Scott Mansch: Chuck Foreman looks back, looks forward while in Worthington
Former Minnesota Vikings star cherishes education, cherishes the relationships he had with teammates
WORTHINGTON — Chuck Foreman earned his reputation by running with the football.
He makes memories these days in a different walk of life — as a substitute teacher.
“Education is certainly important to me,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for a long time. But it’s not easy.”
While in Worthington last weekend for the annual King Turkey Day celebration, Foreman said the differences in the family structure have provided challenges for youths of today.
“When I grew up, both parents didn’t have to work, though mine did,” he said. “Now it’s a whole different thing. Maybe someone will show up with a little attitude. But you don’t know what a kid has to go through before he gets to school. So I’ve learned to try to be a little more patient and a little more understanding.”
He said the vocation is rewarding.
“It certainly is,” he said. “I was at a restaurant about a month ago and this young lady came up and said ‘Do you remember me?’ I knew she looked familiar, but I didn’t remember her. And she said, ‘Well, you were my teacher at (Bloomington) Kennedy High School, and you were really, really cool.’ ”
It certainly was cool to have one of the all-time great Minnesota Vikings in Worthington for King Turkey Day. Foreman, 71, was an All-Pro fullback who was selected five times to the Pro Bowl during a fantastic career with the Vikes from 1973-79.
Three times he rushed for more than 1,000 yards, and in 1975 he was clearly the best back in all of football. That year he ran for 1,070 yards and 13 touchdowns, while also catching a league-high 73 passes for 681 yards and nine more scores.
Nicknamed the “Spin Doctor” for his remarkable ability to spin while eluding tacklers and never slowing down, Foreman is dealing with some immobility these days after recent ankle surgery.
But he’s still in fine shape.
“I usually bike 15 or 20 miles every day,” he said when asked about the crutches and walking boot he had. “But I’ve had to stay off of my leg. So my summer hasn’t gone like planned. But it’s all good.”
Certainly life is decent these days for Foreman, who has made Minnesota his home for decades. What makes life more enjoyable is visiting with fans throughout the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
He also enjoys maintaining relationships with his old teammates. Foreman isn’t the only former Viking superstar involved in education. In fact, the honorable Alan Page recently was in the news when a Minneapolis junior high school was renamed in his honor.
Page, a retired Minnesota Supreme Court judge, has visited Justice Page Middle School and plans often to return for reading sessions with the kids.
Chuck Foreman is not surprised.
“I played with a lot of great people with the Vikings,” Foreman said. “They were great both on the field and off. But I can honestly say that Alan Page was the only guy who I really admired. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them all — but there was something special about Alan that was different. He set a great example in everything, his demeanor, his work ethic, his smarts. He wasn’t a guy that did a lot of talking. But he did a lot of producing.”
Foreman was wearing a beautiful Viking Super Bowl ring from 1974.
“I gave it to my mother, and she passed away a few years ago,” he said softly. “I never really wear it, but I had a sentimental feeling this morning so I put this on. She was very proud of this ring, and I was proud of her.”
Foreman, who grew up in Maryland and became one of the first scholarship black athletes to attend the University of Miami, is happy he made Minnesota his home.
“When you’re from the south,” he said, “and have a few different experiences ...”
He said Minnesota is just different.
“I always found Minnesota to be very welcoming and the people to be really nice,” he said.
Foreman’s four children grew up and graduated from high school in the Twin Cities. They’re all successful.
Foreman tries to help kids be just that these days as substitute teacher.
“I try to make my teaching an enjoyable experience, both for me and for them,” he said.
And speaking of the classroom, isn’t it time to educate those who vote for the Football Hall of Fame? Shouldn’t Chuck Foreman, who accounted for nearly 10,500 yards from scrimmage (including playoffs) and more than 80 touchdowns, be in the hallowed Hall?
In 1973 he was the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year. In 1974 he was The Sporting News Player of the Year. And in 1976 he was voted league MVP by United Press International.
Foreman was selected to five Pro Bowls and three times was either a first or second-team All-Pro.
That’s quite the resume for a running back, whose NFL careers are notoriously short. So why doesn’t the Hall of Fame beckon for Minnesota’s famed No. 44?
“You know, I can’t figure that out,” Foreman smiled. “I’d certainly like to be a fly on the wall in there (during Hall of Fame voting). Whatever their process is, they need to fix it, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
“Believe me, I’m not losing any sleep about it. I’m in a good place. But it is perplexing.”
Foreman was clearly impressed with his Worthington stay. He especially noted the city’s cultural diversity. Indeed, many folks of color watched his speech and were able to interact with the legendary athlete during an autograph session Saturday afternoon.
What impression does Chuck Foreman hope his visit leaves?
“The only thing I can say,” he said, “is we need to love each other. And we need to learn and respect everybody. Because in the end, we’re all the same. I don’t think God makes mistakes.”
Scott Mansch can be reached at email@example.com