March 13, 1976: Death of Ole Haugsrud, Duluth’s “Mr. Football” and Vikings’ owner

Ole Haugsrud, the Kelleys manager and the Eskimos owner. Because of a promise by NFL officials made in 1929 when he sold the Eskimos, Haugsrud became part owner of the Minnesota Vikings in 1961—32 years later and about the time of this photo. He helped bring quarterback Fran Tarkenton to the Vikings.
(Photo courtesy the Duluth News Tribune)

On this day in Duluth in 1976, Superior native Ole Haugsrud died in Duluth at the age of 73. He was well-known in the Twin Ports for his team of barnstorming high-school stars before he became nationally famous as the owner of the NFL’s Duluth Eskimos, featuring the biggest star in the league and Haugsrud’s high-school classmate, Ernie Nevers. He sold the Eskimos franchise in 1928 for not much money and a piece of paper that said if the NFL ever returned to Minnesota, Haugsrud would be allowed to invest in the team. He cashed in that promissory note to become part owner of the Minnesota Vikings, who many believe were named for his alma mater, Superior Central High, whose sports teams wore purple and gold and called themselves the Vikings. He also recruited Bud Grant to coach the Vikings. Following his death, Grant said: “Ole goes back a long ways; he was literally a friend of the family. My first contact with him was through my father. They were good friends when I was a boy. I think it is kind of ironic that I ended up working for Ole [as Vikings head coach]. My dad always thought a great deal of him and what an honorable man he was. He liked to stay in the background. It was only recently that you could get him to go to a dinner or anything and take a bow. He preferred a table in back. He was just a tremendous man and good friend.” Vikings President Max Winter said, “Certainly we’ll miss Ole as a person, but [we] will also miss his counsel. There’s no question . . . his death was a blow to the Minnesota Vikings, to all of us.” According to author Chuck Frederick, Haugsrud’s funeral was held in the church of his boyhood, Concordia Lutheran in Superior. Former Eskimos players were among the hundreds who attended; they included Doc Williams, Johnny Blood McNally, Joe Rooney, Jimmy Manion, Bill Stein, and Ernie Nevers. Fran Tarkenton phoned Haugsrud’s wife Margaret to offer his condolences. The following September, Memorial Field, the football field at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, became the Ole Haugsrud Memorial Field after the university’s chancellor Karl W. Meyer asked the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to approve the change. You can read much more about Haugsrud in Frederick’s Leatherheads of the North, previewed here, and in this post about his birth, here.

One Response to March 13, 1976: Death of Ole Haugsrud, Duluth’s “Mr. Football” and Vikings’ owner

  1. I remember his boat docked at Knife River Marinra and his penthouse apartment on 2nd Ave E. just above 1st Alley, both had Rosemar name.

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