On October 25, 1964, after recovering a fumble against the 49ers in San Francisco, Minnesota Vikings star defensive end Jim Marshall runs 66 yards the wrong way into his own end zone. The four-year veteran believes he has scored a touchdown, so he throws the ball out of bounds in celebration, resulting in a safety for San Franscisco and putting an exclamation point on one of the worst gaffes in NFL history. Despite Marshall’s error, the Vikings win, 27-22.
“It was the nuttiest thing I’d ever seen,” said Minnesota offensive tackle Grady Alderman.
On the return flght to Minnesota, teammates ribbed Marshall, who said he simply got confused. “They kept telling me to get up in the cockpit and fly the plane,” he told The Minneapolis Star. “That way we’d end up in Hawaii instead of Minnesota.”
Marshall, part of the Vikings’ famed “Purple People Eaters” defensive line, played 20 seasons in the NFL. In addition to registering 130 sacks, he played in 282 straight games—one of the longest streaks in league history. Despite a stellar career, Marshall became best known for his wrong-way run.
“It was tough when it happened,” Marshall told the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 2015. “I took my football career very seriously and to make a mistake, of course, it’s something that you don’t want on your resume. But mistakes happen.
“Norm Van Brocklin (then Minnesota’s coach) was known to be tough on mistakes, but that didn’t cause us to lose the game. And he just said, ‘Hey, Jim, just forget about it.’ “