On January 25, 1942, Carl Lee Eller, a former professional football star and North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame member, was born in Winston-Salem. Twenty years later, as a University of Minnesota sophomore, he helped lead the Gophers to a 21-3 Rose Bowl victory over UCLA.
The 6-foot, 6-inch, 247-pound defensive standout was a first-round draft pick of both the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) and the Buffalo Bills (AFL) in 1964. Eller signed with the Vikings and for the next fourteen seasons was the left end of a ferocious defensive line often referred to as “The Purple People Eaters.” During that time the Vikings won the 1969 NFL championship, claimed three National Football Conference crowns, and played in four Super Bowls.
Extremely quick and mobile for his size, Eller, or “Moose,” as he was often called, was one of the most honored defensive players of his time. He was selected to play in six Pro Bowls and was presented with the George Halas Award as the NFL’s leading defensive player in 1971. He finished his career with a single season with the Seattle Seahawks in 1979. Eller was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1991 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
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