Longtime Minnesota Vikings Equipment Manager Dennis Ryan has retired after 47 years with the organization.
“I’m humbled to have been a part of the Vikings since I was a part-timer in high school,” said Ryan. “To look back at more than 40 years and see all the ways the NFL and the Vikings have changed is remarkable. But I always remembered a lesson from Stubby Eason that the players and the coaches come first; they’re the heart and soul of the organization. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by great people at the Vikings, people who are working for the same goal. It’s hard to take it all in now looking back, but over time all those good memories will always be there. I’ve been blessed to have this job and be around some of the greatest players and coaches of all time. I look forward to spending more time with my family and making that my focus.”
Ryan, who first became familiar with the Vikings as a 16-year-old grounds crew member at Saint Paul’s Midway Stadium, was recruited in 1975 by then-Vikings equipment manager Jim “Stubby” Eason to help load the Vikings locker room and transfer it to Mankato for the team’s annual training camp. Following two summers in that role, Ryan was hired as a full-time member of the Vikings equipment staff in 1977. Just four years later in 1981, Ryan became the youngest equipment manager in the NFL at just 21 years old and only the second to hold the job title in Vikings history.
“When you think about what makes a team great, it’s people who put others ahead of themselves,” said Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf. “For nearly fifty years, Dennis Ryan did that for the Vikings. The hundreds of players and coaches who have been able to perform at their best because of Dennis is a testament to his work ethic, his selflessness and his passion for the Vikings. Dennis has been recognized by his peers and around the NFL as the best of the best and his influence on generations of Vikings is second to none. Thank you is not enough to recognize what Dennis has meant to the team. We wish him and his family the best.”
Over his 47 years Ryan became a mainstay inside the Vikings, compiling a streak of 705 consecutive games from 1979 to 2021 before being forced to miss a contest due to Covid-19. He worked with nine of the Vikings 10 head coaches and saw games played in all of the team’s home stadiums (Metropolitan Stadium, Metrodome, TCF Bank Stadium and U.S. Bank Stadium). Ryan was a trusted confidant to thousands of Vikings players and coaches and was respected across the NFL as one of the hardest working people in sports. He designed the first eye shield to be worn by a player in an NFL game (1984) and twice received the Whitey Zimmerman Award, which recognizes the NFL’s Equipment Manager of the Year (1996 and 2017).
“It’s fitting that in Dennis’ final season, the NFLPA comes out and allows the players to vote on their experience, and Dennis and his crew received an A-plus,” said Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell. “I guarantee if they had done this survey in 1986, 1996 or 2006, Dennis would have gotten an A-plus. The consistency and the level at which Dennis cares in a servant-leadership type role is something from which we can all take note. I’m thankful I had a chance to work with Dennis and see firsthand what so many players, coaches and staff members observed and respected for nearly five decades. His humility, attention to detail and constant positive presence will be greatly missed, but I’m excited for Dennis to enjoy some well-earned downtime.”
“Dennis is held in such high regard across the entire NFL, and it immediately became evident when I joined the organization last year why that is,” said Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. “Whatever time it was in the morning, whatever time it was at night, I would see Dennis in the facility. But beyond his tireless effort was his desire to put others first. To see that up close after how long he’s been doing it was an honor for me and a tremendous lesson in quality leadership. Dennis is an icon in our league and will always be considered a member of the Vikings organization.”
A lifetime resident of Saint Paul, Ryan attended the University of Minnesota (1978-79) and the University of St. Thomas (1980-81). He and his wife, Laura, have three children, Ben, Maureen and Annie, and continue to reside in Saint Paul.
(info and photos courtesy of Vikings)