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Ex-Vikings player, coordinator Schnelker dies

Bob Schnelker, who scored the first touchdown in Minnesota Vikings history and was later the team’s offensive coordinator, died Monday at age 88.

His daughter, Kristina Pinkston, said he passed away in Naples, Fla., because of complications from cancer.

Schnelker played his final NFL season for the expansion Vikings in 1961, catching a 14-yard touchdown pass from Fran Tarkenton in the team’s first game against Chicago, and was offensive coordinator under Jerry Burns from 1986-90.

Burns’ hearty defense of Schnelker following the Vikings’ 23-21 overtime victory over the Rams in Nov. 5, 1989, was a memorable moment during the head coach’s tenure. The Vikings had seven field goals and a safety in the game, and Burns profanely criticized the fans for their heckling of his coordinator.

Schnelker played nine seasons (1952-61) as a tight end in the NFL, making 211 catches for 3,667 yards and 33 touchdowns. He was a two-time Pro Bowl player for the Giants, winning an NFL title in 1956, and ended his career with the Steelers after the Vikings traded him midway through their inaugural season.

He was an assistant coach for seven teams, and was offensive coordinator for San Diego, Kansas City, Detroit, Green Bay and the Vikings. Schnelker began his coaching career in 1963 with the Los Angeles Rams and he spent seven years with the Packers (1966-71). He also coached at Miami in 1974.

After leaving the Vikings, Schnelker was a volunteer assistant for the Gophers in 1991.

Schnelker originally was drafted out of Bowling Green in the 29th round (337th overall) by Cleveland in 1950.

Pinkston said her father enjoyed “lots of golfing” in retirement in Florida for the past 20 years.

He is survived by his daughter, three grandchildren, and his brother, David. Services are pending; the family plans a burial in Schnelker’s hometown of Galion, Ohio.