Extra Points: Hall rights a wrong with Tingelhoff

Phoenix, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Allen Iverson might laugh but more than anything else, practice defined former Minnesota Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff.

Over his 17 brilliant seasons, Tingelhoff is most famous for never missing a game, arriving in the Land of 10,000 Lakes as a rookie free agent out of Nebraska, earning the starting job and never relinquishing it -- even for a game -- until nearly two decades later.

We always here about game-day players, though. Guys who rest up during the week and fight through the bumps and bruises to show up on Sunday. Tingelhoff, though, never missed a practice, making it through 240 regular-season games and 19 added postseason contests by showing up each and every day.

One of Tingelhoff's backups, Godfrey Zaunbrecher, used to call himself the third-string center because as Tingelhoff teammate Stu Voight said "The joke was the Vikings only carried two centers, Tingelhoff and Tingelhoff hurt."

This isn't just an ironman story, however. Tingelhoff produced more than just about any other center in NFL history, anchoring a Vikings offensive line that helped the team claim a mind-numbing 10 divisional titles in an 11-year span from 1968 to 1978.

He first received national accolades by his third season when he was named All-Pro for the first of seven consecutive times. Tingelhoff was also honored with Pro Bowl recognition (when it meant a whole lot more than it does now) six straight times (1965-1970).

And understand he did that in the old NFC Central where opposing middle linebackers like Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke and Joe Schmidt dominated and are all enshrined in Canton. Tingelhoff was often called upon to block stars like that in space or neutralize legendary defensive tackles like Merlin Olsen or Bob Lilly at the point of attack.

And more often than not, Tingelhoff succeeded with the iconic Butkus calling him the "toughest center I ever played against."

So what gives?

Tingelhoff is now 74 and was first eligible for the hall in 1984. He was a no- brainer that was passed by over and over again on the regular ballot for 20 years, never even being named a finalist and making his only possibility for enshrinement as a senior candidate.

The voters finally corrected the embarrassing oversight on Saturday as Tingelhoff got the call as a member of the Class of 2015 a day before Super Bowl XLIX, along with five modern-era selections: Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Junior Seau and Will Shields, and two members of the newly- created contributor's category: Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.

Why did it take 30 years?

"It's long overdue," Tingelhoff's linemate and fellow Hall of Famer Ron Yary told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I don't know why Mick was overlooked."

Actually, Yary knows all too well.

"He should have been inducted forever ago," another former teammate, kicker Fred Cox said. "People just can't look past that we lost four Super Bowl games."

The real and likely only black mark to the voters regarding Tingelhoff was those four Super Bowl losses he and the Vikings suffered (1969, 1973, 1974 and 1976.)

Yeah, it's a myopic and an uneducated view but look at the history of those Vikings teams and players.

Some of the other slam-dunk Hall of Famers on those Minnesota clubs also had to wait for lengthy periods with defensive tackle Alan Page the notable exception. Of course, even Page, arguably one of the two or three greatest interior lineman in NFL history, had to wait until the second year he was on the ballot.

Legendary coach Bud Grant, quarterback Fran Tarkenton, safety Paul Krause, Yary and defensive end Carl Eller also had to play the waiting game to various degrees.

Meanwhile, highly regarded defensive end Jim Marshall, the ultimate ironman at least until Brett Favre, is still waiting.

The Vikings haven't reached a Super Bowl since Tingelhoff and Co. but newer- generation talents like Randall McDaniel, Chris Doleman, John Randle and Cris Carter each had a much easier time clearing the Canton bar.

On Saturday, the Hall of Famers voters finally cleared their own bar -- common sense.