Just about any Minnesotan knows Bud Grant is the former coach of the Minnesota Vikings, but, to many of us, he is embodiment of the Minnesota spirit. He is the will to steely will and determination to succeed despite our cold climate. Those of my generation grew up with an image of Bud Grant standing stoically on the football sideline with a gray-haired flattop, a countenance chiseled out of granite, and a whiff of breath hovering in the cold air; all while his purple giants stood at attention in the background. He was nothing like some of those flapping and screaming football coaches of today. He always kept his quiet cool. He could always say volumes with just a few words and that determined glint in his eye.
“In this legislative session, we want to see some action. It’s more important than any stadium they could ever build in this state.”
March 23, 2006*
Though he has come to embody the stoic Minnesota spirit, Grant actually grew up just across the border in Superior, Wisconsin. As a young boy, if he wasn’t playing pick up games with his neighbors he would be haunting the outskirts of Superior for rabbits and squirrels. After graduating from high school in 1945 he became a standout athlete at the University of Minnesota in multiple sports. He went on to a career in professional football as a player and coach in both the Canadian Football League and the NFL.
Through all of his life his first love has always been hunting and fishing in our great outdoors. He was known to get up early prior to practice or even a game on Sunday to get in a little duck hunting. So when Minnesota’s financial commitment to preserving our natural resources started to dissipate after 2002, Grant took action by supporting the efforts known as the “Duck Rally” in 2006. The above quote is from that rally, which was a gathering of sportsmen, conservation enthusiasts and environmentalists who called for the state to recommit to protecting our natural resources. His speech was typically short and to the point but one of the most effective of the day. This effort laid the groundwork for the passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008.
This week the legendary coach reappeared on the cold and divided field of politics once again to make a difference for conservation in Minnesota. Surprisingly Grant appeared at the swearing-in of Governor Dayton on Monday of last week. From reliable sources at the event, most of Dayton’s relatives who were sitting in the front row after the event talked more about Bud Grant being in attendance than they did about Dayton’s speech. The Governor even sought out a handshake and Grant had a few words with the newly sworn in Governor. One piece of advice he gave Governor Dayton was to appoint Tom Landwehr as Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, a piece of advice the Governor has wisely heeded.
Landwehr has a favorable reputation in the conservation community through his work for Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy. As an outdoor enthusiast, Landwehr has earned the trust of the hunting and fishing communities and, most importantly, Minnesota’s most famous coach. Governor Dayton was under great pressure from the forestry and mining industries to appoint a commissioner that came from their field of interest. Taking his cue from the iconic Minnesota coach, Governor Dayton did not flinch. With the additional appointment of one of the most respected environmental champions to the Pollution Control Agency, Paul Aasen, Governor Dayton is off to a fabulous start.
Although Minnesota’s great football coach never gave us a Super Bowl championship, he has given us a far more valuable legacy to future generations of Minnesota — an opportunity for a better Minnesota. Now it’s our job to move the ball down the field and make that opportunity a reality.
*”Open water has returned once again”, Schultz, Chris. Herald Journal. March 23, 2006.