So Long, Jim...
After Sunday's game against the Bears here at the Metrodome, FB/TE Jim Kleinsasser will call it a career. Thirteen years of unselfish play, team-first attitude, hard-nosed football and workmanlike effort will be gone, but NOT forgotten.
Drafted in the 2nd round (44th overall) from North Dakota in 1999, Jim Kleinsasser played 180 games in thirteen years for the Purple. His stats aren't the greatest (192 receptions, 1,688 yards, 6 TDs; 43 rushes, 147 yards, 1 TD), he wasn't flashy, but that wasn't why he was so valuable to the Vikings over the years.
Jim Kleinsasser was a road grader in purple.
I remember when they drafted him. The word was that he was one of the better pass-catching tight ends available that year, even coming from a Division 1-AA school like North Dakota. I remember seeing the film on him before the draft. He was a hulk, a big strapping farm boy who could play the game. I was excited when they drafted him. I thought he could be a really valuable player in the Vikings' passing game, but it turned out Jimmy was much more valuable elsewhere - as a blocker.
Blocking TE is definitely NOT one of your more glamorous positions in pro football, but Jimmy was a BEAST. He consistently mowed over defenders, plowing the way for the top seven rushing seasons the Vikings have ever had. Blocking for the likes of Robert Smith, Leroy Hoard, Moe Williams, Michael Bennett, Cris Carter, Onterrio Smith, Mewelde Moore, Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson, Jim Kleinsasser epitomized the hard work and extra effort that would be the hallmark of his career. He was unselfish, and his level of play consistently and remarkably stayed at the same level throughout his career. 2004 was the only season in which he wasn't healthy, when he started and played in one game.
There are a lot of things that make Jim Kleinsasser admirable. He's humble, thinks team first, keeps himself in great shape, and is a great mentor for younger players, setting a good example for them.
This Sunday against Chicago at MOA Field, in Jim's final game of his career, coach Leslie Frazier has come out and said that the team is going to do anything it can to get him the ball and get him in the end zone if they are anywhere near the goal line. While a fitting tribute to a player that has meant so much to the Vikings over the past 13 years, somehow I think Jim would rather do what he does best: block for someone else, so THEY can get into the end zone.
So long, Jim. It's been a great 13 years having you here in Minnesota. Next step, Vikings Ring Of Honor. You deserve it.