Carl Eller was a consensus All-America with the University of Minnesota. He was a first-round draft pick of both the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills of the then-rival American Football League in 1964.
A 6-6, 247-pound defensive stalwart, Eller opted to stay in a familiar environment and signed with the Vikings. For the next 15 years through 1978, he was a fixture in one of pro footballs most effective defensive alignments.
Known as “The Purple People Eaters,” Eller was the left end of a line that included Jim Marshall at the opposite end and Hall of Famer Alan Page and Gary Larsen at the tackles.
Extremely quick and mobile for his size, Carl was an excellent defender against the run and superb as a pass rusher.
He also was effective in blocking kicks and, during his career he recovered 23 opponents’ fumbles, the third best mark in NFL annals at the time of his retirement.
It was Eller who caused the fumble that led to teammate Jim Marshall’s infamous wrong-way run for a safety in 1964 in a game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Eller was named first- or second-team All-Pro every year from 1967 through 1973. He was All-NFL or All-NFC 1968 through 1973 and then All-NFC again in 1975. He retired following the 1979 season after playing one year with Seattle.
After 20 years of eligibility, Eller received the call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here he is after the announcement in Houston on Jan. 31, 2004.
Eller (second from left) poses with fellow Hall of Famers (l-r) John Elway, Don Shula, Marv Levy, and Bob Brown following a press conference in Hawaii before the 2004 Pro Bowl.
Eller, along with fellow classmates Bob Brown and John Elway, is honored at the 2004 Pro Bowl.