Former Gopher Eller will enter the hall

After 13 years as a finalist, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will induct Carl Eller on Friday.

Dan Miller

Only half of Carl Eller’s 6-foot-5-inch 245-pound frame is visible in a 1963 photo-graph captioned “Big Carl Eller.”

Posed bending forward in a football stance, one cannot fully appreciate Eller’s size in his Gophers uniform.

“He looked ludicrously out of place in this small dormitory room. A guy with the dimensions of Carl Lee Eller should have a private tent on the mall,” Former Minnesota Daily reporter Clint Sanborn wrote in 1963.

But 43 years later, Eller’s image will look right at home in the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

After writers and broadcasters nominated him as a finalist 13 times, they will finally induct Eller into the Hall of Fame on Friday along with Bob Brown, John Elway and Barry Sanders.

“It’s a lot of relief but it’s also a lot of excitement,” Eller said of his belated induction. “It’s a tremendous honor and I’m just really happy right now.”

Eller played tackle on the Gophers’ defensive line from 1961-63, and was a consensus All-American in 1963.

The Minnesota Vikings drafted Eller in the first round of the National Football League draft and Buffalo also selected him early in the American Football League draft.

He chose the familiar Minneapolis community and matured into a dominant defensive force for the Vikings.

He was the defensive end on the Vikings infamous “Purple People Eaters” of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Eller has long been involved in the Minneapolis community where he and his family have resided for more than 30 years.

“I love (North Minneapolis),” Eller said. “I have lived here most of my life.”

Minneapolis community members and leaders recently honored Eller for his induction into the hall and his long commitment to community service.

Currently, Eller is acting as spokesman for the Vikings in a joint effort to raise awareness about the importance of access to automated external defibrillators in the fight against sudden cardiac arrest.

He has been an advocate for drug-addiction awareness and has given many speeches about helping people with chemical dependency.

For years, many former teammates and coaches have campaigned for Eller’s induction into the Hall of Fame.

Eller has been eligible to be inducted for over two decades.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Carl should be in the Hall of Fame,” Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi said. “Personal challenges may have prevented him from getting in earlier, but the story has a happy ending and we are very proud.”

Eller has kept a connection with the University where his son Regis is currently finishing his degree.

“I am very grateful for what the University has done for me,” Eller said. “I really enjoyed my time as a student and being around the University.”

Maturi said he remembers Eller’s days as a Gopher and Viking, and added that he hopes Eller will also be considered for the collegiate hall of fame.

“As a young athlete watching him play, I can tell you he was a force,” Maturi said. “He should be in the college hall of fame as well. I hope that happens in the future.”

Regis Eller will fly into Ohio on Thursday and will present his father in the ceremony.

Eller wanted to have his fellow “Purple People Eater” Jim Marshall and Regis co-present him at the ceremony but officials said they would allow only one presenter.

For the first time, the entire 2004 Hall of Fame class will have family members presenting them.