Tommy Mason, the first draft choice in the history of Minnesota Vikings football, has passed away at the age of 75.
The expansion Vikings liked Mason so much so that they picked him first overall in the 1961 NFL Draft – two rounds before selecting Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
Tarkenton, along with Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf and longtime team trainer Fred Zamberletti released statements remembering Mason.
“The entire Minnesota Vikings organization is saddened by the loss of Tommy Mason. As the team’s first-ever draft pick, Tommy played a significant role in the history of the franchise. After spending six seasons with the team, he remained a part of the Vikings family, appearing at multiple events over the past several decades. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mason family at this time.” – Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf
“Tommy was an enormous talent. He was a great player, a humble man and an outstanding teammate. I will always cherish the years I spent with Tommy.” – Vikings Hall of Fame Quarterback Fran Tarkenton
“Tommy was as complete of a running back as they come. Because of injuries, Tommy did not have the career that he wanted to have but he was a very talented, hard-running, slashing player. He’ll always be remembered as one of the original Vikings. He will be sorely missed.” – Team Historian and long-time Athletic Trainer Fred Zamberletti
Mason, who played his college ball at Tulane, played 11 seasons in the NFL. He went to three Pro Bowls and finished his career with 4,203 rushing yards and 32 rushing touchdowns. He added 2,324 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns.
Not only was he an outstanding football player, he was also a pretty good spokesperson for a 1960s razor blade.
The Star Tribune's Patrick Reusse interviewed Mason in 2007, profiling his life as a football player. It's an exceptional story that reveals Mason's pet monkey that he named "Dutch," after former Vikings head coach Norm Van Brocklin.
Of his 11 seasons, Mason played the first six in Minnesota before spending four years with the Los Angeles Rams. He played his final season in 1971 with the Washington Redskins.
“Tommy was a great teammate and valued member of the Washington Redskins and the NFL,” Redskins President Bruce Allen said, according to CBS D.C. “Our entire organization sends its condolences to his family.”
Details on Mason's death were not immediately available.