EAGAN, Minn. (KMSP) - It's a bittersweet night for many former Vikings who are mourning a popular teammate.
He was a Minnesota native who became a special teams ace for his home team. He died after a battle with cancer.
One Vikings great says Nord was like the Adam Theilen of his era. He worked hard to become a fan favorite on the field.
With his blond hair, blue eyes and tough attitude, if ever there was a Minnesota Viking who looked and played the part, it was Keith Nord.
"He beat the odds,” said legendary Vikings Running Back Chuck Foreman. “He not only beat the odds but he excelled at what he did."
Foreman first crossed paths with the former Minnetonka high school and St. Cloud State standout during Nord's rookie season in 1979.
Even though Nord wasn't drafted and at stood at 5’9”, 150 pounds and wasn't expected to make the team, the free agent quickly got noticed when he made a big hit on foreman during practice.
"I looked down at the little guy kind of stared to let him know you don't do that. He said something you come through here again and I started laughing and said well you'll be seeing me. No question about that,” Foreman recalled.
Over seven seasons as a defensive back with the Vikings, players and fans rooted for number 49 because he was the underdog who made it.
He even became the first Minnesotan to be named special teams captain in 1983.
"He was just one of those guys who you liked,” said Nord’s roommate and fellow Viking Steve Dils. “I loved how competitive he was. He was kind of like me. We weren't the most talented guys. We just worked as hard as we could and tried to hang around the league as long as they would have us."
Dils says his friend was an avid outdoorsman and it wasn't a surprise he found success as a trainer and motivational speaker after he left football, but Nord will leave a lasting legacy both on and off the field.
"He's a Minnesota success story,” Dils said. “He was what you want a professional athlete to be. A good citizen. Good to everyone. Great friend. Great teammate. It’s just a shame he's gone so soon."