Welcoming Committee: Carl Eller

General Published on : 7/26/2004
By Dan Dierdorf, Class of 1996
Special to Profootballhof.com

Editors Note: Dan Dierdorf battled Carl Eller four times during his career including twice in 1974 - once on Monday Night Football and then six weeks later in the Cardinals' first playoff game in nearly 30 years. Dierdorf returns to his hometown of Canton this summer as one of the many Hall of Famers who will take part in the Enshrinement Celebration Weekend on August 8-9.

Well, you didn't have to spend any extra time to coax yourself into getting ready to play the Vikings. They had the storied defensive line - the "Purple People Eaters". They had a reputation that was well earned around the National Football League. So, if you were an opposing offensive lineman, it was always a thrill, a challenge, and a little scary to have to play against Alan Page and Carl Eller, and Gary Larsen, and Jim Marshall. If that didn't get your heart beating, nothing would.

There were bigger defensive lines than the "Purple People Eaters." They were actually a pretty light group which is the way Bud Grant liked his defensive line. But, they were all tremendously athletic, rangy guys who could cover a lot of ground. And, of course, Carl Eller in my mind - if you were going to design the way you'd like a defensive end to look, you'd be the prototypical guy…a perfect defensive end.

Carl, you were such a well-rounded player. And that was the problem. The Vikings were such a good team and what would happen a lot of times is that when you played Minnesota, you'd end up falling behind. If that was a defensive line that didn't have to worry about the running game, you were in big trouble. The Vikings had such a good overall team. They were good offensively, good defensively, good on special teams that it was a formidable task to try to handle that group.

The first time we faced the Vikings was in just my second year in the league. Fortunately we won that one, beating you guys in Minnesota. That was one of the bigger wins in my first couple of years in the NFL. I was just 23 years old and here I am playing against the great Minnesota Vikings. These were guys that I'd watched on television and watched these guys in high school and college and there I am in the Met in Minneapolis playing these guys. I guarantee I didn't sleep much the night before.

In 1974, we faced you and the Vikings on Monday Night Football. After falling behind, we rallied with the help of Jim Hart, our quarterback, and came close to knocking you guys off. We were an outstanding offensive team back then but we weren't a great defensive team. So, we knew that any chance we'd have to beat the Vikings we would have to score a lot of points.

Oct. 8, 1972 Cardinals 19, VIKINGS 17
Nov. 11, 1974 Vikings 28, CARDINALS 24
Dec. 21, 1974 (Divisional Playoff Game) VIKINGS 30, Cardinals 14
Nov. 6, 1977 Cardinals 27, VIKINGS 7
Let me tell you, as an offensive tackle, that's not the way you want to spend your day, falling behind the Vikings and having to get back into the game by exclusively throwing the football. I had a lot better ways that I would rather spend my time than trying to keep Carl Eller from bashing my quarterback.

Carl, you were just a scary looking guy. I'm sure that when I get to know you, you're a nice man and very gentle soul. But, I'm sorry, when I lined up against you as young player in the NFL, you were about the scariest looking guy I've ever been around. You had this very deep baritone voice and the whole package was something. I couldn't let you know it then, but you rattled me a little bit!

We played you again that season, this time in the playoffs. The Vikings handed it to us to pretty good. You blew it open in the second half. Defensively, we didn't match up. That's what the Vikings did to a lot of people. They'd build up a lead and then turn you guys loose and make it really hard on you to try to stay in it.

It was thrilling to compete against you like that. From my position as an offensive tackle, I competed against some really good players in my day but Carl, in my mind, you were the consummate package.

In a game in 1977, we were able to beat you and the Vikings. (Editor's note: The Cardinals defeated Minnesota, 27-7, as running back Wayne Morris rushed for 182 yards and Terry Metcalf gained 83 yards before leaving the game with an injury).

We ran the ball very well against the Vikings which was the only way we had a chance to beat you. And, we were a wonderful match up for Minnesota because we had an outstanding offensive line in St. Louis. It was a marquee match up - our offensive line versus your defensive line. The way we were able to have a lead and run the football in that game was very big feather in our cap.

Carl, you've waited 20 years to get in the Hall of Fame. And, after all those years of frustration, I'm sure it's a sense of relief. I'm sure you thought why didn't this happen a long time ago and quite frankly I wouldn't blame you one bit for feeling like that because it's a question that a lot of us have asked. I think you deserved to be elected to the Hall of Fame a long time ago. We've seen some guys voice their frustration, but I think you've handled it with class. It will be a tremendous moment when you stand at that podium and finally speak as a member of the Pro Football Hall. It's much deserved and much overdue for you, Carl.

The Hall is the most exclusive club that I'll ever belong to. When you look at the rich tradition of the National Football League and how long it's been here. And, when you look at every kid that ever walked on a football field in the history of the game and you look at every kid whether it was junior high, midget football, high school, college, or the NFL. Out of every one of those guys, we now realize that Carl Eller now joins a group of roughly 200 players in the history of the game who is now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If that doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, there's something wrong.

And, I know Carl, you appreciate it. Along with everybody else, I welcome you to the only team you can never be cut from, traded from, and you can't even die from this team. You're on it forever!

Welcoming Committee:
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 Ronnie Lott Welcomes John Elway
  Mike Singletary Welcomes Barry Sanders