Wisconsin Badgers: Their History Playing in the Rose Bowl

Wisconsin Rose Bowl Logo

On January 1, 2020…the Wisconsin Badgers will be appearing in their 10th Rose Bowl when they face the Oregon Ducks.

Going into the game, Wisconsin has a 3-6 record in the nine games they have played in Pasadena.

This will be the second time the Badgers have faced the Ducks in this iconic game. Wisconsin has also faced USC, UCLA and Stanford twice in the Rose Bowl.

Here is a quick rundown of the previous Rose Bowl games.

  • 1953 Rose Bowl: USC 7, Wisconsin 0
  • 1960 Rose Bowl: Washington 44, Wisconsin 8
  • 1963 Rose Bowl: USC 42, Wisconsin 37
  • 1994 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 21, UCLA 16
  • 1999 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 38, UCLA 31
  • 2000 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 17, Stanford 9
  • 2011 Rose Bowl: TCU 21, Wisconsin 19
  • 2012 Rose Bowl: Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38
  • 2013 Rose Bowl: Stanford 20, Wisconsin 14

Yes, the history of playing in Pasadena started in 1953 for Wisconsin. That was also the first bowl game the Badgers ever played in, even though they had some very successful teams previous to that point. But back then, only the Big Ten conference champion was allowed to play in the Rose Bowl, or any bowl for that matter.

The Badgers were 6-3-1 during the 1952 season and were 4-1-1 in the Big Ten conference. That mark gave the Badgers the Big Ten title.

The Badgers were coached by Ivy Williamson in 1952. In seven years as head coach of the Badgers, Williamson had a sparkling 41-19-4 record.

When the Badgers took on the Trojans in the 1953 Rose Bowl, they would be facing the No. 1 defense in the country.

The Badgers knew a little bit about playing defense back then, as their 1951 team had the “Hard Rocks” defense, which was also ranked No. 1 in the country.

On offense, the Badgers had a sophomore running back by the name of Alan Ameche, who led the Big Ten in rushing that year with 721 yards. No. 35 would later go on to win the Heisman Trophy in 1954.

Alan Ameche

Alan Ameche of the Wisconsin Badgers with the Heisman Trophy.

As a whole, the Badgers offense was very good. The Badgers led the Big Ten conference in total offense (415.5 yards per game), rushing offense (256.3 yards per game) and scoring offense (26.3 points per game).

In the actual Rose Bowl, with 101,500 fans in attendance, the Badgers had 353 total yards, including 133 rushing yards by Ameche.

The Badgers were dominant on the ground during the game, as Wisconsin had 211 yards rushing compared to just 48 for USC.

But the Badgers were never able to score versus the Trojans, as they were shut out 7-0. The Badgers had two terrific opportunities to score, but a turnover ended one drive inside the red zone, while another was stopped on fake field goal attempt at the two-yard line of the Trojans.

Rose Bowl MVP Rudy Bukich of USC threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to future Green Bay Packer Al Carmichael for the winning score in the third quarter.

In the 1960 Rose Bowl, the 7-2 Badgers faced the 9-1 Washington Huskies. The Badgers were coached by Milt Bruhn, while the Huskies were coached by Jim Owens.

Going into the game, the Badgers were ranked No. 6 in both the AP poll and the Coaches poll, while the Huskies were ranked No. 8 and No. 7 respectively.

The Badgers were led that season by quarterback Dale Hackbart, who ran more than he threw and was named All-Big Ten by UPI (United Press International). Hackbart rushed for 387 yards, which led the team, and also scored six touchdowns.

The leading rusher in the Big Ten in 1959 would be future Green Bay Packer Bob Jeter of Iowa, who rushed for 609 yards, while another future Packer, Herb Adderley of Michigan State, finished fourth in the conference in rushing, as he toted the rock for 419 yards.

Both Jeter and Adderley would become excellent cornerbacks in the NFL, with Adderley being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hackbart was joined on the All-Big Ten team by guard Jerry Stalcup (AP & UPI) and offensive tackle Dan Lanphear (AP & UPI).

The outcome of the game was never in doubt, as Washington had a 17-0 lead after the first quarter. The Huskies never looked back, as they crushed the Badgers 44-8.

Washington was led by quarterback Bob Schloredt and halfback George Fleming, as they were named co-Players of the Game.

Wisconsin scored it’s lone touchdown on a 4-yard run by halfback Tom Wiesner and that was followed up by a two-point conversion on a Hackbart pass to Allan Schoonover.

In the 1963 Rose Bowl game, the Badgers would face the Trojans again.

That epic contest between the Badgers and Trojans is one of the most famous bowl games ever played.

In the 1962 regular season, the Badgers were 8-1, which included being 6-1 in the Big Ten. Besides winning the Big Ten title that year, the Badgers also beat Notre Dame 17-8 that year at Camp Randall Stadium.

Like in the 1960 Rose Bowl, Wisconsin was coached by Milt Bruhn in this “Granddaddy of Them All” game. Bruhn had a rocky start and finish in his tenure as head coach of the Badgers, but overall his teams were a respectable 52-45-6, which included the two Rose Bowl appearances.

The Badgers had a prolific offense in 1962, which was led by quarterback Ron Vander Kelen and tight end Pat Richter.

Vander Kelen led the Big Ten in passing and total offense that season. Richter led the Big Ten in receiving yardage for the second straight season in 1962.

Going into the 1963 Rose Bowl, the Badgers were ranked No. 2 in the country, while the Trojans were ranked No. 1. There were 98,696 fans there to witness this classic contest.

USC got off to quick start led by quarterback Pete Beathard and the Trojans were up 21-7 at halftime. USC increased that lead by 42-14 early in the fourth quarter.

That’s when things got real interesting.

Pat Richter

Pat Richter running downfield after catching a pass in the 1963 Rose Bowl game.

Vander Kelen led a stirring comeback for the Badgers. Wisconsin scored 23 straight points to pull within 42-37, but time ran out for Bucky in a thrilling fourth quarter.

Vander Kelen completed 17-of-21 passes in just the fourth quarter alone. For the game, Vander Kelen ended up completing 33 of 48 throws for 401 yards, while Pat Richter finished with 11 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown.

Vander Kelen was co-MVP for the game, along with Beathard.

It would be 31 long years before the Badgers returned to Pasadena to face the UCLA Bruins on their home field on January 1, 1994.

That trip to SoCal was due to the hiring of Barry Alvarez in 1990 as head coach by athletic director and star of the 1963 Rose Bowl, Pat Richter, as well as chancellor Donna Shalala.

It was not an easy process for Alvarez and his coaching staff to turn things around for the Badgers, as Wisconsin had not had a winning season since 1984 and was just 1-5 in bowl games overall in their history.

One of the coaches on the staff of Alvarez was Kevin Cosgrove, who initially was inside linebackers coach, but later became the defensive coordinator for nine years under Barry.

When I talked with Cosgrove, he mentioned the plan that Alvarez had getting the football program up to speed.

“As with everything Barry always did, he had a plan,” said Cosgrove. “When he got that job, he pretty much knew who he was going to hire. Barry put together a strong staff, and then the first couple of years he fined tuned it, and turned it into a great staff.”

But it still wasn’t easy. But the hard work by the coaches and players catapulted the Badgers to being co- champions (along with Ohio State) of the Big Ten and also the 1994 Rose Bowl.

“It was amazing just seeing where the program was when he took over. Attendance was down. Interest in the Badgers was nil,” Cosgrove said. “I think the Badgers averaged 30,000 fans a game the year before we got there. But we gradually pumped it up until it became sell out after sell out. But naturally that first Rose Bowl was something special. The thrill of getting there, when you consider all the things we had to do to build that program.”

Alvarez was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1993, while the team itself was led by running back Brent Moss, who was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Moss rushed for 1,637 yards and scored 16 touchdowns.

At the Rose Bowl, there were 101,237 in attendance and the stadium looked to be filled with 70 percent Wisconsin fans.

Moss rushed for 158 yards and scored two touchdowns, while quarterback Darrell Bevell shocked the crowd by scampering for a 21-yard touchdown run.

On defense, the Badgers allowed 500 total yards to the Bruins, but also forced a whopping six turnovers and that was the difference in the game, as the Badgers won 21-16 in their first ever victory in Pasadena.

Brent Moss

No. 33 Brent Moss of Wisconsin runs through a tackle in the 1994 Rose Bowl game.

Moss earned the Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player Award.

It took another five years before the Badgers returned to Pasadena and this time it was against the Bruins of UCLA again.

Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State were all co-champions of the Big Ten in 1998, but the Badgers were the team that went to the Rose Bowl because they had gone the longest period of time without an invitation to Pasadena.

Both the Badgers and the Bruins were 10-1 going into the game.

The Badger offense was led by running back Ron Dayne, who rushed for 1,525 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Cosgrove had assembled one of the best defenses in the country.

In the 1998 season, the Badgers were ranked fourth in the nation in total defense and first in scoring defense.

That defense would be going up against an explosive offense led by quarterback Cade McNown.

In the game, the defense of UCLA just could not stop the running game of the Badgers, as Dayne rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns. The Bruins did have 538 total yards in the game, but the Badgers did force two key turnovers, including a 46 yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Jamar Fletcher.

The Badgers were leading 38-31 when the Bruins were trying to score the game-tying touchdown. But that all ended on a fourth down sack of McNown by defensive tackle Wendel Bryant.

Both Fletcher and Bryant were freshmen and both were recruited out of St. Louis by Cosgrove.

The bottom line, the Badgers had their second straight Rose Bowl win, with both victories coming against UCLA.

Dayne earned the Rose Bowl MVP Award.

Ron Dayne

No. 33 Ron Dayne of Wisconsin runs down the field in the 1999 Rose Bowl game.

The Badgers would be going to Pasadena the very next year as well, as they would face the Stanford Cardinal in the 2000 Rose Bowl game.

The 1999 Badgers started out 2-2 and it looked like the team had no chance to win the conference or to get to the Rose Bowl again. But behind the play of Dayne, who ended up winning the Heisman Trophy (and the Doak Walker Award) and also the steady performance of freshman quarterback Brooks Bollinger, the offense started clicking.

Dayne rushed for 2,034 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, while Bollinger threw eight touchdown passes versus just two interceptions. Bollinger also rushed for 454 yards and six touchdowns.

The big threat at receiver for the Badgers was Chris Chambers, who had 41 receptions for 578 yards and four scores.

Cosgrove put together another outstanding defense, as the D was ranked 15th in the country in total defense and fifth in scoring defense.

It led to the Badgers winning their second straight Big Ten title and this time outright.

In the 2000 Rose Bowl, the Badgers looked like they were sleep-walking early in the game and were trailing 9-3 at halftime. Alvarez, who had to watch the game in the press box due to a knee infection, something he had done for a number of weeks, hobbled down to the locker room and went on a tirade as he yelled at his team.

That fiery speech woke the Badgers up and Wisconsin outscored Stanford 14-0 in the second half and Bucky and the boys prevailed 17-9.

Dayne once again was fantastic, as he rushed for 200 yards on 34 carries and also scored a touchdown, which once again earned him the Rose Bowl MVP award.

Bollinger added a score with a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Ron Dayne II

No. 33 Ron Dayne of Wisconsin rushes for yardage in the 2000 Rose Bowl game.

When it was all said and done, the Badgers had won back-to-back Rose Bowls under Alvarez, as well as their third Rose Bowl win in seven years.

It would be over a decade before the Badgers returned to Pasadena.

In 2010, the Badgers under head coach Bret Bielema, were co-champions of the Big Ten along with Ohio State and Michigan State. The Badgers once again earned the trip to the Rose Bowl because they had gone the longest period without an invitation.

In the 2011 Rose Bowl, the 11-1 Badgers would be facing a team not in the Pac-10 conference for the first time, as the Oregon Ducks were going to be playing in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. That meant that the next top-rated BCS team would play the Badgers in Pasadena.

That team turned out to be the 12-0 TCU Horned Frogs.

The Badgers had a number of players make All-Big Ten in 2010. On the first team there were guard John Moffitt, tackle Gabe Carimi and defensive end J.J. Watt. The second team had quarterback Scott Tolzien, running back John Clay and defensive back Aaron Henry.

Carimi was named Offensive Lineman of the Year in the Big Ten, while running back James White was named Freshman of the Year.

In the Rose Bowl game itself, the contest was very tight in terms of the score. The Badgers led 3-0 on a Phillip Welch 30-yard field goal. TCU came back to take the lead 7-3 on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Bart Johnson.

The Badgers re-took the lead 10-7 on a one-yard touchdown run by Clay. But that was the last time Wisconsin had the lead. Dalton scored on a 4-yard touchdown scamper, while Welch kicked another field goal for the Badgers and TCU led 14-13 at halftime.

TCU went up 21-13 in the third quarter and Wisconsin finally was able to score with 2:00 left in the game on a Montee Ball 4-yard touchdown run which made the score 21-19.

Ball rushed for 132 yards in the game.

The Badgers went for a two-point conversion with an empty backfeld, which made no sense to me. Wisconsin had gashed TCU on this drive due to their running game and you at least want to show the threat of a running play on the conversion.

Clay had rushed for 59 of his 76 rushing yards on this drive alone.

Montee Ball

No. 28 Montee Ball scores a touchdown in the 2011 Rose Bowl game.

But in the end, Scott Tolzien had his pass broken up in the end zone on the two-point try, as TCU hung on and won 21-19.

Bielema and his 10-2 Badgers made it back to the Rose Bowl again in 2012 after beating Michigan State in the first ever Big Ten Championship Game, 42-39.

The Badgers were led on offense all season long by quarterback Russell Wilson, who had off the chart stats. Wilson threw 33 touchdown passes compared to just four picks for 3,175 yards.

No. 16 also ran for 338 yards and six scores, plus caught a touchdown pass from Ball.

Ball put up Heisman-type numbers, as he rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns, plus caught 24 passes for 306 yards and six more scores.

Wilson was named the Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year in the Big Ten, while Ball was named the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year in the Big Ten.

The Badgers had a number of other players receive honors in 2011, which included Wilson, Ball, guard Kevin Zeitler, tackle Josh Oglesby, linebacker Chris Borland and defensive back Aaron Henry being named to the Coaches first team.

All of those players except Henry were on the Media first team

Linebacker Mike Taylor and defensive back Antonio Fenelus joined them on that first team.

Ball finished fourth in the Heisman voting, while Wilson finished ninth.

In the Rose Bowl, the Badgers would be facing the 10-2 Oregon Ducks, who were one of the highest scoring teams in the nation under Chip Kelly.

The game was like watching the Indianapolis 500, as the action was fast. Wisconsin had 508 total yards, while Oregon had a whopping 621 total yards.

The Badgers scored first on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. Oregon quickly the game at 7-7 on a LaMichael James one-yard run.

Wisconsin re-took the lead on a 4-yard run by Wilson, but Oregon quickly tied it up again at 14 apiece when De’Anthony Thomas scored on a 91-yard run.

Ball put the Badgers up 21-14 on a 3-yard run, but the game was quickly tied again at 21-21 on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Darron Thomas to Kenjon Barner.

Wisconsin went up again 28-21 on a Louis Nzegwu 33-yardd fumble return, but once again Oregon tied the game again on a 3-yard pass from (Darron) Thomas to Lavasier Tuinei.

The score at halftime remained 28-28.

Oregon scored early in the third quarter to go up 35-28 on a (De’Anthony) Thomas 64-yard touchdown run. Phillip Welch got the Badgers to within four points at 35-31 when he hit a 29-yard field goal.

Wisconsin then took a 38-35 lead on a 18-yard touchdown pass by Wilson to wide receiver Nick Toon.

Wisconsin was driving to add to their lead when Wilson threw a costly pick which turned the momentum back to Oregon. The Ducks scored the last 10 points of the game to win 45-38.

Russell Wilson Rose Bowl

No. 16 Russell Wilson of Wisconsin about to throw a pass in the 2012 Rose Bowl game.

Wilson threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns, but also tossed that unlikely interception based on the way he performed all year.

Ball ran for 164 yards and a touchdown in the game. Abbrederis (4-119-1) and Toon (9-104-1) both had big games.

But Oregon was just unstoppable in the game, led by James and (De’Anthony) Thomas, who rushed for a combined 314 yards and three touchdowns.

The 8-5 Badgers went to their third straight Rose Bowl game in 2013, as they defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Wisconsin was in that game even though they finished third in the Leader Division. That was because both Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible due to NCAA sanctions.

However, after the Big Ten title game, Bielema shocked Badger Nation by accepting the head coaching job at Arkansas prior to the Rose Bowl.

That meant that the now athletic director Alvarez would be be interim coach for the game against the 11-2 Stanford Cardinal, coached by David Shaw.

The Badgers were led offensively by Ball, who rushed for 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns. No. 28 was also All-Big Ten, All-American and also won the Doak Walker Award as the best running back in the country.

The Badgers had a great multi-talented ground game, because besides Ball, Wisconsin also had James White (806 yards and 12 touchdowns) and Melvin Gordon (621 yards and three touchdowns).

The quarterback situation was a different story. The season started with Danny O’Brien (a transfer from Maryland) behind center, but that didn’t work out. Joel Stave took over and had the Badgers playing much better in the passing game, but he broke a collarbone.

Curt Phillips then took over at quarterback and it was he who started behind center in the 2013 Rose Bowl.

Defensively, the Badgers were led once again by linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor.

In terms of being named All-Big Ten by the Coaches, Ball was joined by wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, tackle Rick Wagner, tight end Jacob Pedersen and Borland at linebacker.

The Media first team had Ball, Abbrederis, center Travis Frederick, Wagner and Mike Taylor at linebacker.

In the actual 2013 Rose Bowl, Stanford had an early 14-0 lead after the first quarter. But the Badgers pulled to within 17-14 at halftime on a Ball 11-yard touchdown run and also a 4-yard pass from Phillips to Jordan Fredrick.

But those were the last points of the game for the Badgers as they lost 20-14.

The Badgers ran for 218 yards in the game, including 100 by Ball, but could not get much of a passing game going, as Phillips only threw for 83 yards.

That loss, the third setback in a row for the Badgers, put Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl record at 3-6 going into the 2020 Rose Bowl game against Oregon.

Overall, the Badgers are now 16-14 in bowl games, while current head coach Paul Chryst is a perfect 4-0 in bowl games, which includes wins in both the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl.

Chryst is also now 4-1 versus the Minnesota Golden Gophers, including a big 38-17 victory this season, which basically set the table for the Badgers going to the Rose Bowl.

Jonathan Taylor 2020 Rose Bowl Jersey

Jonathan Taylor of the Wisconsin Badger before the 2020 Rose Bowl game.

And like they have in previous Rose Bowl games (with Dayne and Ball), the Badgers will have a Doak Walker Award winner on the field with Jonathan Taylor running the football. Taylor has actually won that award now two years in a row.

Taylor has rushed for 6,080 yards in his three-year career at Wisconsin and has scored 50 touchdowns. No. 23 has also caught 40 passes for 364 yards and three more scores.

Anyway, we will soon find out how the 10-3 Badgers do against the 11-2 Ducks (led by quarterback Justin Herbert), but it should be a dandy.

If the game anything like the high-scoring 2012 Rose Bowl between these two teams, look out!

Somehow I don’t believe that will be the case, as the Badgers are ranked No. 8 in total defense, while the Ducks are ranked No. 23 in total defense.

No matter, it’s always fun to watch “The Granddady of Them All” on New Year’s Day.

This will be the 10th time for Badger Nation.

Why Clay Matthews Jr. Deserves to be Among the Best of the Best at the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Clay Matthews Jr. tackling Earl Campbell

It’s hard to believe that Clay Matthews Jr. is still in the modern era classification for when voters look at great players to put in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Just think about it. Matthews was a rookie in 1978 with the Cleveland Browns. That was 41 years ago. But when a player, especially a linebacker like Matthews, who played 19 years in the NFL and had such a amazing run of consistency and productivity, it’s truly astonishing.

Matthews played 278 games in the NFL throughout his career. No. 57 played with the Browns for 16 years and then finished the last three years of his career with the Atlanta Falcons.

Those 278 games are 22nd all time in the annals of the NFL. 12 of the players above him in terms of games played were either kickers or punters. George Blanda, who is fifth all time with 340 games played, played quarterback and also kicked.

Blanda is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As are position players like wide receiver Jerry Rice (303 games played), quarterback Brett Favre (302 games played), offensive lineman Bruce Matthews (296 games played), cornerback Darrell Green (295 games played) and defensive end Bruce Smith (279 games played).

You will note that Clay’s brother Bruce’s name above. Yes, Bruce has a bust in Canton and so should his brother Clay.

Clay went to four Pro Bowls and was named to be on the Pro Football Reference All-Decade Team of the 1980s.

Just look at the stats Matthews put up over 19 seasons. No. 57 had 1,561 tackles, 83.5 sacks, 16 interceptions, 27 forced fumbles, 14  fumble recoveries and 140.5 impact plays.

Let’s compare those stats to other linebackers who are currently in the Hall of Fame.

Junior Seau + Clay Matthews

Derrick Brooks + Clay Matthews

Brian Urlacher + Clay Matthews

To me, there is no question that Clay Jr. belongs among the best of the best in Canton. I felt the same way when I was part of the crusade to get Jerry Kramer his rightful place among the greats at the Hall of Fame for several years.

In 2020, because of it’s centennial year of the NFL, there will be 20 new members to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There will be five modern era players, 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches.

Besides Matthews, I’m also promoting LeRoy Butler to be named among the five modern era players going into the Hall of Fame.

As people also know, I’m also promoting a number of senior nominees in 2020 as well, which includes Boyd Dowler, who was NFL All-Decade in the 1960s, plus was on the NFL 50th Anniversary Team, as well as Lavvie Dilweg, who was NFL All-Decade in the 1920s.

I listed three Green Bay Packers above to be part of the Class of 2020. I also believe Jack Vainisi, who was the primary scout of the Packers in the 1950s, also should go in as a contributor.

Clay Jr. has a Green Bay connection as well. I’m talking about his son Clay III, who played with the Packers for nine great seasons. Clay III is the all-time leader in sacks for the Packers with 83.5 and was also named to six Pro Bowl squads.

Clay III currently plays with the Los Angeles Rams, after leaving the Packers via free agency after the 2018 season. Matthews wanted to continue his career in Green Bay, but was never given that opportunity. He also has eight sacks so far this year for the Rams and that has happened with Matthews missing over a month of the season due to a broken jaw.

No. 52 was a big reason why the Packers won Super Bowl XLV over the Pittsburgh Steelers, when he helped to force a fumble by Rashard Medenhall with the Steelers driving into Green Bay territory at the start of the fourth quarter.

Pittsburgh was driving for the go-ahead score when Matthews forced that huge fumble. Eight plays later, Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, as the Packers went up by 11 and never looked back.

Clay Jr and Clay III After Super Bowl XLV

The Matthews family has set a large net over the NFL over the years, starting with Clay Matthews Sr., who played with the San Francisco 49ers for four years. Clay Sr. started his career with the Niners in 1950, then served two years as a paratrooper during the Korean War for the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and then came back and played with the 49ers from 1953 through 1955.

After that, his son’s Bruce and Clay Jr. both had terrific careers in the NFL.

Bruce was inducted into the Hall of Fame after a great career with the Houston Oilers for 14 years and then with the Tennessee Titans for five years after the team moved to Nashville.

Clay Jr. certainly deserves the same honor after 19 years with the Browns and Falcons.

Plus there are Clay Sr.’s grandsons. We talked about Clay III, who may end up in Canton himself, plus there is his brother Casey, who played with the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. Then there are Bruce’s sons, who are Kevin, who played with the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers and Jake, who still plays with the Atlanta Falcons.

When I was helping to promote Jerry Kramer to get his rightful place in Canton, I forged a great friendship with Jerry’s daughter Alicia, who worked very hard to get her dad the honor he richly received.

I wrote about that endeavor in the 2018 Green Bay Packers Yearbook.

In an apropos manner, I have also become friends with Jennifer Matthews, who like Alicia did, is working hard behind the scenes to help get her father the distinction he truly warrants for what he did in his NFL career.

Clay Jr. and Jennifer

Clay Jr. is also getting endorsements from players now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, just like Kramer did.

When you put up the excellent production that No. 57 put out on the field, people are bound to notice.

Especially the great players who he competed against and who eventually ended up in Canton. Take a look at two of those endorsements.

Anthony Munoz on Clay Matthews

Warren Moon on Clay Matthews

Plus there were his teammates who knew how great Clay Jr. was. The same held true for Kramer, when teammates and Hall of Famers like Paul Hornung, Willie Davis and Bart Starr heartily endorsed No. 64.

The same thing holds true with a Hall of Fame teammate of Matthews with the Browns.

Ozzie Newsome on Clay Matthews

The bottom line is that Clay Matthews Jr. deserves to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2020.

In two years, Matthews will fall into the seniors category for the Hall of Fame, which has become an abyss for so many worthy players who deserve a bust in Canton.

That is why Rick Gosselin of the Seniors Committee proposed getting 10 worthy seniors in as part of the Class of 2020, which was approved by David Baker, who is the President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That will definitely help, but there will still be a number of worthy seniors who will still be waiting for a place among the best players in pro football history. Players who have fallen through the cracks throughout the years and decades.

That’s why it’s important to induct a great player like Clay Matthews Jr. while he is still a modern era nominee.

That, and because of his steady and prolific play in the NFL for close to two decades, which definitely deserves a place among the best of the best in Canton.

Milwaukee Brewers: Another Wallbanger (Ted Simmons) in the Hall of Fame

Ted Simmons

The Milwaukee Brewers did something in 2019 that only one other Milwaukee team did in their history, which began in 1970. That is, going to the postseason for two years in a row.

Yes, the 2018 and 2019 Brewers accomplished what the 1981 and 1982 Brewers did, except the ’82 Milwaukee club made it all the way to the World Series.

I was fortunate to cover the Brewers in the early ’80s and they were a fun group to interact with. Not only that, but the team had five very talented players on the club who would later make it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

They were relief pitcher Rollie Fingers (inducted in 1992), starting pitcher Don Sutton (inducted in 1998), shortstop Robin Yount (inducted in 1999), third baseman Paul Molitor (inducted in 2004) and as of yesterday, catcher Ted Simmons (will be inducted in 2020).

In addition to all that, the owner of the team, Bud Selig, would later become a member of the Hall of Fame (inducted in 2017), while broadcaster Bob Uecker also won the Ford C. Frick Award from the Hall of Fame in 2003.

I was able to interview Fingers, Sutton, Yount, Molitor and Simmons on a number of occasions, while I also interviewed “Mr. Baseball” (Uecker), plus actually had a job interview with Selig for close to an hour, as I was looking to broaden my work in the media.

It was an exciting time in my life.

I covered the Brewers for four seasons and probably interviewed Yount and Molitor more than any other players. But I also was able to talk with Fingers, Simmons and Sutton after they became Brewers.

There were shock waves sent across the MLB world on December 12, 1980, when general manager Harry Dalton and GM/manager Whitey Herzog of the St. Louis Cardinals consummated a huge trade.

The Brewers sent the Cardinals pitcher Lary Sorenson, picther Dave LaPoint, outfielder Sixto Lezcano and outfielder David Green, while the Cards sent back Fingers, Simmons and Pete Vuckovich.

To say the least, that trade netted the Brewers a lot in terms of what they they were able to do over the next two years, as they made it to the postseason in both 1981 and 1982.

In 1981, Fingers was magnificent, as he was 6-3 with 28 saves, plus had a phenomenal 1.04 ERA, which led the Brewers to the second-half AL East title in the strike-shortened season. That performance garnered Fingers the AL MVP award, as well as the Cy Young honor in the AL.

When the Brewers beat the Detroit Tigers to clinch the second-half title, I’ll never forget the embrace by Fingers and Simmons after the final pitch.

Rollie and Ted

Vuckovich was 14-4 (3.55 ERA) in ’81, while Simmons was productive at the plate, hitting 14 homers and 61 RBIs, while only hitting .216, which was a far cry from his usual batting average over the course of his career with the Cardinals.

The second-half crown in the AL East meant that the Brewers would play the New York Yankees in the postseason, as New York had won the AL East in the first-half of the season.

The Brewers lost the first two games at home to the Yanks, but proceeded to win the next two at the old Yankee Stadium. The Brewers ended up losing Game 5 to the Yanks, but at least the team got an opportunity to taste the postseason.

In 1982, it was Vuckovich’s time to win the Cy Young, as he was 18-6 (3.34 ERA). Simmons had a much better batting average (.269), while hitting 23 homers and driving in 97 runs.

Fingers was great once again in ’82, as he had five wins and 29 saves. But an arm injury ended his season in early September. To me, that injury is why the Brewers didn’t win the 1982 World Series against the Cards, as the Brewers blew two late leads in Game 2 and Game 7.

In ’82, the Brew Crew was truly led by Yount, who was American League MVP, as No. 19 hit .331, with 29 homers and 114 RBIs.

In 1983, Fingers missed the entire season due to his arm injury suffered the year before, while Vuckovich missed almost the entire season due to a rotator cuff tear.

Simmons, meanwhile, had the best season he ever had in Milwaukee, as he hit 13 homers, drove in 108 runs and hit .308.

Even with all the injuries that the Brewers had in 1983, the team was still in first place in late August before a 10-game losing streak sunk their season.

1981 and 1982 were the only postseasons that Simmons ever participated in his MLB career. “Simba”, as he was nicknamed, was up with the Cardinals in 1968 for a cup of coffee, but did not make their postseason roster.

In 13 years with the Cards, Simmons hit 172 homers, drove in 929 runs and hit .298. Simmons was never in the class of Johnny Bench as a defensive catcher when he was with the Cardinals, but he did lead the NL twice in throwing out runners attempting to steal.

In five years with the Brew Crew, Simmons hit 66 homers, drove in 394 runs and hit .262. No. 23 also hit three postseason homers for the Brewers, including two in the 1982 World Series against his old team.

Ted Simmons World Series

Defensively with the Brewers, Simmons led all AL catchers in fielding percentage (.995) in 1982.

After the 1985 season, Simmons was traded to the Atlanta Braves, where he spent the last three years of his career.

Overall in his MLB career, Simmons hit 248 homers, drove in 1,389 runs and hit .285. Simba was also an All-Star eight times, including twice as a Brewer. I recall interviewing Simmons at the All-Star game at old Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1983. Simmons loved being there, but he was more pleased to be joined by his teammates Yount, Cecil Cooper and Ben Oglivie, plus to have his manager, Harvey Kuenn, there as well.

The AL won that All-Star game 13-3, which was the first time the AL had won the game since 1971.

When interviewing Simmons, the one thing I distinctly remember was how cerebral he was in talking about catching a ball game. Obviously, his rapport with the pitching staff led to two straight postseasons and two straight Cy Young Award winners.

I also remember interviewing rookie catcher Bill Schroeder (currently the color commentator for the Brewers on TV) in 1983 and one of things he mentioned was all the knowledge he was soaking in because of the insight Simmons was giving him.

Yes, there is no doubt that Simmons was a leader on those very successful Brewer teams of the early ’80s.

Simmons was also a hell of a ballplayer as well, and that has been cemented for all time, as Simba is now a Hall of Famer, just like Fingers, Sutton, Yount and Molitor.

Pro Football Hall of Fame: Some Observations About Potential Green Bay Packers in the Class of 2020

hall of fame packer logo 2

The time is getting closer about finding out who will be in the Class of 2020 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2020, the class will be much larger because of the centennial year of the NFL.

There will be the five modern-era players, plus 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches.

Last week the modern-era nominee list was pared down to 25 semifinalists from a total of 122 nominees. One of those players is LeRoy Butler. This is the third straight year that Butler had made it down to the semifinals. But No. 36 has never been a finalist, which is a big step in getting a Gold Jacket, based on what I have heard from Clark Judge, who is voter for the Hall of Fame.

Butler, along with Steve Atwater of the Denver Broncos, were named All-Decade in the 1990s at safety. Of the 22 players on that All-Decade team of the ’90s, only Butler and Atwater don’t have a bust in Canton.

The list of 25 will be pared down to 15 in January and then that group will be taken down to the final five inductees on the day before Super Bowl LIV, which would be on Saturday February 1.

Another player who is among the 25 modern-era semifinalists has a bit of a Green Bay connection. I’m talking about Clay Matthews Jr., who is the father of Clay Matthews III, who played with the Packers from 2009 through 2018 and is the all-time leader in sacks for the Packers with 83.5 and was also named to six Pro Bowl squads.

No. 52 was a big reason why the Packers won Super Bowl XLV over the Pittsburgh Steelers when he helped to force a fumble during a key point of the game.

I’ll be writing a piece on Clay Jr. in the near future about why he deserves a place among the best of the best in Canton, which just happens to include his brother Bruce.

In terms of the seniors, the group of over 200 nominees will also be trimmed to 20 at some point in the very near future.

This group will be determined by a 25-person “blue-ribbon panel”, which consists of 13 current Hall of Fame voters, as well as some well known NFL names.

The panelists are Ernie Accorsi, Bill Belichick, Jarrett Bell, Joel Bussert, John Clayton, Frank Cooney, John Czarnecki, Rick Gosselin, Elliott Harrison, Joe Horrigan, Ira Kaufman, Dick LeBeau, Jeff Legwold, John Madden, John McClain, Gary Myers, Ozzie Newsome, Sal Paolantonio, Carl Peterson, Bill Polian, Dan Pompei, Charean Williams, Chris Willis, Barry Wilner, and Ron Wolf.

The panel will eventually name the 10 seniors, the three contributors and two coaches without needing a vote from the 48-person selection committee, which used to be the process in the past.

But because 2020 is a special centennial year for the NFL, this group of 15 will be inducted into the Hall once the list if finalized by the panel.

The Packers have a number of senior nominees who deserve a place in Canton in my opinion. And I believe that one of those seniors will be part of the Class of 2020.

The list of seniors for the Packers includes Boyd Dowler, who was an All-Decade player in the 1960s, plus was on the NFL 50th anniversary team.

Plus there is Ron Kramer, who was also on that 50th anniversary team.

Dowler and Kramer are the only two members of that 45-man team without a bust in Canton.

Jerry getting his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring at Lambeau

Jerry Kramer was another member of that 50th anniversary team and he finally got his rightful due and was inducted in 2018.

There are a few other All-Decade players who are senior nominees for the Packers. One is Lavvie Dilweg, who was All-Decade in the 1920s, while another is Cecil Isbell, who was All-Decade in the 1930s.

Dilweg is the only first-team member from that All-Decade team of the ’20s not in Canton, while Isbell is the only All-Decade quarterback not to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Another former Packer who was named All-Decade in the 1960s was Don Chandler. The former Florida Gator played most of his career with the New York Giants, both as a kicker and a punter, but also played three years with Green Bay from 1965 through 1967.

The Packers won the NFL title in each of those years, which also included the first two Super Bowls. Chandler was named as the punter on the All-Decade team of the ’60s.

Being named All-Decade is supposedly one of the key factors that the 25-person blue ribbon panel will use in their determination of the final group of 10 seniors.

That certainly helps players like Dowler, Dilweg and Isbell.

But there are a number of other former Packers were dominant players in their day and came very close to being named All-Decade.

I’m talking about Verne Lewellen in the 1920s, Bobby Dillon in the 1950s, (Ron) Kramer in the 1960s, Gale Gillingham in the 1970s and Sterling Sharpe in the 1990s.

Lewellen was considered the premiere punter of his era, when punting was truly an art form in the era of “three yards and a cloud of dust” in the NFL of the ’20s. There was no punter named on the All-Decade team of the 20s.

Plus, Lewellen was multi-talented, as he scored more touchdowns than anyone who played in the NFL while he was a player, plus once led the NFL in interceptions one season.

Dillon intercepted 52 passes in just eight seasons in the NFL. One of the people who will be on the blue ribbon panel, Ron Wolf, is a big fan of Dillon.

“He was a 9.7 sprinter coming out of the University of Texas and would be a corner in today’s game,” Wolf said. “But back then the best athletes were put inside. In order to qualify for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I believe you are talking about the best of the best. Bobby Dillon is one of those from his era. Witness the fact that (safeties) Jack Christiansen, Yale Lary and Emlen Tunnell are in the Hall. Dillon accomplished more than those particular players did in the same era. He was a rare football player, the best defensive back of his time.”

Kramer was considered among the best three tight ends in football when he played in the 1960s and the other two, Mike Ditka and John Mackey, are in Canton.

Gillingham was considered the one of the top guards in the NFL for several years and most likely would have been named All-Decade in the 1970s had not head coach Dan Devine foolishly moved No. 68 to defensive tackle for the 1972 season.

Not only was that move ridiculous, but a knee injury cost Gillingham almost the entire ’72 season.

When Sharpe played from 1988 through 1994 before a neck injury ended his career, only Jerry Rice was considered to be above No. 84 in terms of stature at the wide receiver position.

Another former Packer who deserves consideration for a place in the Hall is Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston. The first trade Vince Lombardi ever made once he became head coach and general manager of the Packers, was to acquire Thurston from the Colts.

Thurston, along with Kramer, made the power sweep the signature play of the Packers in the Lombardi era. The two guards would pull out and get to the second and third levels with their blocks, as Jimmy Taylor and Paul Hornung would continually and consistently gain large chunks of yardage.

Based on my discussions with people like Rick Gosselin and Judge, I believe the two best possibilities in terms of being named as a senior for the Packers as part of the Class of 2020, are Dowler and Dilweg.

Lavvie Dilweg(2)

Lavvie Dilweg and Boyd Dowler

But I believe only one Packer will get in as a senior in 2020.

We should know something very soon.

I also believe Jack Vainisi has a chance to be one of the three contributors for the Class of 2020. If not that class, he should be put in the Hall of Fame in the near future.

Wolf should know all about Vainisi’s prowess as a scout in the 1950s for the Packers. There are seven Packers who Vainisi drafted in the ’50s who are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I’m talking about Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Hornung, Taylor, Ray Nitschke and (Jerry) Kramer.

Plus, it was Vainisi who also drafted Dillon, (Ron) Kramer and Dowler.

Vainisi also played a pivotal role in bringing Lombardi to Green Bay in 1959.

These are my observations as the hourglass continues to run down regarding who from the Packers could be in the Class of 2020 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

We will know soon enough.