Greg Coleman was a 24-year-old unemployed bettor living in Cleveland in the fall of 1978.
The Browns had released him a month earlier after one season, and he had no chance to try out for other teams. He turned on the TV on a Sunday afternoon.
“The Vikings were playing the Rams,” Coleman said Friday. “And no bettor was doing well.”
Coleman, a religious man, went to his window.
“I opened the window and started screaming and screaming at God,” Coleman said. “I said, ‘You said if I prayed and did 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 staff member 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 a kicking season for Washington, and then spent the next 32 years on the Vikings’ radio broadcast team. He has been the secondary reporter for the past 21 years.
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” said Coleman, who announced via Twitter Thursday that he was retiring from his Vikings radio gig at the end of this season.
Healthy and 67-year-old Coleman said he wanted more time with Eleanor, his wife of 43, their three children and eight grandchildren, including 3-month-old Zaina Rose. He also wants to devote more time to his business as a professional speaker and to special projects promoting historically black colleges and universities.
Coleman played at Florida A&M and was inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame this year. But his professional career almost never happened.
“I made the mistake of running the 40-yard sprint,” said Coleman, a 14and– Cincinnati Bengals round pick of Paul Brown in 1976. “I was faster than everyone but Isaac Curtis and Archie Griffin, so Paul tried me as a catcher.
The year in Cleveland proved Coleman could throw. He still laughs that his career path took him to Minnesota, where he ended up on the Vikings’ 25- and 40-year-old teams.
“I once said I would never 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 were wearing black shoes.
“Back then, all the cool brothers wore white shoes. I didn’t want to come to Minnesota to freeze my ass, play for a coach who looked like he was mad at the world and wore shoes. But God has a funny sense of humor. Tell him what you won’t do and he’ll prove you wrong.