May 20, 1927. Superior, Wisconsin.
Laurie, Pete, Mike, Bruce, Danny
Peter Grant, Jr. was the first child of Harry Sr. and Bernice
Grant. His mother didn’t care for the confusion of having
two Harry’s in the house, so she called him ‘Buddy
Boy,’ shortened to Bud as he grew.
Grant started playing baseball as a youth after suffering a case
of polio. Since there were so few organized teams in the day,
Grant would often organize games of baseball, and later football
and basketball with neighborhood kids and kids from neighboring
Although he had a minor limp throughout high school, he grew to
6-3, weighed 195 pounds, and starred in football, basketball,
and baseball throughout high school. His freshman year he led
his basketball team to the state tournament in Madison, and played
in the Esquire Magazine High School All-Star Baseball Game at
Comiskey Park in Chicago between his Junior and Senior years.
His exploits garnered the attention of schools like Iowa, Minnesota,
Wisconsin and Notre Dame.
After high school, though, Grant enlisted in the Navy, and was
stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois. While
there, he ended up playing for their football team, coached by
future Cincinnati Bengals Owner Paul Brown. Grant also played
basketball for the base team, but was then transferred to another
a short time at the new facility, Grant used an acceptance letter
from the University of Wisconsin to get out of the service, and
headed home to Superior. When deciding whether to go to UW, which
was offering all the perks it could offer, or the University of
Minnesota, which was offering none, he chose the latter, because
he didn’t want to owe anyone anything. More importantly,
he didn’t want to be told he had to focus on one sport.
quickly earned a starting spot on the Gophers football team under
Bernie Bierman, and then landed a starting spot with the basketball
team in the winter. While Bierman wanted him to focus on football
in the spring, Grant pitched for the Gophers baseball team. Despite
being knocked down to 4th string by Bierman in the spring, Grant
came back to football in the fall, and earned All Big-Ten honors.
He continued playing all three sports throughout his time at Minnesota,
earning nine letters.
A first round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1950, Grant was
unsatisfied with their initial contract offer, and decided to
play basketball for the Minneapolis Lakers, who were for all intents and purposes being run by his friend, Star Tribune reporter Sid Hartman.
Playing for the Lakers also allowed Grant to continue to pitch
as a ‘hired gun’ for town teams around Minnesota and
Wisconsin in his summers, a lucrative side career for Grant.
After two seasons (and two NBA championships) as a reserve for
the Lakers, Grant finally agreed to play for the Eagles in the
NFL. After one season as an undersized defensive end, in which
he led the team in sacks (un unofficial statistic at the time),
he switched to offense for his second season, and was the second
leading receiver in the NFL with 56 catches and 997 yards.
Still not happy with his contract situation, and upset at the
team for making him miss the birth of his first child, Grand became
the first player to ‘play out his option,’ and in
1953, took his services to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian
In his four seasons playing in the CFL, Grant led the league in
receptions three times, receiving yards twice, and was elected
an All-Star twice. It was after the 1956 All-Star game that Grant
and several teammates managed to get an earlier flight home—the
original flight he was scheduled to be on crashed, killing Grant’s
teammate Calvin Jones.
Before the 1957 season, the Blue Bombers management decided that
they needed a new coach, and decided to offer the position to
Grant, who was only 29 years old. Grant, who had played for a
wide variety of coaches in his career, hadn’t really considered
a coaching career at that point, but decided to take the position
and give up playing. He coached the Blue Bombers until 1966, leading
them to six Grey Cup appearances, and four CFL Championships.
1967, Grant was lured to the Minnesota Vikings in the National
Football League by former CFL boss Max Winter. Replacing original
coach Norm Van Brocklin, Grant was known instilling discipline
in his teams and for his lack of emotion during games. He instituted
no booze, no smoking policies, and taught the team to respect
the American flag (even having national anthem practices). He
also made the team practice outside in the harsh Minnesota winters
to prepare for the cold of the games.
While being a strict disciplinarian, Grant also respected his
players, and treated them like men. The team responded, and from
1967-1983, Grant’s teams finished with 151 wins, 87 losses,
and 5 ties. More importantly, they made the playoffs in 12 of
those seventeen seasons, including eleven division titles, one
NFL championship (pre-AFL/NFL merger), and three NFC championships.
The only blemish on his record is the 0-4 record his teams had
in the Super Bowl.
surprising the NFL community with his retirement after the 1983
season, Grant was lured back for the 1985 season after the Les
Steckel-led Vikings became a laughing stock in 1984, finishing
3-13. Grant took basically the same team and led them to a 7-9
record (respectable, considering the overall lack of talent on
the team) before stepping down again, this time handing the reigns
over to his long-time assistant Jerry Burns. Grant is still the
only coach to have led teams to more than 100 victories in the
CFL and the NFL.
Grant was elected to the CFL Hall of Fame in 1983, and to the
Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Today Grant still has an office at the Viking Headquarters, where
he occasionally consults for the franchise. More often, however,
he spends his time enjoying the outdoors and hunting and fishing,
activities he has enjoyed since his youth in Wisconsin (he was
even known to end Saturday practices early with the Vikings so
he could get some time in the fields before kickoff on Sunday).