The original ragin’ Cajun’, Roy Winston graduated from Louisiana State University, where he starred as an offensive guard. He played 15 seasons in the National Football League, all with the Minnesota Vikings. That was a long time for hard-hitting linebackers. Think about it. Fifteen years of delivering bone crushing hits. Using doggy math (a year for a dog is comparable to seven for humans) I estimate that a year for a linebacker is worth three years for a normal human. So Winston would have aged forty-five years during his NFL career….or at least felt like it.
In 1962, Winston was drafted in the fourth round by the Vikings, for whom he played until he retired after the 1976 season. During that time, he was one of the few players to play in all four of the Vikings Super Bowl appearances (Super Bowl IV, Super Bowl VIII, Super Bowl IX, Super Bowl XI). Yeah, don’t go there. But how many players can say they played in four Super Bowls during their career? Randy Moss has yet to get there, although he seems to be on his way this year with the New England Patriots.
The reason I wanted to write about Winston is that it is the 35th anniversary of one of the greatest football hits of all-time. And Winston was the linebacker to bring Hell with him.
Winston delivered one of the most destructive tackles ever filmed. In a close game against the Miami Dolphins in the 'Fins perfect season of 1972, fullback Larry Csonka circled out into the flat to catch a pass. Just as he caught the pass, Winston hit him from behind with such force that the 240-pound Csonka was nearly cut in half.
Of note: The tackle was so monstrous it was shown on the Johnny Carson Show.
Csonka dropped the ball and rolled on the field in anguish. He screamed that he was paralyzed. He thought his back was broken and literally crawled off the field.
But Csonka was just as tough as Winston. Once on the sideline, Csonka "walked it off" and in a few minutes was back in the game. Csonka's return to the game was crucial, as the winning touchdown pass to tight end Jim Mandich was set up by a fake to Csonka.
Not that I would want to make friends in this manner, but after their own retirements from the NFL, Winston and Csonka remained close friends. Csonka even invited Winston to be his guest when Csonka was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Winston, Lonnie Warwick, and Wally Hilgenberg were some tough S.O.B. linebackers for the Vikes back then. Unlike Csonka, not many lived to tell about it. At least, that's how this old time fan remembers it.
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