Vikings equipment manager Dennis Ryan retires after 47 years

A longtime stalwart of the Minnesota Vikings organization has retired.

Tuesday, the team announced that equipment manager Dennis Ryan has retired after 47 years with the organization.

Ryan first joined the Vikings as a grounds crew member when he was 16 and was then recruited in 1975 by the team’s equipment manager at the time, Jim “Stubby” Eason, to help load the locker room and bring it to Mankato for training camp. Two summers later, Ryan was hired as a full-time member of the equipment staff.

In 1981, Ryan became the youngest equipment manager in the NFL at the age of 21. He was the second person to ever hold the title in the organization’s history.

“I’m humbled to have been a part of the Vikings since I was a part-timer in high school,” Ryan said. “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.”

Over his tenure, Ryan worked 705 consecutive games from 1979 to 2021 before he missed a game due to COVID-19. He worked with nine of the team’s 10 head coaches and saw games in all of the Vikings’ home stadiums throughout the years — Metropolitan Stadium, Metrodome, TCF Bank Stadium and U.S. Bank Stadium.

The club says Ryan also created the first eye shield worn by a player in an NFL game in 1984 and was honored with the Whitey Zimmerman Award as the league’s equipment manager of the year in 1996 and 2017.

“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.”

“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,” Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell added. “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,” Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said. “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.”