Fran Tarkenton's career as a National Football League quarterback started with the fledgling Minnesota Vikings in 1961, took him to the New York Giants in 1967, and then back to the Vikings in 1972.
In Minnesota's first game ever, the rookie from Georgia came off the bench to fire four touchdown passes and run for a fifth in a big upset of the Chicago Bears. For the next 18 seasons, the 6-0, 190-pound field leader never let up in his relentless quest of yardage and touchdowns.
At the time of his retirement, Fran owned every significant passing record – 3,686 pass completions, 47,003 passing yards, and 342 touchdowns. But particularly in his early years, Tarkenton attracted widespread attention as an exciting scrambler who took plays from sideline to sideline. Add his 3,674 yards rushing to his stunning passing totals and you have 50,677 yards – almost 29 miles or 500 football fields – of offensive progression. Yet Tarkenton was also a "quality" passer as his 80.4 passing rating that placed him in the upper echelon in that category demonstrates.
Tarkenton was a No. 3 draft pick of the 1961 Vikings. He became the starting quarterback early in his rookie season and continued his outstanding performances for the next six seasons. But in 1967, he was sent to the New York Giants in a trade that netted the Vikings two No. 1 and two No. 2 draft picks over a three-year period.
Five seasons later, Fran came back to Minnesota in another massive swap that cost the Vikings two veterans, a rookie and two high draft picks. In Fran's final seven years with the Vikings (1972-1978), he led Minnesota to six NFC Central Division titles and three Super Bowl appearances. He was named first- or second-team All-NFL three times and selected to play in nine Pro Bowls during his career.