consulting website. He also operates an annuity marketing firm called Tarkenton Financial.


Tarkenton speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention

During the 2016 Republican National Convention, Tarkenton gave a speech endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.[31]

NFL career statistics

Led the league
Bold Career high
Year Team Games Passing
GP GS Cmp Att Pct Yards TD Int Lng Y/A Rate
1961 MIN 14 10 157 280 56.1 1,997 18 17 71 7.1 74.7
1962 MIN 14 14 163 329 49.5 2,595 22 25 89 7.9 66.9
1963 MIN 14 13 170 297 57.2 2,311 15 15 67 7.8 78.0
1964 MIN 14 14 171 306 55.9 2,506 22 11 64 8.2 91.8
1965 MIN 14 14 171 329 52.0 2,609 19 11 72 7.9 83.8
1966 MIN 14 12 192 358 53.6 2,561 17 16 68 7.2 73.8
1967 NYG 14 14 204 377 54.1 3,088 29 19 70 8.2 85.9
1968 NYG 14 14 182 337 54.0 2,555 21 12 84 7.6 84.6
1969 NYG 14 14 220 409 53.8 2,918 23 8 65 7.1 87.2
1970 NYG 14 14 219 389 56.3 2,777 19 12 59 7.1 82.2
1971 NYG 13 13 226 386 58.5 2,567 11 21 81 6.7 65.4
1972 MIN 14 14 215 378 56.9 2,651 18 13 76 7.0 80.2
1973 MIN 14 14 169 274 61.7 2,113 15 7 54 7.7 93.2
1974 MIN 13 13 199 351 56.7 2,598 17 12 80 7.4 82.1
1975 MIN 14 14 273 425 64.2 2,994 25 13 46 7.0 91.8
1976 MIN 13 13 255 412 61.9 2,961 17 8 56 7.2 89.3
1977 MIN 9 9 155 258 60.1 1,734 9 14 59 6.7 69.2
1978 MIN 16 16 345 572 60.3 3,468 25 32 58 6.1 68.9
Career 246 239 3,686 6,467 57.0 47,003 342 266 89 7.3 80.4

Personal life

Tarkenton has been married twice and has four children.

His first marriage was to Anna Elaine Merrell of Decatur, GA. They wed on December 22, 1960, at First Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia, and divorced in March 1982. They had three children: daughter Angela (born 1964), son Matthew (born 1968), and daughter Melissa (born 1969).[32][33]

Tarkenton married his second wife Linda Sebastian in the mid-1980s. They have one daughter, Hayley Gray Tarkenton (born 1988), a singer-songwriter.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b Tarkenton Fran. What Losing Taught Me About Winning: The Ultimate Guide for Success in Small and Home-Based Businesses ; Fireside Books; 1997; ISBN 0-684-83879-6
  2. ^ "Father of Tarkenton Dies During Telecast". New York Times. December 29, 1975. Retrieved 2019.
  3. ^ "Sigma Alpha Epsilon". Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ Bratton, Michael Wayne (July 2019). "History of all-time SEC football championships entering 2019". Saturday Down South. Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ David M. Moffit (November 25, 1959). "Auburn Lands 3 Lineman On All-Star Team". The Monroe News-Star. p. 23. Retrieved 2015 – via access
  6. ^ "Gibbs and Tarkenton Named on UPI All-SEC". The Delta Democrat-Times. November 22, 1960. p. 7.
  7. ^ "Countdown to the 2013 NFL Draft". National Football League. Retrieved 2013.
  8. ^ "A Look at Marcus Mariota's Rookie Accomplishments" by Jim Wyatt, Titans online, December 31, 2015
  9. ^ Kriegel, Mark. Namath:A Biography; Penguin Books; 2005; ISBN 978-0143035350; p.210
  10. ^ "Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants - September 21st, 1969",
  11. ^ "1969 Minnesota Vikings",
  12. ^ Koppett, Leonard. "Vikings Get Tarkenton For Snead and 4 Others," The New York Times, Friday, January 28, 1972. Retrieved November 1, 2020
  13. ^ 1972 NFL Draft Pick Transactions, February 1 (Rounds 1–7) & 2 (Rounds 8–17) – Pro Sports Transactions. Retrieved November 1, 2020
  14. ^ "NFL Passing Yards Career Leaders". Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ "NFL Passing Touchdowns Career Leaders". Retrieved 2020.
  16. ^ a b Tarkenton, Professional Football Hall of Fame website
  17. ^ "Tarkenton Has Retired, Giants Say", Chicago Tribune, ?ugust 10, 1971
  18. ^ Quote Of The Day, The Ledger, March 22, 1978
  19. ^ Inductees, Georgia Hall of Fame website
  20. ^ Inductees, College Football Hall of Fame website
  21. ^ 2000 Inductees Archived August 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Athens Hall of Fame website
  22. ^ Olsen, Jack. Better Scramble Than Lose; Four Winds Press; 1969
  23. ^ Tarkenton, Fran & Brock W. Yates. Broken Patterns: The Education of a Quarterback; Simon and Schuster, 1971, ISBN 978-0671210533
  24. ^ Tarkenton, Fran & Herb Resincow. Murder at the Super Bowl; William Morrow & Co; 1st edition : October 1986; ISBN 978-0688067168
  25. ^ Tarkenton, Fran, Playing to Win, 1985, Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-25079-5
  26. ^ Tarkenton, Fran and Tuleja, Tad 1986, Harper and Row ISBN 0-06-015543-4
  27. ^ Tarkenton, Fran and Bruton, Jim. Every Day Is Game Day; Triumph Books; 2009; ISBN 1-60078-253-1
  28. ^ "Partners in Time : Guthy-Renker, Charles Wesley Orton", Response magazine, May 2001
  29. ^ Axthelm, Pete. ""The Third Annual Permanent Retirement of Joe Namath", New York magazine, July 7, 1971, pp.47-49
  30. ^ LA Times, September 29, 1999
  31. ^ Condon, Patrick (July 21, 2016). "Vikings veteran Fran Tarkenton speaks at Republican convention". Star Tribune.
  32. ^ Looney, Douglas S. (October 25, 1982). "Fran Tarkenton". People. Meredith Corporation. Retrieved 2019.
  33. ^ Martin, Frank (October 4, 1976). "Ping-Pong Ace, Record-Setting Quarterback, Fran Tarkenton Battles a Runner-Up Image". People. Meredith Corporation. Retrieved 2019.
  34. ^

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Music Scenes