2019-11-22 01:18:31 UTC
Kicker Fred Cox, leading scorer in Vikings history, dies at 80
Cox played in four Super Bowls during his 15 seasons in Minnesota.
By Chris Miller Star Tribune NOVEMBER 21, 2019 — 5:51PM
STAR TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO
A common sight for Vikings fans in the 1960s and 1970s was Fred Cox kicking out of the hold of safety Paul Krause.
Fred Cox, the leading scorer in Vikings history, died Wednesday night at age 80. He had been in hospice care at his home in Monticello, Minn., because of kidney failure.
Cox had 1,365 points during his 15 seasons as a kicker and, at the time of his retirement following the 1977 season, was the second leading scorer in NFL history behind George Blanda.
During his playing days he became a licensed chiropractor and also invented the highly popular Nerf football.
In a statement, the Vikings called Cox “a respected teammate and friend. Fred’s football career as the Vikings all-time leading scorer set the stage for a life where he went on to achieve great things in business and in his community. Fred’s positive energy, strength in his faith and passion for life will be missed.”
Third all-time in games played for the Vikings with 210, Cox was an All-Pro in 1969 and made the Pro Bowl in 1970, leading the NFL in scoring both seasons. For his career, he converted 282 of 455 field goal attempts and 519 of 539 extra points. He kicked with a square-toed shoe in a straight-ahead style of the day almost exclusively on torn-up grass fields, on dirt infields and often in challenging weather, especially at old Met Stadium.
Cox played in 18 playoff games and four Super Bowls, losing to Kansas City, Miami, Pittsburgh and Oakland.
“All the players wanted to win,” Cox said in a 1992 story in the Star Tribune. “Yet it might have been easier for the players to accept what happened than the fans.
“The fans have never been able to live with the fact that we lost four times. But the bottom line is that for any team to get there four times is an amazing feat.”
A standout at the University of Pittsburgh, Cox was drafted as a fullback in the eighth round in 1961 by the Cleveland Browns but did not play because of a back injury. He honed his placekicking skills under the legendary Lou “The Toe” Groza in Cleveland and the Vikings traded for him in training camp in 1962. He didn’t make the team that season as he was beaten out by Jim Christopherson, but did in 1963 when he joined them as a kicker and, for one season, a punter.
Cox combined in 1971 with local entrepreneur John Mattox on the Nerf football, a foam rubber invention which quickly turned into a lucrative venture.
“It never dawned on me until they were selling six or eight million a year exactly what had happened,” he told NFL Films last year. “They kept sending me checks. … They’re still paying me because there was no end to the contract.”
On the Vikings’ website, former coach Bud Grant remembered Cox, one of 11 players on the roster for all four Super Bowl teams.
“Fred was the ultimate team player for us,” Grant told vikings.com. “He took part in all of our scout teams, playing running back or whatever we asked of him. He was a great asset to our team, a true credit to the team and his community. If you saw those games, he always stood right next to me on the sideline because he was such a big part of what we were doing with field position and knew the game so well.”
Cox was born on Dec. 11 1938 in Monongahela, Pa. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and four adult children.