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Vikings players with 1 career TD cherish their trip to the end zone

The team lists every player who has scored a regular-season point for the Vikings since their first game in 1961. There are now 91 players in team history with six points off one touchdown. When other teams are considered, 52 of those players had or have had just one touchdown in their NFL careers.

MINNEAPOLIS -- In the eighth game of his rookie year in 1968, Minnesota Vikings defensive back Charlie West took a Washington punt at the 2-yard line and went streaking down the left sideline. When he reached the end zone, he threw his arms up in triumph.

West had tied an NFL record set in 1933 by Gil Lefebvre of the Cincinnati Reds for the longest punt return at 98 yards, and the crowd at Metropolitan Stadium was going wild. One figured that when West got to the bench he would receive congratulations from head coach Bud Grant.

Not exactly.

“When I got to the sideline, I was cussed out by Bud Grant for catching the ball at that spot, that I should have let it go into the end zone (for a touchback),” said West, 75, who is now retired in Oak Ridge, N.Y. “He got his point across. He kind of stared at me. No grin. No smile. No congratulations.”

West’s touchdown gave the Vikings a 27-0 lead early in the fourth quarter of a game they won 27-14, and he went on with his career. West ended up playing 12 NFL seasons, including his first six with the Vikings, but he never scored another touchdown.

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The record shared by West ended up being broken in 1994, when Robert Bailey of the Los Angeles Rams had a 103-yard punt return, but West still holds the Minnesota team record. And if one looks deep into the Vikings media guide, his name can be found in another spot.

The team lists every player who has scored a regular-season point for the Vikings since their first game in 1961. There are now 91 players in team history with six points off one touchdown. When other teams are considered, 52 of those players had or have had just one touchdown in their NFL careers.

West actually didn’t have the longest score for those in the one-touchdown club. That distinction goes to wide receiver Aundrae Allison, who played for the Vikings from 2007-08, and scored on a 103-yard kickoff return against Detroit in 2007.

A six-inch TD?

As for the guy with the shortest touchdown, linebacker Ben Leber would like to make that claim. Leber played in the NFL from 2002-11, including 2006-10 with the Vikings, and his only touchdown came in an October 2006 game against the Lions at the Metrodome. Early in the fourth quarter, nose tackle Pat Williams sacked Jon Kitna and Leber scooped up the ball and scored.

“I think it was the shortest touchdown that anybody has ever scored,” said Leber, now a Vikings radio and television analyst. “I’m not kidding. I picked it up at the six-inch line. Pat Williams did all the work. It was sort of a gift touchdown.”

A review of the game tape shows Leber to be accurate with his measurement, but the official scorer actually credited it as a fumble recovered in the end zone. His score cut the deficit to 17-16.

The Vikings eventually took a 19-17 lead before linebacker E.J. Henderson scored on a 45-yard interception return with 1:31 remaining to put the game away in a 26-17 win. That turned out to be the only touchdown that Henderson, who played for Minnesota from 2003-11, scored in his career.

“It is kind of crazy,” Leber said of both players scoring their only TDs in the same game. “But, just as I’m thanking Pat that he got me my only touchdown, I was partly responsible for E.J.’s (touchdown). It was myself and somebody else who rushed the quarterback, and that was the reason the ball floated in the air.”

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Not long after that game, Leber got a memento to commemorate his score. Equipment manager Dennis Ryan had the ball Leber scored with painted to read, “This ball presented to Ben Leber, 1st NFL touchdown.”

As it turned out, Leber never got another one.

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ben Leber (51) celebrates with a teammate after scoring a touchdown on a Detroit Lions fumble in the fourth quarter on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2006. It was Leber's only career touchdown. Minneapolis Star Tribune / MCT file photo

“One is better than none, although I would have loved to have had a sweet pick-six and avoid a few tackles and run it in,” he said. “That would have been epic.”

60 sacks, 1 TD

Seven years after Leber’s score, another notable Vikings defender received a painted game ball from Ryan to commemorate his first touchdown. And it, too, turned out to be his last.

In a 31-30 loss at Chicago in September 2013, defensive end Brian Robison, following a strip sack by Jared Allen, scooped up a Jay Cutler fumble and rumbled 61 yards down the left sideline for the score.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler fumbles the ball, while under pressure from Minnesota Vikings Jared Allen during the second quarter at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. Vikings defensive end Brian Robison recovered the ball and returned it 61-yards for a touchdown The Bears defeated the Vikings, 31-30. Minneapolis Star Tribune / MCT file photo

“It was a pretty cool deal,” said Robison, who played for the Vikings from 2007-17 and now lives in Bellville, Texas. “As a defensive player, we dream about sacks and scoring a touchdown. I was fortunate enough to get a lot of sacks (60) but I had only one TD. But at least I got one. I’ve got the ball sitting in my office, and it definitely is among some of my good memories, that’s for sure.”

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Robison remembers exactly what he did with the ball after he scored at Soldier Field.

“I threw the football at the Chicago Bears sign because there was a guy that was cussing me out,” he said. “But then I went over and picked it up and took it back to the bench. You’re not going to throw that sucker away.”

The next year, Vikings fullback Jerome Felton scored what turned out to be his only regular-season touchdown but he didn’t get the ball painted like Leber and Robison did. Felton, you see, didn’t want to make a big deal out of how he scored.

Expected more

Felton played in the NFL from 2008-16, including 2012-14 with the Vikings. While he was mostly a blocker, he did get 55 career carries and catch 50 passes. But his only score didn’t come after one of those touches.

In a 30-24 overtime win over the New York Jets in December 2014 at then-named TCF Stadium, Teddy Bridgewater hit Charles Johnson on a pass over the middle from the Jets’ 23-yard line to the 7 and he headed toward the end zone. But Johnson was hit at the 1-yard line and the ball rolled into the end zone, where Felton recovered the fumble.

“When I got back to the sideline, I was laughing and joking with the guys that, ‘This is my first touchdown,’” said Felton, a fifth-round draft pick by Detroit in 2008 out of Furman. “The crazy thing is that I was the second-highest drafted fullback the year I came out, and I had dreams of being another Jerome Bettis. I was a runner in college, and I had like 70 touchdowns (actually 63). And I literally could not be stopped around the goal line. And then I get to the NFL and I had few opportunities around the goal line.”

To Felton’s credit, he did score a touchdown on a 3-yard run in the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season. As for his only regular-season TD, he did save the ball and has it as his home in Sandy Springs, Ga. But he didn’t make the extra effort to have it painted.

As was the case in the Detroit game in 2006, that 2014 game against the Jets featured two Vikings players scoring what turned out to be their only career touchdowns. Linebacker Gerald Hodges, who played in the NFL from 2013-18, including 2013-15 with Minnesota, had a 27-yard interception return.

The 2014 season also featured tight end Chase Ford getting his only career touchdown at TCF Bank Stadium. A wide-open Ford, who had 34 catches while playing in 20 games for the Vikings in 2013 and 2014, hauled in a 20-yard pass from Bridgewater with 36 seconds left in the first half of a November game against Washington. The touchdown cut the deficit to 10-7, and Minnesota went on to win 29-26.

“It was amazing,” said Ford, who now lives in Weatherford, Texas. “To be able to look into the crowd and you’ve scored and the fans are super excited, it was just a great feeling. It was definitely a blessing, helping the team get a big win.”

Looking back, Ford said the touchdown was “bittersweet” since he never got into another NFL game after the 2014 season and he drifted around with several teams for a few years before retiring. But he did give the ball from his only touchdown to his grandmother, who has it on display at her home in Fred, Texas.

Former Vikings linebacker Lonnie Warwick, who lives in Mount Hope, W Va., gave the ball from his one touchdown to his son, who lives in Tennessee. Warwick, who played in the NFL from 1965-74, including 1965-72 with the Vikings, scored on a 10-yard blocked punt return in a 38-35 win at the Los Angeles Rams when he was a rookie in 1965 in his third NFL game.

“It was just a freak thing,” Warwick 79, said of the play in which defensive back Ed Sharockman blocked a punt. “I remember it really well. The ball hit the ground and bounced right into my hands. And, honestly, at first I didn’t know which way I was running but fortunately I was running toward the end zone and I scored a touchdown.”

That was good for Warwick considering a year earlier Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall ran the wrong way after picking up a fumble and scored a safety for San Francisco. He has never lived it down.

“I figured I’d get another touchdown at some point, but you never know,” said Warwick, who was a fixture for the Vikings at middle linebacker and started in their first Super Bowl after the 1969 season. “But I had a great career, and I had a lot of fun, and we had a great team.”

Warwick’s touchdown can be seen in the 1965 Vikings highlight film, and there was no celebration after he nonchalantly trotted into the end zone. After all, the act of spiking the ball after a touchdown was still years in the future.

Overshadowed by another TD

When safety John Turner scored his only career TD in the 1982 regular-season finale on Monday Night Football, it set off a wild celebration. With the Vikings leading Dallas 17-13 at the Metrodome, Turner picked off a Danny White pass on the first play of the fourth quarter that was batted in the air by defensive end Mark Mullaney, then streaked down the right sideline for a 33-yard return.

Turner held the ball high in triumph 10 yards before he crossed the goal line, and after he scored, numerous players ran off the bench to mob him. Heck, even Grant, 14 years after scoffing at West’s long punt-return touchdown, was excited.

But the celebration was short lived. On the next play from scrimmage, after the Cowboys bobbled the kickoff out of bounds at the 1, Tony Dorsett set an NFL record for the longest run from scrimmage with a 99-yard burst for a touchdown. Turner was the first tackler to miss Dorsett as he ran up the middle and then veered to the right sideline.

“If we had lost that game, I would have felt miserable,” said Turner, who spent all but one season with the Vikings during his 1978-87 NFL tenure. “But we won the game (31-27), and nobody remembers that. All people remember from that game is that Tony Dorsett went 99 yards. Nobody remembers my interception. I wish mine would have been 99 yards.”

Whenever Turner hears somebody talk about Dorsett’s record run, which was matched in 2018 by Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, he makes sure to add to the conversation.

“I say, ‘You know, I intercepted that ball for a touchdown,’ ” said Turner, 65, who is in his 25th season as a dean of students at Park Center High School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. “I throw that in there, too.”

Like Turner, Robert Tate also scored his only career touchdown on national television. In a 31-28 loss at Kansas City on Sunday Night Football in December 1999, the cornerback scored on a 76-yard kickoff return in which he ran down the middle, breaking what looked to be a sure tackle at midfield.

“It was a pooch kick and I just had a quick burst and it all just happened so fast,” said Tate, who played in the NFL from 1997-2006, including 1997-2001 with the Vikings, and now lives in Taylor, Ariz. “It was a fun game. The thing I remember is I thought I almost had two (kickoff returns for touchdowns) in that game, but I stepped out of bounds on the other one (at the Minnesota 48 after a 35-yard return).”

While having two kickoff returns for a touchdown in the same game would have put Tate in the record book (only 10 players in NFL history have done it), he’s ultimately satisfied that at least he finished his career with one.

“You always wish you could have gotten more, but it’s hard to score in the NFL,” Tate said. “It’s special to score in the NFL, so I’ll always cherish that I got one touchdown.”

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