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There will never be another quarterback like Fran Tarkenton. One of the most elusive quarterbacks in NFL history, Tarkenton was also an incredibly accurate passer who parlayed his unique talent into a Hall of Fame career. 

Tarkenton's list of bonafides is considerable. He was named league MVP, was selected to nine Pro Bowls and in 1986 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is still the Minnesota Vikings' career leader in passing yards and touchdown passes. 

In honor of his 84th birthday (he was born on Feb. 3, 1940), here are five fast facts on one of the NFL's all-time great quarterbacks. 

Career passing leader 

Tarkenton retired after the 1978 season with 47,003 career passing yards, which at that time were the most in NFL history. He'd hold the record under fellow Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino passed him in 1995. 

The quarterback Tarkenton initially passed, Johnny Unitas, is hailed as the NFL's best quarterback during the league's first half-century. 

Unitas played through the 1973 season, but his last productive season was in 1970, when he led the Colts to the franchise's first Super Bowl win. Unitas and fellow Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath struggled with their knees late in their careers. Tarkenton didn't have such issues. 

"I stay in shape, if that's part of the reason," Tarkenton told Sports Illustrated in 1975 when asked about his longevity. "Probably it's luck. I'm physically strong. I have strong legs. Maybe that's helped. Stand-up quarterbacks have stood in the pocket and gotten hurt. I've scrambled, and I haven't. I never scrambled with any design. I was trying to complete a pass, to move the team. But it's interesting. The old timers have never accepted me as a good quarterback because I've run out of the pocket too often. All that does is amuse me."

At the time of his retirement, Tarkenton also held NFL career records for attempts, completions, rushing yards by a quarterback (more on that later) and wins. 

Super Bowl history  

It's fitting that Tarkenton's birthday is around the Super Bowl. He is, after all, the first quarterback to start in three Super Bowls over a four-year span. 

Unfortunately for Tarkenton, all three of his Super Bowl starts ended in defeat. Tarkenton and the Vikings were a great team, but they played in an era with several of the NFL's other all-time teams, including the Steelers, Raiders, Cowboys, and Dolphins

Miami defeated Minnesota in Tarkenton's first Super Bowl to complete its quest to win back-to-back titles. The Steelers edged the Vikings a year later in what was the Vikings' closest Super Bowl defeat (10 points). Two years later, the Vikings lost again in the big game to a Raiders team that had come up short themselves in big games over the years. 

Ironically, the Vikings' best team during that era may have been the one team that didn't get to the Super Bowl during that span. The '75 team was upset by the Cowboys in the divisional round on Roger Staubach's famous Hail Mary completion to Drew Pearson. 

"That was one of our best teams," Tarkenton told ESPN decades later. "That's how we lose." 

Historic NFL debut 

Tarkenton's NFL debut remains the standard by which others are measured. Despite starting the game on the bench, Tarkenton led the Vikings to a win over the Bears and in the process became the first quarterback to throw four touchdowns in his NFL debut. Marcus Mariota (2015) and Will Levis (2023) has since matched Tarkenton's mark. 

The 37-13 win was also notable in that it was the Vikings' first-ever victory. 

Once a Giant 

While he started and finished his career with the Vikings, Tarkenton enjoyed a successfu run with the Giants that included being a Pro Bowler in each of his four years with Big Blue. He arrived in New York after being traded for three draft picks and a player to be named later. 

Tarkenton was traded back to the Vikings before the 1972 season for three players and future first- and second-round draft picks. 

Scrambling Fran 

Tarkenton was known for his elusiveness behind the line of scrimmage, but he did plenty of damage beyond avoiding would-be sackers. He retired as the career rushing leader for quarterbacks and is currently seventh all-time behind Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Randall Cunningham and Steve Young. His 32 rushing touchdowns is tied for the 16th most among quarterbacks. 

Tarkenton's 5.4 career yards-per-carry average is tied for the seventh-best highest mark for a quarterback, behind only Vick, Cunningham, Jackson, Young, Donovan McNabb and Allen.