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Tarkenton gives Vikings pep talk, shows off franchise's first game ball

ATLANTA — The Vikings got some extra motivation before Sunday's game from hall of fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton.

Tarkenton, who lives in Atlanta, addressed the Vikings at the team hotel Saturday night, Dec. 2. And he was on hand for Minnesota's 14-9 victory over the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Tarkenton, who played for Minnesota from 1961-66 and 1972-78, brought a prop to the meeting, the game ball he received from the first time the expansion Vikings took the field. In the Sept. 17, 1961, opener, the rookie out of the University of Georgia came off the bench to throw four touchdown passes as Minnesota stunned Chicago 37-13.

"He talked about the importance of team," said Vikings sideline analyst and former punter Greg Coleman. "He didn't start that game, but as part of the team, you never know when your number is going to be called. And when his number was called, he came in and threw four touchdown passes. ... He talked about the importance of sticking together and nobody cares who gets the credit as long as you win."

Coleman said Tarkenton touched upon quarterback Case Keenum, who completed 25 of 30 passes for 227 yards Sunday and is 8-2 as a starter for the 10-2 Vikings. Tarkenton, known for his scrambling ability, loves how Keenum is also able to elude the pass rush.

"(Keenum) reminds him of himself being able to extend plays with his legs," Coleman said.

Keenum has a long way to go before he truly can be compared to Tarkenton, who led the Vikings to three Super Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. Coleman said Tarkenton, 77, told him the player most similar to him today is Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.

Sunday marked the first Vikings game Tarkenton had attended since Sept. 18, 2016 against Green Bay, Minnesota's first game at U.S. Bank Stadium.