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Fred Zamberletti, Vikings’ first and beloved ex-athletic trainer, dies at age 86

September 2, 2018

Fred Zamberletti, the Vikings first athletic trainer and lifelong storyteller of all things Purple, died early Sunday morning, his family confirmed. He was 86.

Born in Melcher, Iowa, on May 28, 1932, Zamberletti was the teams athletic trainer from its inception in 1961 to 2003. The beloved Freddie remained with the team as consultant and historian the rest of his life.

Zamberletti had been struggling with health issues in recent years. His family posted on his CaringBridge site that Zamberletti was admitted to Methodist Hospital briefly because of back pain in mid-July.

A month later, he was readmitted when a magnetic resonance imaging exam detected an toxic infection called Osteomyelitis in the spinal bone and disc. He was being treated with strong antibiotics.

Friday, the family updated Zamerlettis status, writing, This is a difficult entry to write. Our long-fought battle of Freds infection has been too trying for his body. Weve now begun the journey to keep him comfortable and raise him up with love. His faith continues to carry him and our family through this difficult time. The memories many of you have shared and the love and support will always warm our hearts. We know that he loved like no other and touched many people.

Zamberletti was the University of Iowas athletic trainer from 1951 to 1957. He was working as the athletic trainer at the University of Toledo when the Vikings hired him.

Zamby attended every Vikings game preseason, regular season, postseason and all-star from Day 1 through Dec. 24, 2011. The streak ended at 1,049 games when an illness prevented him from flying to Washington for the Christmas Eve game against the Redskins.

I missed three out of four kids being born, Zamberletti told the Star Tribune the day he attended his 1,000th straight game in 2009. We didnt have anybody else in those days. If you were sick, didnt feel good, funerals or anything else, you still went to work, and you didnt miss.

And Zamberletti never missed a day of work in 43 years as athletic trainer. He was part of the ironman culture the team developed while going to four of the first 11 Super Bowls during the Bud Grant era.

Even to this date, three of the NFLs top six streaks for consecutive starts belongs to Vikings players who played in each of those four Super Bowls. Jim Marshall is second at 270, 17 behind Brett Favre, who broke Marshalls record as a Viking in 2009. Mick Tingelhoff is third at 240, while Alan Page is tied for sixth at 215.

Zamberletti was named Professional Athletic Trainer of the Year in 1986. Ten years later, the Vikings won NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year.

Todays trainers now aspire to winning the Fred Zamberletti Award, which is given by the Minnesota chapter of the National Football Foundation.

In 1998, the Vikings put Zamberletti in their Ring of Honor, assuring forever that his hard work and oh so many great stories from Marshall to Moss and beyond would never be forgotten.

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