Eller to Hall of Fame

The former Gophers lineman entered the College Football Hall of Fame with Emmitt Smith, Charlie Ward and Mike Rozier.

by Tyler Rushmeyer

One of the most successful football players to suit up for the Minnesota football team was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame on Sunday in South Bend, Ind.

Carl Eller, a defensive lineman with the Gophers from 1960 to 1964, played a large role in one of the greatest eras in the program’s history.

Joining Eller in the group of 20 players and coaches honored were Purdue’s Mike Phipps, Florida’s Emmit Smith, Virginia Tech’s Bruce Smith and two Heisman Trophy winners: Florida State’s Charlie Ward and Nebraska’s Mike Rozier.

Athletics director Joel Maturi said it was an exciting moment for University athletics and extra special for him.

“Carl Eller was one of the outstanding Gopher greats during my time at the University,” he said. “I remember watching him play when I was in high school. He was a special player.”

Maturi, a Chisholm, Minn. native, said Eller remains a big supporter of University athletics.

In a statement to Gophersports.com, Eller said the honor was something special and compared it to his enshrinement in the National Football League Hall of Fame in 2004.

“I think it means more just simply because I’m older and can appreciate it more and understand the significance of it,” he said. “I realize this is quite an honor and achievement … I’m very appreciative of it.”

Eller’s career with the Gophers began with a role on a team that went on to win the Big Ten and National Championships. The following two seasons saw Minnesota’s last two appearances in the Rose Bowl as they lost to Washington in 1961 and defeated UCLA in 1962 – the program’s only Rose Bowl victory.

During his junior and senior years at Minnesota, Eller developed into a full-time, two-way player as he earned All-America honors both seasons. In 1963, his final season with the Gophers, Eller was the runner-up for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best college football interior lineman.

Coach Tim Brewster, in his first season at Minnesota, said Eller is an important reminder of the greatness Gophers’ football has been able to achieve in its past.

“It’s vital for our players to know our history here,” he said. “I want them to know who has worn that same jersey … and Eller was one of the best.”

Earlier this year, Brewster invited Eller along with fellow Gophers’ alum Bobby Bell to speak with the current group of Gophers players.

“He’s really a special person off the field and has become a mentor to our team,” he said. “I believe he is an important part of this program.”

Eller, elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006, went on to have a stellar professional football career following his time at the University. The Minnesota Vikings drafted Eller in 1964.

Playing at defensive end, Eller became part of the unit known as the “Purple People Eaters” throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Eller played in six Pro Bowls and missed just three of 225 professional games spanning across his career of 16 NFL seasons.

Brewster said Eller’s accomplishments and achievements can be used to motivate his current team at the University.

“To be enshrined in both the NFL and College Football Hall of Fame is incredible,” he said. “Eller’s accomplishments are truly phenomenal.”