Wally Hilgenberg, 66, a former Minnesota Vikings linebacker and a solid member of the feared defense that led the team to four Super Bowl appearances, died Tuesday at his home in Lakeville, Minn., after a battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Hilgenberg played in the National Football League for 16 seasons, including 12 with the Vikings from 1968 to 1979. Overshadowed by the Purple People Eaters playing in front of him on the defensive line, Hilgenberg started 116 games of the 157 he played for Minnesota. He led the team in total tackles with 110 in 1971.
In the 1974 National Football Conference championship game against the Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium, Hilgenberg had a key interception of a James Harris pass in the Vikings’ 14-10 victory.
Born Sept. 19, 1942, in Marshalltown, Iowa, Hilgenberg played football at the University of Iowa before being drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1964.
He played three seasons for the Lions, sat out the 1967 season because of injury, then signed with the Vikings.
After retiring from football, Hilgenberg worked in banking and real estate businesses in Minnesota.