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Wednesday, August 4
Updated: August 5, 3:50 PM ET
Eller finally headed to Hall of Fame
MINNEAPOLIS -- Success came quickly for Carl Eller, a mainstay on a Minnesota Vikings defensive line that dominated for more than a decade and became known as the Purple People Eaters.
A first-round draft pick from the University of Minnesota in 1964, Eller became a regular at left end as a rookie. He held his job for 15 seasons -- tormenting blockers and quarterbacks around the league, forming a feared front four with Alan Page, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen and helping lead the Vikings to four Super Bowls between 1969 and 1977.
Eller's enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, however, required some patience.
A finalist five times before, Eller's call finally came in January. Along with John Elway, Barry Sanders and Bob Brown, he will be inducted Sunday at the annual ceremony in Canton, Ohio.
"The wait has certainly made it more exciting," said Eller, who finished his career with Seattle in 1979. "I'm glad it happened, and I certainly appreciate it."
What he appreciates the most, actually, is the amount of time he got to spend on good teams with good friends. Eller, Page and Marshall, all living in the Twin Cities, see each other regularly.
"When we're together, it's just like old times," said Eller, who is Minnesota's all-time leader in sacks with 130.
"We dominated the opposing teams, certainly some of them, for a while. That's one of the great things about sports: the competitiveness. It's win or lose ... there's not a lot of gray matter in there."
Eller _ who will be introduced on Sunday by his son, Regis -- certainly had the respect of his opponents. Brown, an offensive tackle, called Eller one of the toughest pass rushers he ever faced.
"I had great combat with Carl Eller," Brown said. "Every time I saw Carl Eller, he had his 'A' game going and I had my 'A' game going, too. Because if I didn't have my 'A' game going, then I was going to look like a jerk."
Nicknamed The Moose, Eller will be the seventh Vikings representative in the Hall. Page, quarterback Fran Tarkenton, free safety Paul Krause, offensive tackle Ron Yary, coach Bud Grant and administrator Jim Finks are the others.
"His effort to be excellent -- to be good at what he did all the time _ was really a manifestation, I think, of what those teams were all about," Page said. "It wasn't about individual glory."
A North Carolina native, Eller experienced an NFC Central title in 10 of his last 11 seasons with the Vikings. He used his quickness and 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame to earn five All-Pro selections.
"Carl was a complete football player," Page said. "I don't know that I could pinpoint any particular strength. One of the beauties of those teams, particularly the front four, was that we all complemented each other so well that it was hard to say where somebody's strength ended and somebody else's began."
Eller also is one of only three Vikings to start more than 200 games.
"You don't achieve greatness without being able to play a lot of games," Grant said. "Durability is the greatest ability you can have."
The Vikings made a strong push to get Eller and Marshall elected this year, because it was their last chance as modern-era candidates. Those who've been retired longer than 25 years have a tougher time getting in, since there are only two senior players among the 15 finalists.
Eller was sad that Marshall didn't get in, and he can relate -- having missed out so many times before.
Still active in the community, primarily involving grant programs that deal with inner-city youth, Eller has thoroughly enjoyed life in Minnesota.
The local fan support, he said, made it easy to cope with the disappointment of four Super Bowl losses and the waiting for his call from Canton.
"I think that's really what kept me going," Eller said. "They always told me I was a Hall of Famer in their book."