Paul Hornung: Six Members of the Green Bay Packers Pay Tribute to No. 5

The Green Bay Packers lost another great member of their family on November 13, when Paul Hornung passed away. The former Notre Dame Fighting Irish star’s passing came just 15 days after another former legendary athlete of the Packers died. That player was Herb Adderley.

In fact, over just the past two years, 11 players who played under head coach Vince Lombardi in Green Bay have passed away.

The list also includes Jim Taylor, Bob Skoronski, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Zeke Bratkowski, Doug Hart, Allen Brown, Willie Wood and Willie Davis.

Taylor, Gregg, Starr, Wood, Davis, Adderley and Hornung all have busts in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So does Lombardi.

For this story, I wanted to talk to a number of players who played with Hornung in Green Bay. Those players are Jerry Kramer, Boyd Dowler, Carroll Dale, Donny Anderson and Jim Grabowski. I also talked to Don Horn, who got to know Hornung at alumni gatherings for the Packers, plus stood near Hornung at the “Ice Bowl”, when the Lombardi received permission from Commissioner Pete Rozelle to have Hornung on the Green Bay sideline during that legendary game.

When I talked with Kramer about Hornung five years ago, Jerry believed the primary reason that Lombardi decided to come to Green Bay was the presence of Hornung on the roster.

“When you talk about Paul, you have to remember how critical he was in the decision that Coach Lombardi made to come to Green Bay,” Kramer said. “If you think back, Bart Starr was methane. He was colorless, odorless, tasteless and virtually invisible. We didn’t know who Bart was.

“Bart was competing with a few other guys like Babe Parilli, Joe Francis and Lamar McHan. Bart was back and forth the first couple of years after Lombardi became the coach.

“But I do remember Lombardi saying, ‘Hornung was going to be his Gifford.’ And remember how critical the sweep was to the Lombardi offense.

“As coach said quite often, ‘This is a play we will make go. This is a play we must make go. We will run it again and again and again.’

“So Hornung may have been the key to getting Lombardi to come to Green Bay.”

Hornung had come to Green Bay in the 1957 NFL draft as the bonus pick of that particular draft. The NFL used a bonus pick system throughout the 1950s when a given NFL team would get the No. 1 pick of the draft. A team would only be able to use the bonus pick once during that period. The Packers got their chance in 1957 and their fabulous scout Jack Vainisi instructed the general manager of the Packers then, Verne Lewellen, to select Hornung.

Hornung had won the Heisman Trophy in 1956. No. 5 is the only player to ever win that award who played on a losing team. Notre Dame was just 2-8 in 1956. But Hornung did it all for the Fighting Irish, as he led the team in rushing, passing, scoring and punting, not to mention kickoff and punt returns. If that wasn’t enough, “The Golden Boy” also led Notre Dame in passes defensed, as well as being second on the team in tackles and interceptions.

Under head coach Lisle Blackbourn in 1957 and head coach Ray “Scooter” McLean in 1958, the Packers did not utilize Hornung correctly. Sometimes No. 5 would play fullback. Other times halfback. Plus, when given a chance to pass, only completed one pass in seven attempts.

In those two years combined, Hornung only had 619 yards rushing and five touchdowns. No. 5 also caught 21 passes without a score. All told, Hornung scored 18 points in 1957 and 67 points in 1958, as in that year, Hornung kicked 11 field goals and converted 22 extra points. But the worst part was the losing. The Packers were a combined 4-19-1 in those two seasons.

Then Lombardi arrived in 1959. When Hornung and Lombardi spoke on the phone for the first time, his new head coach told his young star that he was going to be his left halfback. Or nothing at all.

And what a difference that made. Hornung became the face of the franchise over the the first three years he and Lombardi joined forces.

The primary reason? The power sweep. That play was the staple play of the Packers under Lombardi.

From 1959 through 1961, the Packers averaged 178 yards rushing per game. Taylor rushed for 2,860 yards during that time, but it was Hornung who seemed to be the biggest beneficiary of that play, as he rushed for 1,949 yards and scored 28 touchdowns.

Speaking of scoring, Hornung led the NFL in scoring for three straight years from 1959 through 1961. In 1959, No. 5 scored 94 points. In 1960, when the Packers advanced to the NFL title game for the first time under Lombardi, Hornung scored a whopping 176 points. In just 12 games! And in 1961, the year Hornung was named the NFL MVP and the Packers won their first NFL championship under Lombardi, Hornung scored 146 points.

In one of those games in 1961, Hornung scored 33 points in the 45-7 Green Bay victory over the Baltimore Colts at new City Stadium. No. 5 scored four touchdowns, kicked six extra points and one field goal.

Because of the Cold War between the United States and the then Soviet Union, a number of players from NFL teams were pressed into military duty in 1961. The Packers had three of their players pressed into service. They were Ray Nitschke, Boyd Dowler and Hornung.

As a matter of fact, at first it appeared that Hornung would not be allowed a pass from the Army to play in the 1961 NFL title game. That would have been quite an issue, had the league MVP not be allowed to play in the NFL championship game.

But thanks to the relationship that Lombardi and President John F. Kennedy had forged, Hornung was given a pass and scored 19 of the 37 points that the Packers scored in the first NFL championship game ever played in Green Bay, as the Pack whipped the New York Giants 37-0 at new City Stadium (now Lambeau Field).

I talked to Kramer again recently about Hornung. No. 64 talked about the relationship between Lombardi and Hornung.

“Coach Lombardi liked Paul, perhaps more than any other player,” Kramer said. “Almost like a son. Coach had a great affection for Paul.”

One of the reasons had to be the way Hornung would run the power sweep.

“Paul would stay behind Fuzzy [Thurston] and I on the sweep,” Kramer said. “He just knew instinctively how to use our blocks and how to fake a defender into going left or right. Paul knew the precise instance when the defender had to make a commitment, and then Paul would either step inside or outside and set the player up and go the other way. He was just sensational in doing that on a consistent basis.

“Bob, in the first three years we ran that play, we averaged 8.3 yards a carry.”

Everyone on the offensive line played a huge part in the success of the power sweep, as did the other running back and the tight end. The guards were key components, as they often would get to the second or third level with their blocks.

But two players have to be mentioned regarding the great success the power sweep had early in the Lombardi years. They were center Jim Ringo and tight end Ron Kramer.

The power sweep being run to the left was called red right 48 and if the sweep was run to the right it was called red right 49.

Both Hornung and Taylor excelled on that play running the ball, but especially Hornung. It didn’t hurt that both Hornung and Taylor were excellent blockers for one another.

Hornung also ran the red right 49 option play extremely well. On that play, Hornung would act like it was a running play and then throw an option pass.

When I talked with Dowler recently about Hornung, Boyd talked about how successful that option pass was for the Packers.

“On that play, the flanker comes in from the outside right on that play,” Dowler said. “I acted like I was going to block the safety who should be coming towards the line of scrimmage because the play looked like our power sweep. So once the safety came up, I would just turn and break out to the corner.

“Hornung would put the ball under his arm and take off like he was going to run and then he would pull up and pass. It seemed like it was easy to get open. I scored on that play a number of times.”

From 1959 through 1961, Hornung threw five touchdown passes using that play.

In one game in 1959, which was Dowler’s rookie year, No. 86 caught two touchdown passes from Hornung. It was the second to last game of the season against the Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum. In that game, Dowler caught a 26-yards touchdown pass from Hornung in the first quarter and then a 30-yard touchdown pass from No. 5 in the second quarter, as the Pack went on to win 38-20.

Another play in which Hornung really had a lot of success was called brown right pass 36 x-post. It was a variation of the brown right run 36 when Taylor would carry the football off tackle to the left. On that play, Hornung would block the weakside linebacker.

But when the pass play was called and Starr would fake to Taylor, Hornung would fake the block on the linebacker and head outside to the flat. The split end (usually Dowler) to that side would run a post pattern on that same play. Starr would have two options as to where to throw the ball.

The 43-yard touchdown pass that Dowler scored in the “Ice Bowl” was the brown right pass 36 x-post play. But in the 1965 game against the Baltimore Colts at Memorial Stadium, Starr utilized Hornung on that play twice.

In the 1st quarter, Starr called the 36 pass play. And Hornung scored on a 50-yard touchdown pass. Then in the 4th quarter, No. 5 scored again on that play, this time from 65 yards out. It was Hornung’s fifth touchdown of the game, as the Packers won 42-27.

As glorious as Hornung’s first three seasons were under Lombardi in Green Bay, the way he finished the 1965 season and postseason was extra special.

Hornung scored the only Green Bay touchdown in the 13-10 overtime win against the Baltimore Colts at Lambeau Field in the Western Conference Championship game. No. 5 had 75 total yards in that victory.

But that was nothing compared to what Hornung did in the 1965 NFL Championship Game against the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns the next week at Lambeau Field.

Hornung rushed for 105 yards in 18 carries and scored a touchdown. No. 5 also caught a pass for eight more yards. Taylor also had a big game, as No. 31 ran for 96 yards on 27 carries, plus caught two passes for 20 yards.

Hornung’s touchdown run was his last score in a championship game. The run by Hornung came behind one of the finest blocking sequences ever by Kramer, who pulled in front of Hornung to the left heading to the end zone. No. 64 first got to the middle linebacker of the Browns and screened him away from Hornung and then went left to seal off the cornerback to open a lane for “The Golden Boy” to score on a 13-yard jaunt.

Hornung had injury issues with the Packers starting in 1962. No. 5 injured his knee that year and [Jerry] Kramer took over the kicking duties for the Pack that season.

Hornung only started eight games in ’62 and even though he wasn’t 100 percent, No. 5 played in the 1962 NFL Championship Game and rushed for 35 yards on eight carries. Hornung also completed a 21-yard pass to Dowler in the game on the option play.

The Packers won their second straight NFL title in ’62, by beating the New York Giants again, this time by a score of 16-7 at Yankee Stadium on a very cold and blustery day. The difference in the game were the three field goals and the extra point kicked by Kramer in the contest.

In 1963, both Hornung and defensive tackle Alex Karras were suspended for the entire season by Commissioner Pete Rozelle. The Packers missed “The Golden Boy” that year, even though the team finished 11-2-1, that wasn’t enough to catch the Bears, who finished 11-1-2. Chicago beat Green Bay twice that season and and went on to win the 1963 NFL title.

Hornung came back and started all 14 games in 1964, but he wasn’t the same player he was in the three-year span from 1959 though 1961. No. 5 rushed for 415 yards, but his kicking fell off badly, as he was just 12-of-38 in field goals that year. The Packers finished second again in ’64, as the Colts won the Western Conference.

In 1965, Lombardi brought in some new blood to the roster, as he traded for kicker/punter Don Chandler and flanker Carroll Dale. Both were huge additions for the team in 1965 and beyond.

Dale talked to me recently about joining the Packers in 1965 and meeting Hornung.

“When I arrived in Green Bay, my locker was right besides Hornung’s,” Dale said. “What really impressed me about Paul was besides his great athletic ability to execute run plays or pass plays, was the fact that he was always working with his teammates. Especially those who played his position.

“It was nice to see him share his experience and knowledge in terms of running, blocking and receiving. Over the two years I played with him and he had some injuries, he was almost like an assistant coach working with players. He was constantly working with the halfbacks.”

Hornung had injury issues again in ’65, this time dealing with a nerve issue in his neck/shoulder region. No. 5 started just eight games that season, but closed out the year in phenomenal fashion, with his performances versus the Colts and Browns. The victory against the Browns would be the first of three straight NFL titles by the Packers.

In 1966, as the Packers added three great rookies to their roster, halfback Donny Anderson, fullback Jim Grabowski and guard Gale Gillingham, Hornung had the neck/shoulder issues once again and only played in nine games and started six.

As Dale had mentioned earlier, Hornung tried to help Anderson as much as possible, as No. 44 explained to me recently.

“Paul was not going to be able to play much because of the injury to his neck,” Anderson said. “Elijah [Pitts] played a lot. Hornung helped me out in how best to run a pattern and learn the system that Lombardi had.

“It was a pretty simple system. It wasn’t complex at all. But there was one particular play which was called the A & B circle. And that play was primarily for the halfback or the fullback. And you would run the play from the weak side, and I played on the weak side the six years I played in Green Bay.

“Weakside was called Willie for the weakside linebacker. My job was to get in the open. Paul told me the key to the play was the middle linebacker. If you keyed on him, I could run either inside or outside. It was an excellent play. If you could beat the Willie linebacker and the Mike linebacker was gone, it was like an open field then. The play could go for 15 or 20 yards. So Hornung really helped me with that particular play.”

In 1966, Grabowski played fullback behind Taylor. And No. 33 was not getting any assistance whatsoever from No. 31.

Hornung was much different in terms of communicating with the younger players, as Grabowski told me recently.

“Paul just treated us all very well,” Grabowski said. “In ’66, Paul was hurt and didn’t play much because of the nerve problem in his shoulder. Paul was just a good guy.

“He would tell us what we should do in this situation and what we shouldn’t do. He was the voice of experience. I always appreciated him. Paul was very charismatic. He treated everyone well and he was a type of guy who everyone would flock to.”

Hornung didn’t play at all in the 1966 NFL title game or Super Bowl I. Even without Hornung, the Packers first beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-27 to win the NFL title and then the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I.

In 1967, Lombardi placed Hornung’s name on the expansion list for the New Orleans Saints and the newest team in the NFL did indeed select Hornung to play for them. But because of his neck/shoulder problem, Hornung retired.

Still, Hornung would be coming back to Green Bay in late 1967 at a very opportune time. I’m talking about the week of the “Ice Bowl” game at Lambeau Field.

Lombardi petitioned Commissioner Rozelle to get permission for Hornung to be on the Green Bay bench for the game. That petition was granted. Just seeing Hornung again on the sideline of a NFL title game made the players on the Packers feel good.

When I talked to Horn recently, he remembered Hornung being around the week of that big game.

“Yes, Paul was at a couple of meetings, in the locker room and on the practice field that week,” Horn said. “I believe Coach Lombardi wanted Paul around for good luck. I mean Max [McGee] and Fuzzy were still there, so Paul’s presence was good karma. Every chance he got, Paul was socializing, as you might expect.

“On the sideline of the game, everyone was bundled up trying to stay as warm as we could. I stood pretty close to Coach Lombardi almost the entire game. Paul was nearby as well. But just to have Paul’s presence there was great. I mean, Paul was an icon. I was just a rookie. I always admired him for what he did before I got there. Having Paul there with Coach Lombardi just made everyone more confident.”

In fact, it was Hornung who gave Starr the hand warmers just before No. 15 went back to the huddle just before his legendary quarterback sneak.

In 1986, Hornung was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, I never met Hornung in person, although I came for close one time at the party the Packers threw for Kramer when he was being enshrined later that night in Canton in 2018.

As many of you know, I campaigned and promoted Jerry for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for several years. In 2012, I was talking to Jerry and I said it would be a good idea for someone like Hornung to contact the Seniors Selection Committee at the Hall of Fame, either by letter or vocally.

Jerry gave me Paul’s number. I called Paul and I asked him if he could write a letter or talk to the seniors committee on Jerry’s behalf. He said he absolutely would. And sure enough, that year he wrote a great letter to the committee.

At Jerry’s party, I saw Paul immediately. I definitely planned to talk with him. But I first talked to Dan Kramer and Rick Gosselin right after I arrived. I also talked to Jerry shortly after that. It was while I was talking to Jerry when I saw Paul leave the party.

The two phone conversations that I had with Paul told me something about the character of the man. That’s why I wanted to talk to some people who knew Hornung as a teammate and as a friend.

People like Kramer, Dowler, Dale, Anderson, Grabowski and Horn.

And there are more stories, as you might expect.

When I talked with Kramer, he mentioned that his daughter Diana called Paul a Renaissance man. A very apropos description of Hornung. Why? Because Paul was intelligent, charming, sophisticated, principled, classy and had multiple talents.

Kramer also talked to me about being with his buddy Hornung at the Kentucky Derby.

“At the Kentucky Derby, we would go down to the stables,” Kramer said. “I don’t believe everyone was allowed at the stables. Maybe just the owners. But Paul was allowed to go down there. Paul first started working at the track when he was just a kid, selling racing sheets or something like that.

“But we would go down and talk to the jockeys, talk to the owners and talk to the horse. We wanted to see if we wanted to put some money down on him. We then go up to our suite and enjoy the race. But everything was arranged by Paul. He took care of the whole package.”

Kramer also remembers how much Hornung enjoyed being with Jerry’s children.

“When I would have my children with me at some event, like maybe the Lombardi Golf Classic, Paul would sit with the kids and shoot the breeze with them. I have a number of photos of Paul with my kids.

“Paul knew how I felt about my children and he said, ‘Kramer, if I had kids as good looking as yours, I would have a dozen of them.’ Paul just enjoyed the hell about being with them.”

Anderson recalled a couple of stories about Hornung as well.

“When I was a rookie in 1966, as I had run a 9.6 100 at Texas Tech, I asked Paul one time about his best 100 time,” Anderson said. “And Paul said he ran a 10 flat. And I said, was that downhill or uphill? Paul laughed. He just had a great sense of humor.”

Anderson remembers another story when he was a rookie.

“I always got along with Jerry, Fuzzy, Max and Paul,” Anderson said. “And one time McGee asked me to go with the group to Fuzzy’s to have a few cocktails. So I get there and I asked why they had invited me, a rookie, to be with proven veterans and world champions and to have a few drinks. And McGee said, ‘That’s pretty simple. You have all the money and you can pick up the bill.’

Dowler also remembered how encouraging Hornung was with him when he first joined the team in 1959.

“Paul was always very supportive of me,” Dowler said. “He claimed to recognize that I would end up as a pretty good player. He would give me tips about running pass patterns. Sometimes we would run patterns on the same side of the field. He said the key was understanding what the defense was trying to do.

“He had a real instinctive feeling about where you needed to go to get open, based on the defense. Like I know where you are going and you know where I’m going. We worked as a combination there. We were very successful doing that.”

Dowler also talked about Hornung as never being full of himself.

“Paul didn’t act like a big shot,” Dowler said. “He was cool. He and McGee were a pretty good pair. They kind of wandered around and acted like Paul and Max. They didn’t put on any show, they just went about doing what they did.

“They were good conversationalists. They were funny. They definitely attracted people. They acted pretty natural. Paul just liked everyone.”

Grabowski recalled the same type of demeanor from Hornung.

“I don’t recall Paul ever really getting pissed off about something,” Grabowski said. “That was the way he played and also the way he was with his teammates. He just had a great attitude. Again, very charismatic.”

Dale recalls how Hornung was to be around, although he never socialized with No. 5.

“My experience with him was all very good. I mainly saw him in the locker room and on the field. I don’t know anything about his escapades,” Dale laughed. “Paul was just a great teammate.”

Horn didn’t play with Hornung, but got to know him a bit the week of the “Ice Bowl” and at alumni events.

“I got to know Paul a little bit over the years,” Horn said. “More like we were acquaintances. But I really admired him. With our last names being so close to one another, when we would get together at reunions, I would get announced first and I would get a nice courtesy applause and then when Hornung was announced, Paul would get the big roar from the crowd. We always would have some big laughs about that.

“Paul was just a great guy to be around and I only wish I could have played with him.”

The bottom line, Paul Hornung was a Hall of Famer in football and also a Hall of Famer in life. There will never be another one like him.

Rest in peace, Paul. May God bless you and your family, as well as your teammates and friends!

Green Bay Packers: Vince Lombardi Heated Up in the Month of July in a Couple of Epic Trades

Vince Lombardi II

Almost two months ago, I wrote  about how head coach and general manager Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers wheeled and dealed in the months of April and May in accumulating talent for his team.

Lombardi was able to bring in some excellent ballplayers in those trades, as he brought in the likes of Bill Quinlan and Lew Carpenter in April of 1959 when he traded end Billy Howton to the Cleveland Browns.

In May of 1964, Lombardi traded center Jim Ringo and fullback Earl Gros to the Philadelphia Eagles for linebacker Lee Roy Caffey and a No. 1 draft pick in 1965, which turned out to be halfback Donny Anderson.

Also in April of 1965, Lombardi traded linebacker Dan Currie to the Los Angeles Rams for wide receiver Carroll Dale.

Lombardi gave up excellent talent to get Quinlan, Carpenter, Caffey, Anderson and Dale, but it was well worth it in the end.

But two of greatest trades Lombardi ever made were both early in his regime and both happened in July. The first trade was made with the Baltimore Colts in 1959, a team that Lombardi had faced in the 1958 NFL championship game when he was running the offense for the New York Giants. That epic contest is considered one of the greatest games in the history of the NFL. In that classic game, the NFL had it’s first ever overtime game and it was finally won by the Colts 23-17 when former Wisconsin Badgers fullback Alan Ameche scored the winning touchdown for the Colts.

The trade occurred on July 22, 1959, as Lombardi dealt linebacker Marv Matuszak to the Colts for guard Fuzzy Thurston.

The acquisition of Thurston turned out to be a great trade, as No. 63 teamed with right guard Jerry Kramer to give the Packers the best set of guards in the NFL for several years.

Jerry and Fuzzy

Photo by Jack Robbins

Back in the day when Thurston and Kramer played, awards were given out by a number of media outlets. This included The Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), The Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) and The New York Daily News (NY).

Thurston was named first-team All-Pro at left guard in both 1961 (AP, UPI, NEA and NY) and 1962 (UPI), plus was named second-team All-Pro in 1963 (UPI), 1964 (NY) and 1966 (NY).

Kramer was named first-team All-Pro at right guard in 1960 (AP), 1962 (AP, NEA and UPI), 1963 (AP, NEA, UPI and NY), 1966 (AP, UPI, FW and NY) and 1967 (AP, UPI and NY), plus was named second-team All-Pro in 1961 (NY) and 1968 (AP).

That’s a combined 12 All-Pro honors. Five for Thurston and seven for Kramer.

Besides being a great player, Thurston was a fantastic teammate, who always brought a bright smile into the locker room, as well as a lot of laughs with his teammates at the local watering holes.

That exceptional play at guard by Thurston and Kramer led the Packers to five NFL titles in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

Thurston loved to tell anyone who would listen, “There are two good reasons the Packers are world champions. Jerry Kramer is one of them, and you’re looking at the other one.”

Thurston was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975.

The second trade Lombardi made in July happened on the 19th of that month in 1960. He called upon a close confidant to make that trade. He also traded with the team in which he made his first ever trade in 1959, when he traded Howton to get Quinlan and Carpenter.

That team would be the Browns, who were headed by the man who the team was named after, Paul Brown.

Brown was fond of Lombardi, as both had gone up against each other many times from 1954 though 1958, as Brown was the head coach of the Browns and Lombardi had been basically the offensive coordinator for the G-Men.

In fact, Brown, along with George Halas and Sid Gillman, had all endorsed Lombardi to get the head coaching job in Green Bay when they were approached by scout Jack Vainisi of the Packers.

So in July of 1960, Lombardi made perhaps his best trade ever, when he acquired defensive end Willie Davis and all he had to give up was end A.D. Williams. In 1959, which was the rookie year for Williams with the Packers, he caught just one pass for 11 yards.

Another great trade with the Browns occurred in September of 1959, when Lombardi acquired defensive tackle Henry Jordan for just a fourth round pick in 1960.

But in  terms of getting Davis, he not only got a great player, but also a great leader.

Willie Davis

Sports Illustrated

No. 87 became the defensive captain of the Packers under Lombardi and he earned that distinction with his fantastic play. Davis was a five-time first-team All-Pro, plus was named to five Pro Bowls.

According to John Turney, who is a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association, Davis had over 100 sacks in his 10-year career with the Packers.

Everyone remembers that Reggie White had three sacks in Super Bowl XXXI, but only a few know that Davis had two sacks in Super Bowl I and three more in Super Bowl II.

Davis also recovered 21 fumbles over his Packers career and that still remains a team record.

This fantastic production on the field led to Davis being named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975 and then the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

Like Thurston, Davis played on five NFL title teams in Green Bay, which included victories in Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II in which Davis had five sacks overall.

Also, Davis became roommates with Kramer for the 1968 season. Based on my research, that was only the second time that a black player and a white player roomed together in the NFL. The first occurred when Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo were roommates for the Chicago Bears starting in 1965.

The bottom line is that the early success that Lombardi had with his Packers was partly due to some acquisitions that were made early in his tenure in Green Bay, a place that would also be called Titletown in 1961.

Adding players like Thurston and Davis were certainly instrumental in the prosperity of the Packers throughout the Lombardi era.

Green Bay Packers: Vince Lombardi Wheeled and Dealed in the Months of April and May

Vince Lombardi with coaching cap on.

When the Green Bay Packers hired Vince Lombardi in 1959, he was given two titles. They were, head coach and general manager. Obviously his coaching ability turned out to be fantastic, as his Packers won five NFL titles in seven years, which also included the first two Super Bowls.

Yes, there is a reason the Super Bowl trophy has his name on it.

Lombardi also made some fine acquisitions for the Packers as general manager through the draft and trades. Who knows how history would have been written had super scout Jack Vainisi lived, instead of tragically dying in 1960 at the age of 33 due to a heart attack. Vainisi played a key role in getting Lombardi to come to Green Bay in 1959.

Back in the day, the months of April and May were normally pretty quiet in the days when Lombardi led the Packers. That being said, Lombardi did make a number of notable trades during those two months while he was with the Packers from 1959 through 1968.

Here are some of the notable ones:

April 25, 1959: The Packers trade offensive end Bill Howton to the Cleveland Browns for defensive end Bill Quinlan and halfback Lew Carpenter.

The result? Quinlan started at defensive end for the Packers for four years, while Carpenter was a key role player who excelled on special teams and remained with the team for five years. Also, the trade of Howton opened the door for rookie Boyd Dowler to start at end and he became the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1959, plus had a fabulous 11-year career with the Packers.

Boyd Dowler scores TD in Ice Bowl

May 23, 1959: The Packers trade a third-round 1960 draft pick to the Chicago Cardinals for quarterback Lamar McHan.

The result? McHan starts 11 games in 1959 and 1960 and splits time at quarterback with Bart Starr. The competition drives Starr to become the full-fledged starter midway through the 1960 season when he became the true leader of the Pack, as he led the team to five championships, including the first two Super Bowls, where he was named MVP in both games. Starr also won three passing titles, was the NFL MVP in 1966 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

May 5, 1964: The Packers trade center Jim Ringo and fullback Earl Gros to the Philadelphia Eagles for linebacker Lee Roy Caffey and a first-round draft pick in the 1965 NFL draft which was used on halfback Donny Anderson.

The result? The Packers had to scramble at the center position for the 1964 season, as Bob Skoronski and Ken Bowman split time at center. To add to that issue, right guard Jerry Kramer missed almost the entire 1964 season due to intestinal issues. Caffey became part of the best trio of linebackers in the NFL for five years, along with Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson. Anderson had a fine career with the Packers, but his biggest moment was his performance in the “Ice Bowl”, as he played a key role in the final drive of that classic game.

Lee Roy Caffey in the Ice Bowl

April 23, 1965: The Packers trade linebacker Dan Currie to the Los Angeles Rams for wide receiver Carroll Dale.

The result? After Currie is traded, Dave Robinson becomes the starter at left outside linebacker and has a Hall of Fame career with the Packers. Dale becomes the starter at flanker for the Packers replacing Max McGee and becomes the deep threat for the Packers in the passing game for eight great seasons. Lombardi also starts to use Dale, McGee and Boyd Dowler at the same time on passing downs, as Dowler took over at tight end for Marv Fleming in those situations.

April 25, 1966: The Packers trade halfback Tom Moore to the Los Angeles Rams for quarterback Ron Smith, defensive tackle Dick Arndt and a second-round draft pick in the 1967 NFL draft.

The result? The trade allows halfback Elijah Pitts to become the main backup to Paul Hornung, who ended up being hurt for most of the 1966 season. Pitts ended up starting seven games in 1966 and 24 games in his career in Green Bay. The trade also allowed Donny Anderson to get more of a role on offense at halfback and No. 44 became the starter in 1967 when Pitts was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

Donny Anderson in the Ice Bowl

May 2, 1968: The Packers trade linebacker Tommy Joe Crutcher and offensive tackle Steve Wright to the New York Giants for offensive tackle Francis Peay.

The result? Peay plays in 62 games over the next five years, starting 45 of them at left tackle. Crutcher was later traded to the Rams by the Giants, but then returned to Green Bay when head coach and general manager Dan Devine traded a fourth-round pick in the 1973 NFL draft to the Rams.

When Jerry Kramer Knew Bart Starr Would Keep the Ball on his QB Sneak in the ‘Ice Bowl’

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Photo by John Biever

Looking back on the 100 years of history in the NFL, the play is considered one of the most iconic plays in league annals. I’m talking about Bart Starr and his surprising quarterback sneak in the closing seconds of the 1967 NFL Championship Game, better known as the “Ice Bowl” game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers at frigid Lambeau Field.

With just 16 seconds remaining in the game and with his team having no timeouts, Starr followed the classic block by right guard Jerry Kramer on defensive tackle Jethro Pugh, as he shuffled to the right of Kramer’s block  and tumbled happily into the end zone, as the Packers defeated the Cowboys 21-17 to win their third straight NFL title.

Before we dissect that play and talk about the many interesting nuances about that call, let’s first look at the arctic conditions the NFL title game was being played under.

The weather in Green Bay on December 30, 1967 was fairly mild as the Cowboys worked out for a while at Lambeau Field the day before the game. The field was soft and although it was cold (high 20s and low 30s), it was not bitterly cold.

That all changed on December 31, 1967, as one never knows what will happen in the region where the Fox River connects to the bay off Lake Michigan in the winter.

Yes, when the NFL title game started between the Cowboys and Packers began, the temperature was -13°. If you added in the wind throughout the game, the temperature plummeted to -50°.

Nice weather if you are a polar bear. But not if you are a professional football player. Making matters worse, as the game wore on, the field became an ice skating rink.

In the game, the Packers jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, thanks to two Starr touchdown passes to Boyd Dowler.

The Packers also had a fantastic chance to increase their lead, when cornerback Herb Adderley picked off a pass from quarterback Don Meredith of the Cowboys and took it to the 32 yard line of the Cowboys in the second quarter. But the Packers squandered that opportunity and didn’t score.

The momentum of the game changed late in that second quarter. Starr fumbled as he was hit by defensive end Willie Townes of the Cowboys going back to pass, and the other defensive end, former Marquette star George Andrie, scooped up the ball in rumbled in for a touchdown from seven yards out with a little over four minutes to go before halftime.

Then with less than two minutes to go in the first half, Willie Wood fumbled a punt from Danny Villanueva at the 17 yard line of the Packers. That led to a 21-yard field goal by Villanueva to make the score 14-10 at halftime.

In the second half, the offense of the  Packers was being throttled the defense of the Cowboys.

Things were so bad, that the Packers had had minus-nine yards in 31 plays in the second half at one point.

Then on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys took a 17-14 lead when wide receiver Lance Rentzel caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from halfback Dan Reeves.

That was the score when the Packers got the ball back on their own 32 yard line with just 4:50 left in the game.

Somehow the Packers were going to have to trudge 68 yards across the arctic-like football field to win the game.

I wrote a story about that ensuing drive, as Kramer, halfback Donny Anderson and Chuck Mercein provided the commentary.

Here is part of that article:

“I don’t think we ever considered the possibility of losing,” Kramer said. “We didn’t really acknowledge the fact that we didn’t gain any yardage in 31 plays prior to that. We knew where we were when we got in the final huddle. We knew what we had to do.

“I asked Bart about that years later, about what made him think we could go 68 yards and score a touchdown after we had made minus-nine yards on 31 plays prior to that. Bart said, ‘Jerry, I came into the huddle and started to say something. Then I looked in your eyes, I looked at Forrest’s eyes and everyone else in the huddle, and I knew I didn’t have to say anything. So all I said was, ‘Let’s go.’

Kramer said there was calm in that huddle.

“Even at that point of the game there wasn’t any panic with us,” No. 64 said. “There was a sense of urgency however. We still believed that we could do it.

“The beautiful part of that was the contribution by so many different players in that drive. Players like Chuck Mercein, Boyd Dowler and Donny Anderson.”

Anderson concurred with Kramer about what needed to be on that drive.

“I recall that there was no nonsense at all on that drive,” Anderson said. “It represented the discipline that Lombardi had taught us. We knew that we had to execute and we were determined to get the job done.”

The drive started with Starr completing a swing pass to Anderson which gained six yards. On the next play, Mercein ran the ball for seven more yards off tackle to the 45-yard line and near the sideline of the Packers.

Chuck Mercein II

Mercein vividly recalled that moment.

“I remember that play well, as it was the our initial first down of the drive,” Mercein said. “That was a big confidence booster for me and the team. Because at that point, none of us had done anything in the second half. I’ll never forget because I kind of got shoved out of bounds right in front of the Green Bay bench. I could hear Coach Lombardi yell, ‘Atta boy, Chuck!’ That really brought my spirits up. It was wonderful.”

On the next play, Starr completed his only pass to a wide receiver in the drive, as Dowler caught a pass that gained 13 yards and another first down. Dowler ended up having to leave the game for a few plays, as he was shook up a little after his head hit the frozen turf hard after he was tackled.

Even though Dowler only caught one pass in that drive, it was his two early touchdown receptions from Starr which put the Packers in position to win the game on that drive.

After the Dowler catch, this is when Mercein and the Packers had a hiccup in the drive. Townes made another big play, as he broke through and tackled Anderson for a nine-yard loss.

Mercein explained what happened on the play.

“It was the Green Bay sweep and my responsibility was to block the defensive end there,” Mercein said. “I expected Townes to be on my outside shoulder, but he rushed inside instead, and I only was able to brush him with my left shoulder. I didn’t give him a good enough pop and he was able to get through and put us in a big hole.

I felt particularly bad about that because of my bad execution. It was the lowlight of the drive for me.”

That loss put the Packers in a second and 19 hole, but two swing passes to Anderson netted 21 yards and the Packers had a big first down. If you look at those receptions on film, you see some pretty nifty footwork by Anderson. Not easily done on a truly frozen tundra.

Anderson explained.

“I recall that I had to balance myself,” Anderson said. “Not to run like a sprinter, but to balance yourself. Be a little more flat-footed. I also figured that a quicker guy might be better off under those conditions than a heavier guy.”

Donny Anderson in the Ice Bowl

It was at that point when Mercein caught a 19-yard swing pass from Starr after first conferring with No. 15.

“Sure enough, I was open just like I expected and Bart flipped the pass to me that got caught up in the wind a bit and I caught it over my outside shoulder, ” Mercein said. “I was able to outrun linebacker Dave Edwards and took the pass to the 11-yard line, plus was able to get out of bounds.”

The next play was a running play, known as a give play to Mercein.

“Bart saved that give play for the right exact time,” Mercein said. “Bart later said it was the best play call he ever made.”

On the give play, left guard Gale Gillingham pulls to the right, which then opens up a hole as defensive tackle Bob Lilly followed Gillingham down the line. Still, left tackle Bob Skoronski had to seal off defensive end George Andrie to make the play work.

“On that play, if Bob didn’t block [George] Andrie on that play, Mercein would get killed,” Kramer said. “It was a very difficult block, too. So Bart looked at “Ski” and asked if he could make that block before the play. And “Ski” simply said, ‘Call it, on two.’

Mercein vividly recalls that run.

“The hole was great and I can still see that hole,” Mercein said. “I can still hear myself clomping down on the ice with the noise of my cleats hitting the ice. It was very loud. Forrest Gregg was coming down from the right tackle spot and if I could have cut, I think I could have scored.”

As it was, the Packers had a second and two from the three-yard line of the Cowboys. Anderson then took a hand off from Starr and to many it appeared that Anderson scored on the play. But the referee instead placed the ball about 18 inches from the goal line and it was first and goal.

“After the run, I’m laying across the goal line with my waist and the ball,” Anderson said. “Cornell Green of the Cowboys yelled that I scored, while Jethro Pugh told him to be quiet. The ref then picks up the ball and puts it 18 inches back from the goal line.

“Later on as we saw film of the game, Coach Lombardi said to me, ‘Young man, I think they took one away from you there.’

After two two unsuccessful running attempts by Anderson to score after that, as he slipped both times, the Packers called their final timeout. There were 16 seconds to go in the game.

This brings us to a key point of the game just before Starr carried the ball on his own on the quarterback sneak. Kramer has maintained that he knew Starr was going to carry the football.

No. 64 even wrote about that in his classic book, Instant Replay. Kramer wrote, “In the huddle, Bart said, ‘Thirty-one wedge and I’ll carry the ball.’

The problem is that no one else in the huddle heard that from Starr. And I’ve talked to Anderson, Mercein, Dowler and Carroll Dale. They all heard Starr call the 31 wedge play, but nothing about him carrying the football by himself.

That being said, I believe I have pinpointed when Starr told Kramer he was going to carry the ball himself.

If you have ever seen A Football Life – Vince Lombardi from NFL Films, Starr and Kramer talk about what happened after No. 15 called his final timeout of the game just before the sneak.

Kramer: “We take our final timeout and Bart asked me if I could make a block.”

Starr: “Can you get your footing for one more wedge play?”

Kramer: “Yeah, I think so.”

I believe it was at this moment that Starr told Kramer, and no other player on the field, that he was going to carry the ball.

Starr then went to the sideline and told Coach Lombardi that the wedge play was still the right call, but that he would carry the ball himself because the backs were slipping.

Lombardi concurred and replied, “Then run it and let’s get the hell out of here.”

I have mentioned this possible scenario to Kramer and he thought that my take was very plausible.

I can understand the confusion about the play from Kramer’s perspective. For one thing, the crucial wedge play itself was derived from film study by Kramer.

Kramer was watching film on the Cowboys and specifically regarding how they lined up in short-yardage situations.

“Jethro [Pugh] was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films,” Kramer said. “I said we could wedge Pugh if we had to. And Coach Lombardi said, ‘What?’ And I said that we can wedge Pugh if we have to. So we ran the film back three or four times, and coach says, ‘That’s right. Put in a wedge on Pugh.’

And little did Kramer know that the play of the game would come down to his block and the play he suggested. That’s a hell of a lot of pressure.

So when Starr called the play, first by conferring with Kramer himself, what went through the mind of No. 64?

“Responsibility. I mean I had suggested the play on Thursday. It seemed like the play was squarely on my shoulders,” Kramer said. “I knew I had to perform. I knew that to be successful as a blocker that I had to keep my head up and my eyes open.

“And also put my face into the chest of the defensive tackle [Pugh]. That is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s the safest and the surest way to make a block. I felt great personal responsibility to the team on that block. When I came off the ball, I was on fire.”

Bottom line, one can see how there might have been a little uncertainty from Kramer regarding how Starr called the 31 wedge play knowing the magnitude of the moment.

Speaking of the 31 wedge play, if run the way it is supposed to, it simply means that the 3-back (fullback) goes to the 1-hole (between the center and the right guard).

Which bring us to center Ken Bowman and the role he played on this block.

“I’ve analyzed that play a lot. “Bow” was there, there is no question about that,” Kramer said. “But when Jethro got up like I expected and then I got into him, the rest was a forgone conclusion. Jethro was then out of position and also out of the play. The play was over for him then.”

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Plus, Starr did not go in between Bowman and Kramer like the play was designed. Instead, Starr shuffled to Kramer’s right and into a hole between No. 64 and right tackle Forrest Gregg.

And as I have I written about in another article, Starr’s intuitive sense of transferring the ball from his right arm to his left on the game-winning sneak was very timely and extremely important. Especially when one sees linebacker Chuck Howley ripping at Starr’s empty right arm as he crosses the goal line.

Yes, there certainly were a number of significant details about why Starr’s quarterback sneak was successful in the “Ice Bowl” game and is now considered the greatest play in the over 100-year history of the Packers.

Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys: A Historical Perspective

Lombardi celebrates 1966 NFL title

The Green Bay Packers joined the NFL in 1921, while the Dallas Cowboys joined the league in 1960. Since that time, the teams have met 28 times in the regular season, with the Packers holding a 15-13 edge.

The two teams have also met eight times in the postseason, with each team winning four times.

Overall, the Packers have won 13 NFL titles, including four Super Bowls, one of which was won at Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium). The Cowboys have won five Super Bowls overall.

When the two teams meet on Sunday at AT&T Field, it will be the 15th time that the Packers have played Dallas on the road in the regular season. The Packers were 2-1 at the Cotton Bowl, 2-7 at Texas Stadium and now are currently 2-0 at AT&T Stadium.

The Packers are also 2-4 in the postseason in the Big D area. With the latest game being the 2016 NFC title game, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay to a stirring 34-31 victory.

In Wisconsin, the Packers defeated the Cowboys in their inaugural year 41-7 at then City Stadium (now Lambeau Field) and are now 7-2 overall versus the Boys in Green Bay during the regular season.

The Packers and Cowboys also played five games at County Stadium in Milwaukee in the regular season, with the Cowboys holding a 3-2 edge.

The Packers have also won two postseason games against the Cowboys at Lambeau Field, including the legendary “Ice Bowl” game on December 31, 1967.

The two teams were destined to become quite a rivalry, as Vince Lombardi was head coach of the Packers when the Cowboys joined the NFL in 1960 and their head coach was Tom Landry.

Lombardi and Landry had coached together in New York with the Giants, as the team won the NFL title in 1956. In essence, Lombardi ran the offense for the G-Men, while Landry ran the defense during their tenure in the Big Apple.

Lombardi never lost to Landry while he coached the Packers, both in the regular season (3-0) and in the postseason (2-0).

Both postseason games were NFL title games, with the first being played at the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1967. The winner of that 1966 NFL championship game would be playing in Super Bowl I.

Bart Starr 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl

Quarterback Bart Starr was magnificent in that game, as he threw four touchdown passes (including a beautiful 51-yard pass to Carroll Dale) without throwing an interception for 304 yards. No. 15’s passer rating for that game was 143.5.

The game came down to the Cowboys being on the 2-yard line of the Packers with less than a minute to go, trailing 34-27. And on fourth down, quarterback Don Meredith of the Cowboys was pressured by outside linebacker Dave Robinson and with No. 89’s arms draped around him, Meredith threw an errant pass that was intercepted by safety Tom Brown of the Packers to seal the victory.

The Packers then went on to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super I two weeks later.

The two teams met again the very next year in the 1967 NFL title game, this time in Green Bay at Lambeau Field. I have written about that classic game a number of times, including a story that has fullback Chuck Mercein, halfback Donny Anderson and right guard Jerry Kramer describing their epic final drive to win the “Ice Bowl” 21-17 with just seconds remaining.

Starr was once again the hero, as he threw two touchdown passes to Boyd Dowler in the game and then scored the game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak with just 13 seconds remaining in the game and with his team having zero time outs.

Two weeks later, the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II, which turned out to be Lombardi’s last game as head coach of the Packers.

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

The next time the two teams met in the postseason was after the 1982 season, when Starr was the head coach of the Packers and Landry was still at the helm of the Cowboys.

Quarterback Lynn Dickey threw for 332 yards, while wide receiver James Lofton had five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, plus had another score on a 71-yard run. Still, that wasn’t enough as the Cowboys, led by the three interceptions of Dennis Thurman, won 37-26 in a second-round NFC playoff game at Texas Stadium.

The next three postseason games would all be played at Texas Stadium in the 1990s, as Jimmy Johnson was now the head coach of the Boys after owner Jerry Jones had fired Landry after the 1988 season.

The Packers were coached by Mike Holmgren during that time.

The Cowboys were led by their triplets, quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin. The Pack was led by quarterback Brett Favre on offense and defensive end Reggie White on defense.

In 1993 (27-17) and 1994 (35-9), the Cowboys beat the Packers in NFC divisional playoff games. In 1995, the Boys beat the Packers 38-27 in the NFC title game. Dallas would end up winning the Super Bowl twice after defeating the Packers in the postseason that decade.

In all, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the 1990s, while the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI after the 1996 season.

The Packers won Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) after the 2010 season, when Rodgers was the game’s MVP, as the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.

Green Bay and Dallas again met in the postseason in a 2014 divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field. Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in the 26-21 victory by the Packers, but the game was marked by controversy.

That occurred when quarterback Tony Romo completed a long pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant on fourth down which took the ball to the 1-yard line of Green Bay that was later ruled a non-catch. The Packers than marched down the field and ran out the clock.

The last postseason game that the two teams played was a 2016 NFC divisional game at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys came into the game as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but the Packers behind Rodgers got off to a quick 21-3 lead.

But Dallas came roaring back behind quarterback Dak Prescott and tied the game 28- 28 with four minutes left in the game.

The Packers then took a 31-28 lead on a 56-yard Mason Crosby field goal with about 1:30 to go in the game.

Prescott then led the Cowboys to a game-tying 52-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 35 seconds left.

Aaron vs. the Cowboys

Then, with just 12 seconds left in the game on a third-and-20 from their own 32-yard line, Rodgers completed a 35-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook to set up a game-winning 51-yard field goal by Crosby as time expired.

The last time the two teams met was in the 2017 regular season, when Rodgers once again led the Packers to a late victory, as he completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Davante Adams with 11 seconds remaining, as the Packers won 35-31.

Overall in his career versus the Cowboys, Rodgers is 4-2 against them in the regular season, as he has thrown 11 touchdown passes, compared to just one pick for 1,702 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 101.2.

No. 12 has also rushed for 162 yards on 30 carries and had two more scores.

In the postseason, Rodgers is 2-0 against the Cowboys and has thrown five touchdown passes versus one pick for 671 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 111.0.

So, what to expect on Sunday? The Packers are banged up a bit and Adams has been ruled out because of a turf toe injury. Still, the track record of Rodgers against the Cowboys has been fantastic.

Plus, the Packers have never lost in AT&T Stadium in four games, with one of them being Super Bowl XLV. That being said, every game against the Cowboys has been very close and in one of the wins, it was backup quarterback Matt Flynn who led the Packers to a victory.

Bottom line, I also expect the game on Sunday to be very close. It may come down to which team has the ball last. And if it’s Rodgers and the Packers, I like their chances.

Boyd Dowler Talks About Bart Starr and Also Playing Some Tight End

Bart and Boyd

Bart Starr and Boyd Dowler. (Photo: Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports)

In the 12 seasons that Boyd Dowler  played in the NFL, 11 of those seasons with the Green Bay Packers, No. 86 was 10th in all-time receptions in the NFL and 12th in receiving yardage when he retired.

The game was different in the era that Dowler played in, as the running game was featured much more often, plus the rules in those days allowed defensive backs to pretty much mug a receiver running down the field and not see a flag thrown.

The Packers utilized the running game more than most in the NFL, especially in the early years when Vince Lombardi became head coach. Both Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor put up big numbers between 1959 through 1962. Hornung was the NFL MVP in 1961, while Taylor was the NFL MVP in 1962, when the Packers won back-to-back NFL titles.

Still, Dowler put up some nice numbers himself, which was recognized, as he was named to the NFL 1960’s All-Decade team, as well as the NFL 50th anniversary team (second team).

In his 11-year career with the Packers, Dowler had 448 receptions for 6,918 yards and 40 touchdowns. In the postseason, Dowler also had 30 receptions for 440 yards and five scores.

Also, in his rookie year in 1959, Dowler was named Rookie of the Year by UPI (United Press International), plus was named to two Pro Bowl teams in his career.

That is why I believe Dowler deserves a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

There are very few quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who do not have at least one receiver or tight end from their team in Canton with them.

One of those quarterbacks is Bart Starr.

Starr passed away in May and is going to be honored in Green Bay this weekend, which also just happens to be alumni weekend for the Packers. A number of former teammates will be on hand, as well as players who were coached by Starr during his tenure in Titletown.

One of those teammates is Dowler. Another is a guy who used to hang with Dowler and Fuzzy Thurston after practice and have a few beers. They called themselves the Three Muskepissers. I’m talking about Jerry Kramer, who will be one of the speakers to honor No. 15 this weekend.

I had a chance to talk with Dowler recently and we talked about what it was like playing with Starr.

“Let me give you an example about how smart Bart was and how he trusted guys like me,” Dowler said. “In the ‘Ice Bowl’, when I scored my first touchdown, it was not a play called in the huddle. It was an audible at the line of scrimmage.

“We had never, ever talked about running that play or pattern from that formation with me in tight. We never practiced it either. We never did anything close to what we did on that play. It was the first time we ever did that.

“Bart called the ’86 audible’, which had nothing to do with my number. The play was designed for the split end to run a post in a blitz situation. But normally it was called when the split end was out wide, not in tight like I was. Bart called the play because Mel Renfro was near the line of scrimmage. Now Renfro didn’t blitz, but it didn’t matter because he was already committed to the line of scrimmage.

“So when Bart called that audible, I knew I was supposed to run a quick post, even though I was inside. I had the linebacker on my outside shoulder and the cornerback on my outside shoulder, which is not sound coverage. So all I had to do release inside and look for the ball. It turned out be an easy pitch and catch and we were up 7-0.

“Bart and I laughed about that play after the game. I knew that particular audible was used with the split end on the left side of the formation to run a post. But I was in tight, like a tight end would be. I knew I couldn’t call a timeout. I couldn’t shout out to Bart and say, ‘Do you want me out wide?’

“The bottom line is Bart had enough confidence in me to figure out what I was supposed to do in that situation. The thing that made it so great, is that Bart called that audible, even knowing that we had never run it from that formation in nine years. Even in practice. And Bart called it in a NFL championship game!

“That is a capsule comment about Bart Starr.”

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No. 86 continued.

“Bart did things like that,” Dowler said. “And you know the funny thing about plays like that he called? They always worked! Just like the sneak in the ‘Ice Bowl.’

I wrote about how well thought out that sneak was in this piece. Starr carried the ball in his left arm as he crossed the goal line and not in his right, as outside linebacker Chuck Howley of the Cowboys tried to strip the ball from his empty right arm.

“When you start talking about doing a tribute to Bart Starr, just look at he ‘Ice Bowl’ game,” Dowler said. “I’m talking about making big plays count or making big plays work. You can look at both my touchdowns in that game, you can look at the give play to Chuck Mercein and you can look at the sneak.

“You can take four, five or six plays alone from that game and hang an MVP award around Bart’s neck. Not just because of the plays, because they were good plays. But because when they were called. It was the brain of Bart Starr that made those plays work.”

It wasn’t a coincidence that Dowler was in tight on his first touchdown pass against the Cowboys in the 1967 NFL title game. No. 86 started playing tight end on passing situations beginning in 1965 and continued to do that through his last year with the Packers in 1969.

That meant the Packers could basically use three wide receivers on third down.

“After Ron Kramer left and Marv Fleming was in his second year I believe, Coach Lombardi started using me at tight end on third down or in passing situations,” Dowler said. “When we were going to play the Bears or the Colts, I would be Mike Ditka or John Mackey on the scout team for our defense.

“So I got quite a bit of work at tight end. I was big enough and I could get off the line. I was able to run the tight end patterns pretty well. Coach noticed that and said to me, ‘You look pretty good in there.’

“Anyway after Ron left, even though Marvin was a fine player and a fine blocker at tight end, he didn’t have wide receiver quickness and speed to get down the field. He basically wasn’t much of a threat in the passing game as I would be. It came down to Max McGee getting in the lineup when I would play tight end instead of Marvin. Max had been a backup after Carroll Dale arrived in 1965.

“Vince wanted to get Max in the games and thought that would be a good way to do it. I slid in to tight end and Max took my spot at split end with Carroll on the other side. The first game we did it in was the ‘Fog Bowl’ in Baltimore in late 1965 and I caught a pass for a first down from the tight end position, plus caught a touchdown pass as a tight end. We scored six touchdowns in that game (a 42-27 win) and Paul had five of the TDs while I had the other one.

“Vince was very proud about that, as it was his idea to move me to tight end in passing situations. It gave us a little more downfield speed. I think it helped us. I was all for it. It kept me mentally sharp. I thought it was kind of fun.

“In 1968 against the Bears at Wrigley Field, I played the whole game at tight end. I caught two touchdown passes, one from Zeke Bratkowski and the other from Don Horn. I had a big game. So did Don.

“In Super Bowl II, one of my two catches that day came while I was playing tight end. My touchdown came when I was at split end, but the other catch came while I was at tight end.

“Bottom line, me playing tight end gave us a lot more flexibility. I really enjoyed playing the position too.”

 

Green Bay Packers: Catching Up With Carroll Dale

Carroll Dale vs. the Cowboys in the Ice Bowl

In the offseason preceding the 1965 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers made two very important acquisitions. Head coach Vince Lombardi, who was also the general manager of the team, first traded a draft pick to the New York Giants for kicker/punter Don Chandler and then also dealt linebacker Dan Currie to the Los Angeles Rams for wide receiver Carroll Dale.

Both Chandler and Dale were key contributors for the Packers from 1965 through 1967, when the team won three straight NFL championships, plus the first two Super Bowl games.

Dale recalled the moment he heard about the trade, as he talked with me earlier this week.

“I was working in Bristol, Tennessee for a sporting goods company,” Dale said. “I happened to be in a small town called Galax, Virginia staying at a motel. The local coach knew what motel I was staying in called me and said that my picture was in the Roanoke paper. I asked why. He said, ‘You’ve been traded to the Green Bay Packers.’

Dale knew that his fortunes were about to change, as the Rams had never had a winning season in the five years that he had played with Los Angeles, plus was 2-7-1 versus the Packers in that time.

“We were in the same conference as the Packers when I was with the Rams,” Dale said. “We played them twice a year and were very familiar with them. I was aware that the Packers had won the NFL championship in 1961 and 1962.”

With the Packers, Dale saw a couple of familiar faces who had gotten to know while he was with the Rams.

“It just so happened that (quarterback) Zeke Bratkowski and (offensive ends coach) Tom Fears had both preceded me to Green Bay,” Dale said. “I’m sure that they put in a good word for me with Coach Lombardi.

“It was like Christmas for me when I heard the news that I was traded. I grew up in a small town and with Green Bay being the smallest town in the league, it was right down my alley.

“But because the Packers were winners and a contenders is really what counted most. I was thrilled with the opportunity.”

Dale started his NFL career in 1960 with the Rams, after being drafted out of Virginia Tech, where he was an All-American receiver and where the school has retired his No. 84 number.

From 1960 through 1964, Dale, who went 6’2″ and 200 pounds when he played, caught 149 passes for 2,663 yards (a 17.9 yards per catch average) and 17 touchdowns for the Rams.

Lombardi made the trade to acquire Dale because wide receiver Max McGee was aging and also to give quarterback Bart Starr a deep threat in the passing game.

“You know, back then in the league, when a receiver got to be 33 or 34, your career was close to being over because of your legs,” Dale said. “That was kind of the thinking until guys like Jerry Rice proved them wrong.

“The thinking was that Max had hit that age, plus the Packers had also drafted Bob Long in 1964. So in ’65, because Boyd (6’5″, 225) and Max (6’3”, 220) were bigger guys and better blockers, they played X end or split end, while Bob and I played flanker. Still, we all knew each other’s assignments in case someone got hurt.

“In terms of starting, I pulled a muscle in the front of my leg in an exhibition game. It wasn’t as bad as a hamstring pull, but you really couldn’t stride. So for a game or two I didn’t start. But then we played Detroit that year, and either Boyd or Max was hurt and I was healthy then, so I played at X end.

“I had one of my better games while I was in Green Bay against the Lions and caught a 77-yard touchdown or something and made some key blocks. So after the game on the plane ride to Green Bay,  Coach Lombardi came up to me and told me I had my starting job back. I pretty much started at flanker the rest of my career in Green Bay.”

Lombardi and Dale celebrate after beating Colts in 1966

The 1965 season was a turning point for the Packers in terms of getting back to championship-style play. It certainly was for right guard Jerry Kramer, who was trying to come back after missing most of the 1964 season due to intestinal issues.

Kramer had nine medical procedures to resolve the situation, which included removing 16 inches of Kramer’s colon due to a boyhood accident in which a number of large slivers were in his intestine for 11 years.

But thanks to hard work and the assistance of Chandler during training camp, Kramer earned his starting job back at right guard, which happened ironically in the same Detroit game in which Dale got his job back.

The ’65 season started out well enough for the Packers, as they won their first six games of the season. But in the middle of the season, the offense sputtered, as the team scored just 36 points in four games.

But thanks to the fabulous defense by the Packers, the team went 2-2 in those four games. Still, when it was all said and done, the Packers were ranked 12th in total offense for the year. Fortunately, the defense was ranked 3rd, which is a big reason why the Packers finished 10-3-1 and tied the Baltimore Colts for the Western Conference crown.

For the first time since 1959, fullback Jim Taylor did not run for over 1,000 yards. Starr spread the ball around in the passing game, as Dowler led the team with 44 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns, while Dale added 20 receptions for 382 yards and two scores.

Dale came up big in the postseason however. In the Western Conference title game at Lambeau Field versus the Colts, No. 84 had three catches for 63 yards, one which set up the game-winning field goal by Chandler in OT, as the Packers won 13-10.

Dale caught all three passes from Bratkowski, as Starr injured his ribs on the very first play from scrimmage trying to make a tackle after Don Shinnick recovered a fumble by tight end Bill Anderson and scored a touchdown.

I also talked to Bratkowski this week and he gave me his thoughts on Dale.

“I knew Carroll when I was with the Rams,” Bratkowski said. “I knew the quality receiver that he was, as well the quality of person he was.  He was the leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He helped to bring the speakers in.

“Carroll was a hard working, smart football player. He was very humble. Carroll was not selfish at all. He also loved to hunt. He and I would go hunting west of town to hunt grouse on Mondays.

“I can’t say enough positive things about him because he was such a great team player.”

Carroll Dale II

In the 1965 NFL title game also at Lambeau Field versus the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns, Starr was able to return and once again Dale came up big.

Dale caught two passes for 60 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown. Dowler also caught five passes for 59 yards, but it was the Green Bay ground game that dominated the contest.

Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung combined for 201 yards toting the rock and No. 5 scored the last touchdown of the game as the Packers won their third NFL title under Lombardi 23-12.

I also had the opportunity to talk to Dowler this week and he talked about the arrival of Dale from the Rams prior to the ’65 season.

“When Carroll came over, I think everybody figured that he came in to replace Max,” Dowler said. “Max was pretty old at the time. But Max played pretty good for a long, long time. But when Carroll came in, he got most of the playing time over Max.

“But later in the ’65 season, Coach Lombardi wanted to get Max in the game because we weren’t getting a lot of production from Marvin [Fleming]. And that’s no knock on Marvin, because he was a wonderful blocker, but not much of a receiving threat.

“So what Coach Lombardi did was put me at the tight end position, because I used to run plays from the next week’s opposing team at practice and I would be John Mackey from the Colts or Mike Ditka from the Bears.

“Coach Lombardi asked me late in the year if I wanted to play the tight end position on passing plays so we could put Max in my old spot outside. I told him that I would love it. The very first time we tried that maneuver against the Colts, I caught a third down pass for a first down and then later a touchdown pass from the tight end position. We did that quite often for the next four years at times, but it isn’t talked about a lot.”

Dowler then talked about what Dale brought to the team as a receiver.

“Max and I were kind of the same type of guy,” Dowler said. “We were big and maybe a little stronger and maneuverable over the middle of the field.  Carroll was outstanding running full speed down the field and looking back for the ball.  I believe Carroll’s average yards per catch is close to 20 yards a catch. Maybe 19.8.”

Dowler has a magnificent memory, as Dale’s yards per catch average is actually 19.72 yards per catch, which is best in the history of the Packers. That tells you a lot with receivers like Don Hutson and James Lofton also playing with the Packers during their Pro Football Hall of Fame careers.

Dowler continued.

“Carroll gave us more of a long ball threat than Max and I,” Dowler said. “Carroll was special. He ran under the ball and was natural at finding the football on deep passes. He had a natural and smooth stride when he ran.”

In 1966, Dale led the Packer receivers in catches with 37 for 876 yards (23.7 average) and seven touchdowns. Starr was also the NFL MVP that year, as the passing game became a bigger emphasis on offense for the Packers, as the team finished 12-2.

Later that year, when the Packers made it to the NFL championship game again versus the Dallas Cowboys at the Cotton  Bowl, Dale showed off the deep threat attributes that Dowler was talking about, when he caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Starr as the Packers won 34-27.

After the victory over the Cowboys, the Packers would be facing the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Packers won 35-10, as Starr was the game’s MVP and it was McGee who had the huge game at receiver taking over for an injured Dowler.

While No. 85 had seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, Dale also chipped in with four catches for 59 yards. Dale also had a touchdown pass taken off the board after a phantom illegal motion penalty was called.

Carroll Dale in Super Bowl I

“Yes, the TD was for 60-plus yards and was fairly early in the game,” Dale said. “They called motion, but when we looked at the film, we couldn’t see anyone who moved. Maybe they were trying to keep the game close.”

In 1967, the Packers did what had never been done before or never been done since. That is win three straight NFL titles in the playoff era which started in 1933.

But what a difficult ride it was. The ’67 Packers were a team without Taylor and Hornung for the first time. Plus, the guys who replaced them, fullback Jim Grabowski and halfback Elijah Pitts, were both lost for the season in the same game against Baltimore midway through the season.

Starr was also nicked up at the beginning of the year, as Bratkowski had to start at QB in both the fourth and fifth games of the season.

In addition to that, the Packers had two heartbreaking losses on the road to both the Colts and the Rams in the final seconds of those games.

Still, the Packers persevered. Two weeks after losing to the Rams in Los Angeles, the Packers met the Rams again in Milwaukee for the Western Conference title. After a bit of a slow start, Green Bay dominated, as the final score was 28-7.

Dale caught a postseason touchdown pass for the third consecutive year, as he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Starr, plus almost had another as he was tackled just short of the end zone on a 48-yard pass reception. All in all, Dale had six catches for 109 yards and a score in the game.

Eight days later came the “Ice Bowl” game versus the Cowboys at the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

The game came down to an epic drive by the Packers, as they had to drive 68 yards in 4:50 across a frozen field which resembled an ice skating rink trailing 17-14.

The Packers got off to a quick start in the game, as they went ahead on two Starr touchdown passes to Dowler. But a 14-0 lead was turned into a 17-14 deficit after a Dan Reeves option pass to Lance Rentzel on the first play of the 4th quarter.

But the Packers were able to put together the signature drive of the Lombardi era, as Starr was able to sneak behind a classic block by Kramer on defensive tackle Jethro Pugh to score the game-winning touchdown.

In the game, Dale had three catches for 44 yards.

The Packers then went on to win Super Bowl II 33-14 over the Oakland Raiders at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Starr was once again MVP of the game. Dowler had two catches for 71 yards and a score, while Dale had four receptions for 43 yards.

McGee wasn’t quite as dynamic in Super Bowl II as he was in Super Bowl I, but he did make a fabulous 35-yard catch on a play-action pass from Starr.

Which was apropos for the Packers under Lombardi. On countless occasions, Starr completed big passing plays on third and short when the defense was expecting a run from the Green Bay vaunted running game.

Dale explained.

“Coach Lombardi had a philosophy of taking what the defense gave us,” Dale said. “If the defense loaded up the box on a third and short, Bart had a knack for taking advantage of that with a play-action pass for big yardage or even a touchdown.

“If you look at our games, we took what they gave us. I might have a game where I catch five or six passes and score a couple of touchdowns and they might double cover me the next week. And under Lombardi, you never threw to a double covered receiver, otherwise Coach would go nuts.

“That was our philosophy. Just take a look at Super Bowl I or the “Ice Bowl”, you see Bart call the play-action 36 post play and it almost always worked. That was a great play. It just held everybody for a second when they saw the blocking coming.”

Carroll Dale in the Ice Bowl

After the 1967 season, McGee retired and Dale went on to be named to three straight Pro Bowl squads from 1968 through 1970.

Dale stayed on with the Packers through the 1972 season, when Green Bay won the NFC Central title under head coach and general manager Dan Devine. Dale was one of three starters remaining from the Lombardi era teams, along with center Ken Bowman and outside linebacker Dave Robinson. There was also middle linebacker Ray Nitschke, but he was a backup to Jim Carter.

Dale talked about that ’72 team.

“Well, at least we got into the playoffs,” Dale said. “And as I mentioned earlier, Coach Lombardi would always take what they gave you, but that wasn’t the case under Coach Devine when we played the Washington Redskins in the playoffs.

“We went into Washington with a game plan that never changed. They put eight in the box and even though we had two great running backs, the ground game never got going. Eight people can outplay six or seven. I tried to get them to change things up, but nothing changed.”

I also heard from some very good sources that Bart Starr, who was the quarterbacks coach under Devine, also tried to get Devine to change things up and pass more. But it never happened and the Packers lost 16-3, as the Redskins completely shut down the Green Bay running attack.

Devine told Dale that he wanted him to return to the Packers in 1973 and continue to be a veteran leader, but Dale was ultimately cut from the team by Devine and was soon picked up by Bud Grant and the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings went on to Super Bowl VIII, but lost to the Miami Dolphins 24-7.

Dale retired after the 1973 season and what a career he had. Overall, with the Rams, Packers and Vikings, Dale had 438 receptions for 8,277 yards (18.9 average) and 52 touchdowns. In Green Bay alone, Dale had 275 catches for 5,422 yards (19.7 average) and 35 TDs.

Because of his great production on the field, Dale was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1979.

The honors didn’t end there either for Dale. He is also in Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the Virginia Tech Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Looking back on the legacy he has left behind, especially about his time in Green Bay, Dale is certainly thankful.

“Well, it was a great time for me in Green Bay,” Dale said. “It was like having your first car or first bicycle. Winning that first championship in ’65 after all the losing in Los Angeles was fantastic.

“Just being part of that team was just awesome. And also to win three NFL championships in a row was really something. The memories of my time in Green Bay are truly unforgettable!”

The Green Bay Packers and Jerry Kramer Have a Couple of Big Weekends Upcoming

Jerry in 2017 at Alumni Day

Both the Green Bay Packers and Jerry Kramer have a couple of big weekends coming up.

The Packers are preparing to open their 2018 NFL season (the 100th anniversary of the Packers being formed) on Sunday night at Lambeau Field versus the Chicago Bears and their newly acquired pass rusher Khalil Mack.

The following week the Pack will host the defending NFC North champions, the Minnesota Vikings.

The upcoming game against da Bears also marks the annual alumni weekend, as Kramer and many of his former teammates, as well as other former Green Bay players will be on hand.

And when the Packers play the Vikings the following week at Lambeau, Kramer will receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, as well as seeing his name unveiled on the facade, along with the other 24 Packers enshrined in Canton.

The Packers and Bears have been playing each other since 1921 when the NFL was called the American Professional Football Association. When Green Bay defeated Chicago 35-14 last September at Lambeau Field, that victory put the Packers ahead in the series against their long-time rivals for the first time in 85 years.

The series now stands with the Packers holding an edge with a 95-93-6 mark. Kramer knows all about this heated rivalry, as No. 64 talked about that story line in a piece I wrote a couple of years ago.

It was an era when Vince Lombardi coached the Packers and George Halas coached the Bears. In the nine years that the two coached against each other, the Packers held a 13-5 edge in the series.

During that period, the Packers won five NFL titles in seven years under Lombardi, which included three NFL championships in a row (which has never been duplicated in the playoff era of the NFL), as well as winning the first two Super Bowl games.

Da Bears won the 1963 NFL title under Halas.

Lombardi was always primed to play the Bears and he let his team know about as well.

“We were practicing on day before playing the Bears and Coach Lombardi brought us together,” Kramer said. “Coach said, ‘You guys go out and kick the Bears’ ass. And I’ll go out and kick old man Halas’ ass too.’

One of Kramer’s teammates who will be at the alumni weekend get-together is Zeke Bratkowski. The former Georgia Bulldog was the backup to Bart Starr for the Packers in the 1960s, but he started his NFL career with the Bears in the 1950s.

Bratkowski had the honor of playing under both Halas and Lombardi and Zeke talked about that scenario in a story I wrote last summer.

Besides Kramer and Bratkowski, there will be several other former Packers who played under Lombardi at the alumni function this weekend. The list includes Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Boyd Dowler, Dave Robinson, Marv Fleming, Doug Hart, Don Horn, Carroll Dale and Donny Anderson.

Dale and Anderson are the featured alumni this weekend and they will be signing autographs and visiting with fans on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 11 to noon in the Lambeau Field Atrium.

Other former Packers who are expected to attend are LeRoy Butler, John Brockington, Lynn Dickey, Paul Coffman, Jan Stenerud, Johnnie Gray, Ezra Johnson, Mark Lee, Al Matthews, Karl Swanke, David Whitehurst, Gerry Ellis, Gary Ellerson, Tiger Greene, Ron Hallstrom, Perry Kemp, Don Majkowski, Ron Pitts, Blaise Winter, Vince Workman, Don Beebe, Bucky Brooks, Mark Chmura, Earl Dotson, William Henderson, Ryan Longwell, Bryce Paup, Bill Schroeder, Frank Winters, Nick Barnett, Kevin Barry, Colin Cole, Brad Jones, Aaron Kampman, Buddy Aydelette, Craig Nall and Jason Spitz.

At halftime on Sunday night, the Packers will be introducing all of those players.

I talked to Kramer earlier this week and he talked about how great it is to see his former teammates. Plus, this will be the first time he has seen most of them since he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jerry with his Gold Jacket hugging his bust.

“It’s always great seeing the fellas,” Kramer said. “But I’m going to bust my ass to make sure that they know I haven’t changed. I want to show that I’m the same guy I have always been the past 40 years.”

From my perspective, having known Kramer for several years now, I can honestly say that Jerry has not changed one iota since he was inducted among the best of the best in Canton.

The game itself will be a big test for the Packers against the Bears, who are definitely a team on the rise. Chicago added a defensive force with the addition of Mack.

Mack and company will be trying to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, which will not be an easy task, based on the way Rodgers has historically played versus Chicago.

In his career against da Bears, Rodgers is 15-4 in the regular season. In those 19 games, No. 12 has thrown 42 touchdown passes, compared to just nine interceptions for 4,596 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 107.2.

Rodgers and the Packers also beat the Bears 21-14 in the 2010 NFC title game at Soldier Field.

The defense of the Packers, which is now headed by new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, will be trying to force some mistakes by second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

When the Packers go up against the Vikings, Rodgers will definitely keep his eye peeled for linebacker Anthony Barr, as it was Barr who broke the collarbone of Rodgers last season when he took No. 12 down hard to the ground after Rodgers had thrown the ball.

And as good as Rodgers is against the Bears, he is almost equally as good against the Vikings historically. In 19 regular season games, Rodgers is 12-7 against the Vikes, plus has thrown 39 touchdown passes compared to just six picks for 4,571 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 111.7.

And like he did against da Bears, Rodgers has defeated the Vikings in the postseason as well, as the Green Bay beat Minnesota 24-10 in a 2012 NFC Wild Card game at Lambeau Field.

I like Rodgers and the Packers to go 2-0 after their games against da Bears and the Vikings.

Aaron Rodgers 2018.jpg

At halftime of the Vikings game, Kramer will have his cherry on top of the sundae moment, as he receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, as well as seeing his name unveiled on the facade at Lambeau Field in front of the great fans he played in front of for 11 seasons.

Kramer will see his name unveiled along side of the coach who made this all possible, Lombardi, along with several of his Hall of Fame teammates, which include Taylor, Starr, Hornung, Robinson, Forrest Gregg,  Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Willie Wood and Henry Jordan.

“That is going to awesome,” Kramer said. “I’ll never forget the reaction of Jim Ringo when he saw his name on the facade. It was back in 1984, when I was writing Distant Replay with Dick Schaap. We had an alumni get-together at Lambeau and Ringo was there.

“A bunch of us went to Fuzzy’s [Thurston] bar, Shenanigans. Then at the game, we were introduced and had some photos taken of us. Jim was a little unsteady at the time and I helped him down the ramp heading to the field before we were introduced.

“We got about three-quarters down the ramp and then Jim saw his name on the facade. And Jim goes, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!’ He just kept repeating that over and over. Jim was just stunned and awestruck by that honor.

“I have a feeling that I’ll have similar emotions.”

Zeke Bratkowski Talks About the 1965 Western Conference Championship Game

Zeke vs. the Colts

This upcoming Sunday, on August 7, the Green Bay Packers will take on the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame game.

The Packers and Colts have a history that dates back to 1953, when the Colts were still in Baltimore and had first joined the NFL. The Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984.

The two teams have met 42 times in the regular season, with the Colts holding a 21-20-1 edge. When the team was the Baltimore Colts, the Packers led the series 17-16-1.

In their preseason history, the Colts hold a 5-4 edge over the Packers.

The two teams have only met once in the postseason. It was after the 1965 season, when the Colts, who were then in the NFL’s Western Conference, played the Packers at Lambeau Field in the Western Conference Championship Game on December 26.

Both teams had finished the 1965 with identical 10-3-1 records. A playoff game would be needed to see who would play the Cleveland Browns in the 1965 NFL title game. The Browns were the defending NFL champs as well.

The 1965 season was a very interesting season for both the Packers and right guard Jerry Kramer. No. 64 talked with me about that season back in November of 2015.

The Colts came into the game with big issues at the quarterback position, as both starter Johnny Unitas (knee) and backup Gary Cuozzo (dislocated shoulder) were unable to play due to injuries. That meant that halfback Tom Matte would have to play at quarterback.

Matte had played quarterback at Ohio State in college, but was more of a running quarterback, as opposed to utilizing the passing game a lot.

Coming into the game, the Packers looked to have a big advantage at quarterback, as Matte would be up against Bart Starr, who had already won two NFL passing titles at that time, plus had led the Packers to two NFL titles.

But that advantage was soon wiped away on the very first scrimmage play of the game, when linebacker Don Shinnick recovered a Bill Anderson fumble and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.

Starr tried to make a tackle near the end zone on the play and hurt his ribs in the process. No. 15 was forced to leave the game due to the injury, although he still came into the game to hold on extra points and field goals.

Bart being helped off the field by Jerry

I had an opportunity recently to talk to the man who came into the game in relief of Starr at quarterback. That would be Zeke Bratkowski. No. 12 knew he would be going up against an outstanding defense.

The Colts were ranked 4th in the NFL in total defense in 1965. Baltimore’s offense had it’s hands full too, as Green Bay was ranked No. 1 in total defense in the NFL.

“The Colts had a great defense,” Bratkowski said. “That was their calling card in many ways. I was just putting my warmup jacket on when Bart was injured. I just got my helmet and didn’t throw a pass to warm up before I entered the game.

“I did complete a pass on my first throw. The game was a great memory for me. In fact, somebody called me from Green Bay for a radio show and he told me that the drive I had in overtime against the Colts was just as big as Bart’s drive against the Cowboys in the “Ice Bowl” game. That it was in the same magnitude. I thought that was a nice compliment.”

The Packers put up 362 yards of total offense in the playoff game versus the Colts, with 248 yards coming via the air from Bratkowski, the former Georgia Bulldog star.

Meanwhile, the Colts were held to just 175 total yards behind Matte at quarterback. In fact, Matte only threw for 40 yards passing.

Still, the game was a struggle for the Packers. Green Bay was down 10-0 at halftime. The Packers certainly weren’t helped by the turnover margin in the game, that’s for sure. Green Bay turned the ball over four times, as opposed to just once for Baltimore.

But Bratkowski and the Packers scrapped back. In the third quarter, Bratkowski hit wide receiver Carroll Dale with a 33-yard reception that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Paul Hornung. That made the score 10-7.

Earlier in the game, the Packers were stopped near the goal line on four downs in a similar situation, so the touchdown by No. 5 was huge.

The Packers were still down 10-7 late in the game when Bratkowski led the Packers from their own 28 to the Baltimore 15, before kicker Don Chandler attempted a 22-yard field goal. The referees said the kick was good, tying the game, while the Colts were complaining to anyone who would listen that the kick was no good and wide right.

That kick led the NFL to raise the height of the goal posts the following season.

There has been quite a debate on whether that kick was good or not, but one person was sure that it was good. That would be Bratkowski.

“The field goal was good,” Bratkowski said. “The reason I say that is Bart and I were both holders. If he was hurt and couldn’t hold on kicks, I would hold. In practice, the quarterback who wasn’t holding would be under the goal posts catching the kicks, just like in that game.

“But with those short goal posts, unless you were under them, you couldn’t tell if a kick was good or not. And that’s were the officials were when they said the kick was good.”

In overtime, the Colts had a chance to win, but Lou Michaels missed a 47-yard field goal that was hampered by a bad snap.

Taking over at their own 20, the Packers were led down the field by Bratkowski, who completed key passes to both Anderson (19 yards) and Dale (18 yards). The Packers got as far as the Baltimore 18, before Chandler lined up for his 25-yard field goal attempt. This time, there was absolutely no doubt about the field goal, as the kick was good and the Packers were 13-10 overtime winners.

Don Chandler game-winner

“Carroll [Dale] made a few key catches in the game,” Bratkowski said. “That included one in the game-winning drive in overtime which took us into field goal range.”

Dale ended up with three receptions for 63 yards, while the tight end Anderson led the way with eight catches for 78 yards.

Bratkowski reflected on his passing performance in that game, as the running game of the Packers only produced 112 yards rushing.

“We were throwing that ball a lot,” Bratkowski said. “You know, the biggest problem that I had, was that I had to be well aware of the situation. I mean, I’m not going in there to lose this game.

“I knew I had to go in there to win the game. You tend to play a little conservative when you don’t want to lose the game. But as the game wore on, we took advantage in some situations with big passing plays.”

Bratkowski then talked about that 1965 Green Bay team. A team which would win the first of three consecutive NFL championships (including the first two Super Bowls), a feat that has never been matched in the modern history of the NFL.

“Coach Lombardi always used to tell us that we may not have the best players, but we have the best team,” Bratkowski said. “And it was true. I don’t know about the best players, but we had a lot of good athletes. People who could do a lot of different things and who believed in the team concept.”

In my many conversations with Kramer, he often would tell me that there wasn’t a big difference between Starr and Bratkowski when they played quarterback. Both were successful because both were well prepared to do their job.

No. 12 did his job well too. During his career with the Packers, Bratkowski completed 220 of 416 passes for 3,147 yards and 21 TDs.

When I told Bratkowski about Kramer’s comments about his quarterbacking skills compared to Starr’s, the former Chicago Bear and Los Angeles Ram was honored.

“I appreciate you saying that,” Bratkowski said. “A lot of the guys would get on me and tease me about that a little bit, but it was a teasing compliment. I really appreciated that. I never gloated about that situation, because it was really a team effort.”

Jerry Kramer Talks About the 1967 Playoff Game Versus the Los Angeles Rams

Rams-Packers program

The 1967 NFL season was a special one in the history of the Green Bay Packers. It would turn out to be the last season that Vince Lombardi would be the head coach of the team.

Up until that season, Lombardi and his Packers had won four NFL titles in six years, plus had won Super Bowl I. In addition to that, the Packers had a chance to win their third straight NFL championship, a feat which had never been accomplished in the playoff era of the NFL.

1967 was also the year when right guard Jerry Kramer of the Packers kept a diary of the season.  Kramer would recite his thoughts into a tape recorder and then submit those words to Dick Schaap, who edited the words into the final version of the classic book, Instant Replay.

Little did Kramer know that the 1967 season would be one of the most remarkable in the history of the NFL, culminating with the NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys, better known as the “Ice Bowl.” No. 64 played a key role in the outcome of that game as well, as the Packers won 21-17 in the final seconds of that legendary contest.

From training camp, through the “Ice Bowl” victory, then the win in Super Bowl II, Kramer provides a fascinating perspective about the viciousness of the NFL back then, when the game was truly a mixture of blood, sweat and tears.

Kramer also offers an insightful view of Lombardi, as a man, as a coach and as a leader.

Two of the more interesting aspects of the ’67 season were the two times the Packers had to face the Los Angeles Rams. With the Rams now going back to the City of Angels in 2016, I thought it would be an apropos time to talk those contests with Kramer.

The first time the team met was late in the season, when the Packers had already clinched the NFL Central division with a 9-2-1 mark heading into the game. They would be traveling to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to take on the 9-1-2 Rams.

The Packers really had nothing to play for except pride. The Rams meanwhile, were in a heated race with the Baltimore Colts to see who would win the Coastal division. Also, the NFL did not have a wild card format at the time, so the Rams had to win the division to advance to the playoffs.

Lombardi gave the team a quick pep talk on the sideline before the game.

“Thousands of people are here in the stands,” Lombardi told the team. “There are millions of people on television and everyone looking. All this speculation to see what kind of a game the Green Bay Packers are going to play today.

“Right? I want you to be proud of your profession. It’s a great profession. You be proud of this game. You can do a great deal for football today. A great deal for all the players in the league and everything else. Now go out there and play this ball game like I know you can play it!”

This past Friday, the NFL Network had a three-hour special as Super Bowl I was replayed in it’s entirety for the first time since that epic event 49 years ago.

In that special, it was presented that the speech that Lombardi gave his team in the 1967 regular season versus the Rams, was the one he gave before Super Bowl I, which also occurred at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

I knew that wasn’t the case and I posted a comment about it on Facebook. During a conversation I had with Kramer on Tuesday, I mentioned that to him.

“I saw that,” Kramer said speaking of my comment on Facebook. “I said, ‘Bob knows his shit. He’s doing it again. He’s got it right.’

The Packers played a great game on that Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles on December 9, 1967.

It was a hard fought contest, which saw both teams go back and forth taking the lead. The Rams had taken a 17-10 lead in the third period when they kicked off to Travis Williams of the Packers.

Williams had already become a sensation in the NFL in returning kickoffs that season, as he had returned three kicks for touchdowns before this game against the Rams.

No. 23 took the kickoff four yards deep in the end zone and returned the kick for yet another touchdown which tied the game at 17 all.

The Rams took the lead again 20-17 in the fourth quarter on a 16-yard field goal by Bruce Gossett, before the Packers scored on a four-yard touchdown run by fullback Chuck Mercein to give the Packers a 24-20 lead.

Donny's blocked put vs. the Rams

The Packers had that lead until the very last minute when Donny Anderson had his punt blocked by Tony Guillory of the Rams. Quarterback Roman Gabriel and his offense now had the ball on the five-yard line of the Packers with just seconds to go in the game.

Gabriel then threw a touchdown pass to Bernie Casey and the Rams won 27-24, as the Packers lost in heartbreaking fashion.

In Instant Replay, this is what Kramer wrote regarding the outcome of the game:

I was ready to fall down when the game ended. I contained Merlin pretty well, but I was beat from head to toe. I played about as hard as I ever played in my life, and I took an incredible physical pounding in the middle of the line. So did everyone else; everybody gave 100 percent. Coach Lombardi told me I played a great game, but I was down, blue, disappointed, dejected, everything. I never came so close to tears on a football field.

Fortunately for the Packers, they had one more opportunity to play the Rams. This time it would be in the Western Conference Championship Game at Milwaukee County Stadium on December 23, just two weeks after that painful loss to the Rams.

Kramer told me that he knew the Rams would be a very tough test.

“They [the Rams] were a hell of a football team,” Kramer said. “The Fearsome Foursome was very real. There wasn’t any weakness there. They also had a good linebacking corp and good defensive backs. They had a hell of a football team.”

The game didn’t start out well for the Packers as they had a couple of turnovers in the first quarter.  The last turnover led to a score by the Rams, as Gabriel hit Casey on a 29-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.

But the Packers weren’t phased. The team was definitely ready to play, as Lombardi had given the team another pre-game pep talk in the locker room.

Lombardi and the Packers vs. the Rams

“We really got fired up in the locker room when Coach Lombardi gave us his Run to Win speech,” Kramer said. “That got us pretty high. The ring I wear, from Super Bowl II, has Run to Win on the side of it.

“He gave us this wonderful speech of St. Paul’s epistle,  about when all the runners are running the race, only one can win, and we run, not just to be in the race, but we run to win. That got us pumped up pretty good.”

The Packers basically took control of the game emphatically in the second quarter. Kramer talked about one of the strategies that the Packers employed in the game.

“One of the best things we did for the ball game was to put Marv Fleming next to Forrest [Gregg] to double Deacon [Jones],” Kramer said. “We really spent some time on trying to neutralize him and keep him a way from his favorite target [the quarterback].

“So that worked really well. Of course Travis [Williams] was the wild card in that game. I remember blocking on Merlin [Olsen] and he was starting to slip away to the outside in pursuit and I look outside and Travis was about even with us, but near the sideline running towards the end zone. And I knew that this play was over. He’s gone.”

Gone he was, as Williams galloped 46 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.

The Packers added another touchdown in the second quarter, as Bart Starr threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Carroll Dale for a 14-7 lead going into halftime.

The Packers were never threatened after that. Williams ended up with 88 yards rushing and two scores, while Dale caught six passes for 109 yards and a score.

The Packers had 20 first downs to the Rams 12 in the game. Starr was only sacked once, while Gabriel was sacked five times, including 3.5 sacks by Henry Jordan.

The result was a very satisfying 28-7 victory over the Rams. That win set up the game eight days later, when the Packers played the Cowboys in the Ice Bowl game, when the Packers won their third straight NFL title.

This is what Kramer wrote regarding that great win against the Rams in Instant Replay:

I was misty-eyed myself I felt so good. I felt so proud, proud of myself and proud of my teammates and proud of my coaches. I felt like I was part of something special. I guess it’s the way a group of scientists feel when they make a big breakthrough, though, of course, we aren’t that important. It’s a feeling of being together, completely together, a singleness of purpose, accomplishing something that is very difficult to accomplish, accomplishing something that a lot of people thought you couldn’t accomplish. It sent a beautiful shiver up my back.

One of the reasons Kramer was busting with pride was due to the fact that he had competed against arguably the best defensive tackle in the history of the NFL, Merlin Olsen.

Kramer talked to me about the many times he competed against the great No. 74 of the Rams.

“I knew that Merlin was never going to let up on the field,” Kramer said. “He was never going to quit. He wasn’t going to hold you. He wasn’t going to play dirty. But he wasn’t going to take a play off either. He was coming.

“You had to gamble a little bit with Merlin. I liked to pop him every once in awhile. Like if it’s a pass play, I might come off the line of scrimmage and just whack him real quick like it’s a running play. Then I would almost bounce back into my position as a pass-blocker.

Packers-Rams playoff game in '67

“That gave me an extra second for him to figure out that it really was a pass play. I remember one time he was starting to loop around the center towards Fuzzy [Thurston}, and I came up and popped him real quick with my helmet. And he went down to one knee and then bounced back up into a running position.

“He was a load. He was strong. He was motivated. He was smart. And he may have been the best I ever played against.”

Olsen had the honors to prove it. He was named to 14 Pro Bowls and was named first team All-Pro nine times.

The respect and admiration that Kramer had for Olsen, was equally shared by No. 74 towards No. 64.

In fact, Olsen sent off this letter of endorsement for Kramer regarding induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

“There is no question in my mind that Jerry Kramer has Hall of Fame credentials. Respect is given grudgingly in the trenches of the NFL and Jerry has earned my respect as we battled eye to eye in the pits on so many long afternoons.

Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame and I hope you will put this process in motion by including his name on the ballot for this coming year.”

That might be the strongest endorsement Kramer has ever received regarding his rightful place in Canton, which has still yet to occur, even with Kramer being a finalist 10 times.

I have written about this travesty many times, including in this story.

How can a man who was on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, be kept out of Canton? Kramer is the only member of that first-team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In addition, No. 64 was a five-time All-Pro and named to three Pro Bowls. He was also on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

But his biggest moments came on the football field in the postseason, when it truly was win or go home. The Packers kept winning and Kramer was a big reason why, especially in the 1962, 1965 and 1967 NFL title games.

Olsen wasn’t the only player who has come out to speak out on behalf of Kramer being in the Hall of Fame. So have contemporaries like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Bob Lilly, Doug Atkins, Alan Page, Joe Schmidt, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Tommy McDonald and Lem Barney.

You can see all of those endorsements and much more in this great book put together by Randy Simon.

No matter what your occupation in life is, you always want to be respected by your peers. And Kramer certainly was respected by his rivals in the NFL.

“In the wee small hours of the morning, I rather have the applause of my peers, than to not have the applause of my peers and be in the Hall,” Kramer said. “I rather have the guys I admired and I thought a lot of, think that I belong, than to be in there and have them think I didn’t.”

There is absolutely no question that Gerald Louis Kramer belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has the credentials, the championships and the respect of his peers who are already in Canton.

Merlin Olsen

In less than a week, on January 23rd, Kramer will celebrate his 80th birthday. He has waited far too long for his proper enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Here’s hoping that this injustice will be taken care of when Kramer is part of the Class of 2017 in Canton.

It s a well-deserved honor which has eluded the best guard in the history of the NFL, at least based on his inclusion on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.

You know Merlin Olsen would certainly agree.