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Archive for Thursday, April 26, 2007

Before combines and Wonderlics …

April 26, 2007

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The 1968 NFL draft began on Jan. 30, 16 days after Super Bowl II. There was no scouting combine. No pro day workouts. No dot.com mock draft du jour for 12 stinking weeks!

No one asked Southern California tackle Ron Yary to tiptoe through a three-cone drill, broad jump or bench press 225 pounds.

"Heck, I didn't even start lifting weights until 1980," said Yary, who now works in real estate in Los Angeles. "When I was a boy, they told us not to lift weights. You'd get too musclebound."

There was no Wonderlic test. No 20-yard shuttle. And not one person asked Yary if he was a cat or a dog, or subjected him to any other psychological mumbo jumbo.

"That's the one that gets me," Yary said. "All of this psychological testing and all this introspective of the players they do today. It hasn't done the NFL much good, has it? They still pick hoodlums."

With none of today's so-called advanced scouting, Vikings coach Bud Grant watched game film and grilled his most trusted scouts.

"A lot of people today can't make a decision unless they have reams of paperwork in front of them to back it up," Grant said. "Well, we didn't have that, and I never relied on that. I hate that word, 'I.' I prefer 'we.' But I thought I, we could tell who a good football player was."

Grant called Yary's apartment on the morning of Jan. 30, 1968. The Vikings were on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick. It was Yary's first contact with the Vikings.

Grant asked whether Yary wanted to play for him. Yary said yes. And that was pretty much it.

No trip to New York City. No holding up a purple No. 1 jersey. No Mel Kiper Jr. to break down Ron's hips. Just the quiet beginning of a 15-year Hall of Fame career for one of the best right tackles in NFL history.

"You do have to be a little lucky in this business," Grant said. "We didn't have all the refinements they have now."

Yeah, right. All they had were the Hall of Famer Grant, who had the final say on personnel matters, and another Hall of Famer, general manager Jim Finks. From 1967 to 1973, they picked some fellas named Page, Voigt, Foreman and a few others who didn't have to be sent to a Nike institute for analysis.

For kicks and perhaps a few private sighs, Yary once figured out how long it took current Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie, a good player with no Pro Bowls, to make what he made in his entire career.

"I took everything; Super Bowl money, postseason honors, playoff money," Yary said. "It was about $1.2 million. McKinnie made that in 4.2 games."

Sorry, Ron. But that was before last year's seven-year, $48.5 million extension, which included an $18 million bonus.

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