Tingelhoff attended the University of Nebraska. He earned three letters during his football career there, but did not become a starter until his senior season in 1961. Mick was a co-captain of that 1961 team, which had its biggest offensive output in over five seasons. Tingelhoff participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and in the All-American Bowl after the regular season was over.
After graduating from Nebraska, Tingelhoff entered the 1962 NFL Draft but was not drafted and instead signed with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent in 1962. He became their starting center during his rookie season and held that spot until he retired in 1978. He was an AP First Team All-Pro selection for the first of five times in 1964 and also began a streak of six straight Pro Bowl appearances (1964–1969) that season. In 1967, he was named First Team All-Pro by Newspaper Enterprise Association and UPI and Second Team All-Pro by the AP. In 1969, he was named the NFL's Top Offensive Lineman of the Year by the 1,000-Yard Club in Columbus, Ohio. In 1970, he was named First Team All-Pro by both the PFWA and Pro Football Weekly. He was also named Second Team All-Pro by Newspaper Enterprise Association. He was named First Team All-NFC for that season by the AP.
In 2011, Tinglehoff was named as that year's recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Legends Award. The award was presented to him during the 12th Annual Rimington Trophy Presentation banquet on Saturday, January 14, 2012 at the Rococo Theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska.