Greg Coleman was a 24-year-old out-of-work punter living in Cleveland in fall of 1978.
The Browns had released him a month earlier after one season, and he was having no luck trying out for other teams. He turned on the TV one Sunday afternoon.
“The Vikings were playing the Rams,” Coleman said Friday. “And neither punter was doing well.”
Coleman, a religious man, went to his window.
“I threw open the window and started yelling and screaming at God,” Coleman said. “I said, ‘You said if I would pray and do the right things you would give me the desires of my heart!’ I said, ‘Where are you?’ I just want to play football. I’ll even play for the Minnesota Vikings!”
The next day, Vikings personnel man Frank Gilliam called. Coleman was on the next flight to Minnesota to replace Mike Wood.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Coleman spent the next 10 seasons in Minnesota, left for one season to punt for Washington and then spent the next 32 years as part of the Vikings’ radio broadcast team. He was the sideline reporter the past 21 years.
“It’s been one heck of a ride,” said Coleman, who announced via Twitter on Thursday that he’s retiring from his Vikings radio gig at the end of this season.
Healthy and 67 years old, Coleman said he wants more time with Eleanor, his wife of 43 years, their three children and eight grandchildren, including 3-month old Zaina Rose. He also wants to devote more time to his professional speaking business and to special projects promoting historically Black colleges and universities.
Coleman played at Florida A&M and was enshrined into the Black College Football Hall of Fame this year. But his pro career almost never happened.
“I made the mistake of running the 40-yard dash,” said Coleman, a 14th-round pick of Paul Brown’s Cincinnati Bengals in 1976. “I was faster than everybody but Isaac Curtis and Archie Griffin, so Paul tried me at receiver. Didn’t work. Tried me at defensive back. Didn’t work.”
The year in Cleveland proved Coleman could punt. He still laughs that his career path took him to Minnesota, where he ended up on the Vikings’ 25- and 40-year anniversary teams.
“I once said I would never, ever play for the Minnesota Vikings,” Coleman said. “I grew up in Florida. It was too cold. Bud [Grant] had those piercing blue eyes and never said anything. And they wore black shoes.
“Back in the day, all the cool brothers wore white shoes. I didn’t want to come to Minnesota to freeze my behind off, playing for a coach who looked like he was mad at the world and wear black shoes. But God has a funny sense of humor. Tell Him what you ain’t going to do and He will prove you wrong.”