Francis Asbury Tarkenton (born February 3, 1940) is a former National Football League (NFL) quarterback, television personality, and computer software executive. He played in the NFL for 18 seasons and spent the majority of his career with the Minnesota Vikings.
Tarkenton's tenure with the Vikings spanned 14 non-consecutive seasons, playing with the team for six seasons from 1961 to 1966, and then for seven seasons from 1972 to 1978. In between his years in Minnesota, Tarkenton was a member of the New York Giants for four seasons. At the time of his retirement, Tarkenton owned every major quarterback record. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
In addition to his football career, Tarkenton served as a commentator on Monday Night Football and a co-host of That's Incredible!. He also founded Tarkenton Software, a computer-program generator company, and he toured the U.S. promoting CASE (computer-aided software engineering) with Albert F. Case, Jr. of Nastec Corporation. Tarkenton Software later merged with KnowledgeWare (with Tarkenton as president), until selling the company to Sterling Software in 1994.
Fran Tarkenton was born on February 3, 1940, in Richmond, Virginia. His father, Dallas Tarkenton, Sr., was a Methodist minister. Fran Tarkenton went to Athens High School in Athens, Georgia, and later attended the University of Georgia, where he was the quarterback on the Bulldog football team and a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Under Coach Wally Butts and with Tarkenton as quarterback, Georgia won the 1959 Southeastern Conference championship.
Professional football career
The Minnesota Vikings drafted Tarkenton in the third round of the 1961 NFL Draft, and he was picked in the fifth round of the 1961 AFL draft by the Boston Patriots. He signed with the Vikings. Tarkenton, 21, played his first National Football League game (and the Vikings' first game) on September 17 against the Chicago Bears coming off the bench to lead the Vikings to a come-from-behind victory by passing for 250 yards and four touchdown passes and running for another as the Vikings defeated the Bears 37–13. He was the only player in NFL history to pass for four touchdowns in his first NFL game, until the feat was repeated by Marcus Mariota in the Tennessee Titans' 2015 season opener versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He played for the Vikings from 1961 to 1966.
Tarkenton was traded to the New York Giants in 1967, at which time he moved to the New York City suburb of New Rochelle, New York. In the first game of the 1969 season, Tarkenton's Giants played the Vikings. After trailing 23–10 in the fourth quarter, Tarkenton threw two touchdown passes to secure a 24–23 comeback victory over his former team. The 24 points allowed by Minnesota's defense were a season-worst for the unit.
Tarkenton was traded back to Minnesota in 1972, for three players plus a first and second round draft choice. He led the Vikings to three Super Bowls in the 1970s, but lost all of them. In Tarkenton's first Super Bowl appearance his team lost to the Miami Dolphins 24–7 in Houston. It lost the second to the Pittsburgh Steelers 16–6 in New Orleans, and in the last Super Bowl Tarkenton played (and Minnesota's last Super Bowl to date), the Vikings lost to the Oakland Raiders 32–14 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
In his 18 NFL seasons, Tarkenton completed 3,686 of 6,467 passes for 47,003 yards and 342 touchdowns, with 266 interceptions. Tarkenton's 47,003 career passing yards rank him 8th all time, while his 342 career passing touchdowns is 6th all time in NFL history. He also is 6th on the all-time list of wins by a starting quarterback with 124 regular season victories. He also used his impressive scrambling ability to rack up 3,674 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns on 675 carries. During his career, Tarkenton ran for a touchdown in 15 different seasons, an NFL record among quarterbacks. He ranks fourth in career rushing yards among quarterbacks, behind Randall Cunningham, Steve Young and Michael Vick. He is also one of two NFL quarterbacks ever to rush for at least 300 yards in seven different seasons; the other is Tobin Rote. When he retired, Tarkenton held NFL career records in pass attempts, completions, yardage, and touchdowns; rushing yards by a quarterback; and wins by a starting quarterback.
The Vikings finished the 1975 season with an NFC-best 12–2 record and Tarkenton won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award and the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award while capturing All-Pro honors in the process. He was also a second-team All-Pro in 1973 and earned All-NFC selections in 1972 and 1976. He was named second-team All-NFC in 1970 and 1974. Tarkenton was selected to play in nine Pro Bowls.
Tarkenton was indecisive on his retirement during the last seven years of his playing career.
Despite not winning a Super Bowl, he won six playoff games, and in 1999 he was ranked #59 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.
Tarkenton was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1977, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Athens, Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.
A biography of Tarkenton titled Better Scramble than Lose was published in 1969. This followed Tarkenton's 1967 autobiography No Time for Losing and preceded by several years his 1977 autobiography Tarkenton co-written with Jim Klobuchar. The autobiographies chronicle not only his football career but also his personal evolution from his early football days as a preacher's son. Tarkenton co-wrote with Brock Yates a book in 1971 titled Broken Patterns: The Education of a Quarterback, a chronicle of the 1970 New York Giants season.
In 1986, Tarkenton, with author Herb Resincow, wrote a novel titled Murder at the Super Bowl, the whodunit story of a football coach killed just before his team is to participate in the championship game.
Tarkenton wrote the self-help, motivational books Playing to Win in 1984, and How to Motivate People: The Team Strategy for Success in 1986. He also wrote the motivational self-help business book titled What Losing Taught Me About Winning, and Every Day is Game Day. In 1987, Tarkenton hosted a Think and Grow Rich TV infomercial that sold the book with an audio cassette version (the audio cassettes contained an introduction and conclusion by Tarkenton).
Business ventures and investments
Mark McCormack helped Tarkenton invest, making him wealthy enough to "retire this week if [he] wanted to", as New York magazine wrote in 1971. Tarkenton was a pioneer in computer software, and founder of Tarkenton Software, a program generator company. He toured the United States promoting CASE or "computer-aided software engineering" with Albert F. Case, Jr. of Nastec Corporation, but ultimately merged his software firm with James Martin's KnowledgeWare, of which Tarkenton was president until selling the company to Sterling Software in 1994.
In 1999, Tarkenton was fined by federal regulators as part of a securities fraud sweep. According to the LA Times, "In Tarkenton's case, the Hall of Fame quarterback and 10 other former executives of his computer software and consulting firm, KnowledgeWare Inc., were accused of inflating by millions of dollars the company's earnings in reports for its fiscal year ended June 30, 1994. The former Minnesota Vikings quarterback agreed to pay a $100,000 fine and $54,187 in restitution. He did not admit any wrongdoing".
Since then, Tarkenton has been promoting various products and services including Tony Robbins and 1-800-BAR-NONE. He also founded GoSmallBiz, a small-business consulting website. He also operates an annuity marketing firm called Tarkenton Financial.
During the 2016 Republican National Convention, Tarkenton gave a speech endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
NFL career statistics
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