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1961 Minnesota Vikings season

Updated: 2017-06-16T10:20Z
1961 Minnesota Vikings season
Head coachNorm Van Brocklin
General managerBert Rose
Home fieldMetropolitan Stadium
Division place7th NFL Western
Playoff finishdid not qualify

The 1961 Minnesota Vikings season was the first year of season play for the expansion franchise and the 42nd regular season of the National Football League. The Vikings finished with a record of three wins and eleven losses under head coach Norm Van Brocklin. The team's first ever regular season game was a victory against divisional rivals the Chicago Bears, 37–13. In that game, rookie quarterback Fran Tarkenton came off the bench to toss 4 touchdown passes and ran for another.

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


Although the NFL had no interest in expanding, after Max Winter and Bill Boyer agreed to start an American Football League franchise in Minnesota, the NFL approached them to change leagues. After they accepted to join the NFL for the 1961 season, the Minnesota group joined Ole Haugsrud in the new team's ownership group, with Haugsrud dubbing the team the Minnesota Vikings.[2]

1961 Draft

Pro Bowler
Pro Football Hall of Famer
1961 Minnesota Vikings Draft
Draft orderPlayer namePositionCollege
111Tommy MasonRunning backTulane
2115Rip HawkinsLinebackerNorth Carolina
3129Fran TarkentonQuarterbackGeorgia
4143Chuck LamsonSafetyWyoming
5157Ed SharockmanCornerbackPittsburgh
6171Jerry BurchEndGeorgia Tech
7185Allan FerrieEndWagner
8199Paul LindquistDefensive tackleNew Hampshire
91113Dan SheehanOffensive tackleTennessee-Chattanooga
101127Doug MayberryFullbackUtah State
111141Jerry MaysDefensive tackleSouthern Methodist
121155Steve StonebreakerLinebackerDetroit
131169Ray HayesFullbackCentral State
141183Ken PetersenOffensive linemanUtah
151197Mike MercerKickerArizona State
161211Ted KarpowiczRunning backDetroit
171225Willie JonesFullbackPurdue
181239Bob VoigtOffensive tackleCal State-Los Angeles
191253Bill HillFullbackPresbyterian
201267Mike McFarlandQuarterbackWestern Illinois

1961 Expansion Draft

Player namePositionCollegeAcquired from
Grady AldermanGuardDetroit MercyDetroit Lions
Tom BarnettRunning backPurduePittsburgh Steelers
Byron BeamsOffensive Tackle
Defensive tackle
Notre DamePittsburgh Steelers
Ken BeckDefensive tackleTexas A&MGreen Bay Packers
Bill BishopDefensive tackleNorth Texas StateChicago Bears
Don BollOffensive tackleNebraskaNew York Giants
Ed CulpepperDefensive tackleAlabamaSt. Louis Cardinals
Don EllersickDefensive backWashington StateLos Angeles Rams
Dick HaleyDefensive backPittsburghWashington Redskins
Gerry HuthGuardWake ForestPhiladelphia Eagles
Charlie JaneretteGuardPenn StateLos Angeles Rams
Gene JohnsonDefensive backCincinnatiPhiladelphia Eagles
Don JoyceDefensive endTulaneBaltimore Colts
Bill KimberEndFlorida StateNew York Giants
Bill LaphamCenterIowaPhiladelphia Eagles
Hugh McElhennyRunning backWashingtonSan Francisco 49ers
Dave MiddletonEndAuburnDetroit Lions
Jack MorrisDefensive backOregonPittsburgh Steelers
Rich MostardiDefensive backKent StateCleveland Browns
Fred MurphyEndGeorgia TechCleveland Browns
Clancy OsborneLinebackerArizona StateSan Francisco 49ers
Dick PesonenDefensive backMinnesota-DuluthGreen Bay Packers
Mike RaboldGuardIndianaSt. Louis Cardinals
Perry RichardsEndDetroit MercySt. Louis Cardinals
Bill RoehneltLinebackerBradleyWashington Redskins
Karl RubkeLinebackerUSCSan Francisco 49ers
Gene SelawskiOffensive tacklePurdueCleveland Browns
Glenn ShawFullbackKentuckyChicago Bears
Lebron ShieldsDefensive tackleTennesseeBaltimore Colts
Zeke SmithLinebackerAuburnBaltimore Colts
Jerry StalcupLinebackerWisconsinLos Angeles Rams
Louis StephensGuardSan FranciscoWashington Redskins
Charlie SumnerDefensive backWilliam & MaryChicago Bears
Dave WhitsellDefensive backIndianaDetroit Lions
Paul WinslowRunning backNorth Carolina CentralGreen Bay Packers
Frank YousoOffensive tackleMinnesotaNew York Giants


1961 Minnesota Vikings final roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Practice squad

Rookies in italics
53 Active, 5 Inactive, 5 Practice squad


1August 5, 1961Dallas CowboysL 13–38Howard Wood Field, Sioux Falls, SD
2August 18, 1961at Baltimore ColtsL 3–13Memorial Stadium
3August 26, 1961San Francisco 49ersL 10–14Portland, OR
4September 2, 1961Chicago BearsL 7–30Cedar Rapids, IA
5September 10, 1961Los Angeles RamsL 17–21Metropolitan Stadium

Regular season


1September 17Chicago BearsW 37–131–0Metropolitan Stadium32,236
2September 24at Dallas CowboysL 7–211–1Cotton Bowl20,500
3October 1at Baltimore ColtsL 33–341–2Memorial Stadium54,259
4October 8Dallas CowboysL 0–281–3Metropolitan Stadium33,070
5October 15San Francisco 49ersL 24–381–4Metropolitan Stadium34,415
6October 22Green Bay PackersL 7–331–5Metropolitan Stadium42,007
7October 29at Green Bay PackersL 10–281–6Milwaukee County Stadium44,112
8November 5at Los Angeles RamsL 17–311–7Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum38,594
9November 12Baltimore ColtsW 28–202–7Metropolitan Stadium38,010
10November 19Detroit LionsL 10–372–8Metropolitan Stadium32,296
11November 26at San Francisco 49ersL 28–382–9Kezar Stadium43,905
12December 3Los Angeles RamsW 42–213–9Metropolitan Stadium30,068
13December 10at Detroit LionsL 7–133–10Tiger Stadium42,655
14December 17at Chicago BearsL 35–523–11Wrigley Field34,539

Game summaries

Week 1: vs. Chicago Bears

Week 1: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings – Game summary

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

Game information

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 2: Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys – Game summary

at Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas

Game information

Week 3: at Baltimore Colts

Week 3: Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Colts – Game summary

at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

Game information

Week 4: vs. Dallas Cowboys

Week 4: Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings – Game summary

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

Game information

Week 5: vs. San Francisco 49ers

Week 5: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings – Game summary

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

Game information

Week 6: vs. Green Bay Packers

Week 6: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings – Game summary

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

Game information

Week 7: at Green Bay Packers

Week 7: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers – Game summary

at Milwaukee County Stadium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Game information

Week 8: at Los Angeles Rams

Week 8: Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams – Game summary

at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California

Game information

Week 9: vs. Baltimore Colts

Week 9: Baltimore Colts at Minnesota Vikings – Game summary

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

Game information

Week 10: vs. Detroit Lions

Week 10: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings – Game summary

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

Game information

Week 11: at San Francisco 49ers

Week 11: Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers – Game summary

at Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, California

Game information

Week 12: vs. Los Angeles Rams

Week 12: Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings – Game summary

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

Game information

Week 13: at Detroit Lions

Week 13: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions – Game summary

at Tiger Stadium, Detroit, Michigan

Game information

Week 14: at Chicago Bears

Week 14: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears – Game summary

at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois

Game information


NFL Western Conference
Green Bay Packers1130.7869–3391223W1
Detroit Lions851.6157–4–1270258L1
Chicago Bears860.5717–5326302W2
Baltimore Colts860.5716–6302307W1
San Francisco 49ers761.5386–5–1346272L1
Los Angeles Rams4100.2863–9263333L1
Minnesota Vikings3110.2143–9285407L2

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 ten-yard pass from West teammate Bart Starr, and the West won a close 31-30 contest.[3]


Team leaders

Passing YardsFran Tarkenton1,997
Passing TouchdownsFran Tarkenton18
Rushing YardsHugh McElhenny570
Rushing TouchdownsFran Tarkenton5
Receiving YardsJerry Reichow859
Receiving TouchdownsJerry Reichow11
PointsJerry Reichow66
Kickoff Return YardsTommy Mason603
Punt Return YardsHugh McElhenny155
InterceptionsRip Hawkins5

League rankings

CategoryTotal yardsYards per gameNFL rank
(out of 14)
Passing offense1,989142.113th
Rushing offense1,897135.56th
Total offense3,886277.612th
Passing defense2,926209.013th
Rushing defense2,667190.514th
Total defense5,593399.514th


  1. ^ Cold Hard Football Facts: The 5.0 Club: run defense in '11 lit up like hippies in '69
  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 January 23, 2012. 
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