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!

Jerry Kramer and Dave Robinson Talk About the Legacy of Willie Davis

Willie and Jerry

When Willie Davis passed away on April 15, Jerry Kramer lost one of his best friends. They had a close relationship which spanned close to 60 years. A number of the great memories that the two of them had will be shared in this story.

Thanks to the heartwarming and also heartbreaking movie Brian’s Song, people became aware that Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo were the first black and white NFL players to room together. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that Willie and Jerry were the second black and white roommates in the NFL. That happened in 1968.

That strong friendship happened due to just a brief comment that Davis made to Kramer late in the 1962 season.

“We were in Los Angeles at the practice facility,” Kramer said. “We were getting to play the Rams. Back then, we always played the last two games of the season in Los Angeles and San Francisco. We had finished practice and I was getting ready to take a shower.

“So I had a towel around my waist and I was heading to the shower. Anyway, I stopped to chat with one of the guys and Willie was in that area.  So I’m talking to the guy and Willie came by and said, ‘J, you had a hell of a season and I think you are going to make the All-Pro team.’ I thanked him, as it was a nice compliment. It was a big moment for me, because I had been named All-Pro once before, but you were never certain you might make it a second time.

“Willie then walked on and headed into the shower. After I finished my conversation, I went into the shower. I kept thinking to myself that was a nice thing for Willie to say to me. But I thought beyond that and I remembered that Willie had a hell of a year as well. He should have been All-Pro too. So I told him that. Willie had never made All-Pro up to that point and he was very pleased to have me say that to him. He thanked me for the compliment.

“Both of our comments were genuine too. When didn’t judge each other because of our color. We judged each other based on our contribution to the team. It was just a case of two guys playing on the same team who were making a difference and recognizing that fact.”

When the 1962 season was over, not only did the Packers win their second straight NFL title in a game in which Kramer received a game ball because of his play, but also Kramer and Davis were indeed named Associated Press first-team All-Pro along with eight of their teammates on the Packers.

In 1963, the Packers first-round draft choice was Dave Robinson out of Penn State. In his first two years in the NFL, Robinson saw spot duty at right outside linebacker and started seven game there. But in 1965, Robinson was moved over to left outside linebacker, where he would play behind Davis at left end.

Robinson commented about the left side of the Green Bay defense then.

“I want to tell you something. I felt that we had the strongest left side defense in the history of the NFL,” Robinson said. “Our leader was Willie Davis! Willie was the defensive end and I was behind him at linebacker. Behind me was Herb Adderley at cornerback. Sometimes middle linebacker Ray Nitschke would shade to the left, as did safety Willie Wood.

“That means that when we lined up in that formation, we had five players on the left side of the defense who were future Hall of Famers. Willie Wood was the one who kept the entire defense together, but it was Willie Davis who kept our left side strong. Nobody could run the same play on us twice successfully. ”

Robinson remembered a time when that happened against the Cleveland Browns.

“I remember very distinctly that we were playing Cleveland,” Robinson said. “Willie always had big games against Cleveland because they were the ones who traded him. On this one play, the tight end tried to hook me, while the tackled pulled to the outside. Willie went with the pulling tackle naturally and what happened was the Browns then brought the off guard behind him who blocked Willie in the back. It wasn’t a clip. You could do that then on a play tackle-to-tackle.

“So Willie got knocked down and Leroy Kelly gained like seven or eight yards. Willie was mad and he yelled to the Browns, “You can take that play and throw it in the shit can because it won’t work no more.’ So in the huddle, Willie tells me if they run that play again, that I have to take the tackle and the tight end, because he was going to close on that guard. I said okay. I’m thinking to myself, how can I handle two men? But you didn’t argue with the “Doctor” when he told you something.

“Sure enough, three or four plays later, they called the same play again. So Willie took one step like he was going to chase the tackle and then stopped and waited for the guard. He put the guard on the ground with a forearm and then picked up Leroy Kelly and just slammed him to the ground. And Willie says to Leroy while he was stuttering a bit, ‘I…I…I told you not to run that play no more!’

20200728_143957

In the 1965 NFL title game at Lambeau Field against those same Browns…Davis, Robinson, Nitschke and company held the great Jim Brown to just 50 yards rushing in a game which turned out be his last ever in the NFL.

Meanwhile, the running attack of Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor combined for 201 yards and a score behind the blocking of Kramer, Fuzzy Thurston and company, as the Packers won 23-12.

Another play which involved Davis and Robinson occurred when the Packers were playing the Baltimore Colts at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore late in the 1966 season.

A win would clinch the Western Conference title for the Packers, while a win by the Colts would give them a slight chance to still win the title. Quarterback Bart Starr started the game at quarterback for the Packers, but after an injury, was replaced by the best backup quarterback in the NFL at that time, Zeke Bratkowski.

Bratkowski led the Packers to a touchdown drive in the 4th quarter which gave the Packers a 14-10 lead. But quarterback Johnny Unitas had the Colts driving late in the game and a touchdown would win the game for Baltimore.

Robinson remembered that moment well.

“Yes, Johnny had them on the move,” Robinson said. “I saw Unitas running with the ball and he looked at me and I looked at him and he tried to give a little rooster move, the old head and shoulders fake. When he did that, he held the ball away from his body a bit and I saw big Willie’s hand come out and hit right on the ball and it came out and hit the ground.

“It popped up and I picked it up. I knew all I had to do is hold on to the ball and we would win the game.  I ran about five yards or so and a bunch of Colts were trying to pry the ball out of my hands before I finally went down.”

20200728_144546

The Packers won their second straight NFL title in 1966, plus won Super Bowl I, when Davis had two sacks in the game, as Green Bay defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.

In 1967, which was Vince Lombardi’s last year as head coach of the Packers, the Packers won their third straight NFL title by beating the Dallas Cowboys in the “Ice Bowl” game, plus also won their second straight Super Bowl, as they defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II. Davis had three sacks in that game, which gave him five sacks in two Super Bowl games.

That storybook 1967 season was chronicled by Jerry in the classic book Instant Replay, which was edited by the late, great Dick Schaap.

Kramer, Davis and Robinson had put together quite a legacy for themselves up to that point going into the 1968 season.

Kramer had been named AP first-team All-Pro five times and he been on three Pro Bowl teams. Davis had been named AP first-team All-Pro five times himself, plus had been on five Pro Bowl teams. Robinson, who got his first chance to start full-time in 1965, had become part of the best group of linebackers in the NFL, along with Nitschke and Lee Roy Caffey. Robinson was named AP first-team All-Pro in 1967 and had been on the Pro Bowl teams in both 1966 and 1967.

Heading into training camp in 1968, Kramer knew he would be without his old roommate, Don Chandler, as No. 34 had retired.

“Willie and I knew that we were both in the latter portion of our careers at that point, Kramer said. “So we would talk about what happens after retirement. I asked Willie what his plans were, as he had been doing a lot of studying, because he had gotten his MBA at the University of Chicago. So we would talk about the radio business, communications and restaurant franchises.

“I mentioned to him that there was a new steak house in town and that it was a franchise and it looked pretty hot. I said that we ought to go look at it. Willie agreed to do so. I was thrilled. So we did that after practice. When we were done and heading back to the dorm, we were flapping our gums about the possibilities.

“My room was fairly close to the door and so we walked down to my room while we were still chatting. We were continuing that conversation and at some point Willie said that he better get back to his room. And I said to him why don’t you room with me or something like that. I told him that my roomy wasn’t coming back. Willie looked at me like he was considering it. He thought about it for a minute and he said, ‘Okay. Let me get my stuff.’ So that was how we became roommates. It was just casual. It wasn’t a big deal. We had a lot in common and it just made a lot of sense.”

Robinson remembered when Kramer and Davis became roommates too.

“it was a monumental moment for the team when Jerry and Willie became roommates,” Robinson said. “They were the first interracial couple so to speak in our team’s history. But you know what, the way they did it, it wasn’t a big issue. It was just two guys rooming together that got along fine.

“We never thought of them as black and white roommates. They were just two guys who get along. They were a great blend. Color never came up. It wasn’t a big issue. It could have been with somebody else, but not with Jerry and Willie.

“In fact on our team, color was never an issue. Coach Lombardi saw something in Willie. Coach wanted Willie to be the liaison between himself and the rest of the club. Primarily the black ballplayers. If anything did come up, regarding any issues for the players, trainers, equipment guys, what have you, we would go to Willie and say that this is wrong.

“After that, Willie would go to Vince and the problem was fixed quickly. And if Vince saw a problem with one of us, he would go to Willie. And Willie would call the player into his room and that matter would be settled quickly as well.”

Kramer concurred with with Robinson said.

“Willie had the respect of the players,” Kramer told me. “Not just the players of color, but all the players.

“When there was a problem when black players were having trouble getting decent housing accommodations at one time, Willie would talk to coach Lombardi about it, and then coach would chew some ass and straighten it out.”

Davis also had a great sense of humor. He told his teammates that his nickname was Dr. Feelgood. Why? Because he made women feel so good.

“Willie was always chatting with the guys,” Kramer said. “He would always get the fellas cracking up with his jokes and humor.”

Kramer retired after the 1968 season and his last game was against the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field, while Davis retired after the 1969 season and his last game was against the St. Louis Cardinals at Lambeau Field. The common denominator in each one of those games was the performance of quarterback Don Horn.

In Jerry’s last game in 1968, when Horn came into the game for an injured Zeke Bratkowski, Kramer saw Horn and yelled, “What the hell are you in here for? Where’s Zeke?”

But Horn soon had Kramer and the other players on the Green Bay offense at ease, as No. 13 threw for 187 yards, plus had two touchdown passes without throwing a pick, as the Packers won 28-27.

In Davis’ last game in 1969, one in which Davis spoke to the crowd at Lambeau Field, Horn had a masterful performance, as he threw for 410 yards and also threw five touchdown passes, as the Packers beat the Cardinals 45-28.

Late in the game on the sideline, Davis came up to Horn laughing and said, “You stole my thunder!”

Robinson played with the Packers through the 1972 season and then was traded to the Washington Redskins where he spent the last two years of his NFL career playing under head coach George Allen.

It was in Washington when Robinson played with another Hall of Fame defensive end, Deacon Jones.

“I played behind Willie Davis for five years,” Robinson said. “And in Washington, at the end of his career, I played behind Deacon Jones. After playing with Deacon, I said to myself that he could not carry Willie’s jock strap. Now I’m not trying to say Deacon was a lousy football player, he was a great football player, but he was different from Willie.

“Deacon was the type of player who could execute. Willie was the type of player who could improvise and execute. That was a big difference. You sometimes could fool Deacon. Willie on the other hand, could sense what was coming. Both Deacon and Willie were great players, but Willie could improvise. He could analyze, improvise and then execute.”

After each of them retired, both Kramer and Davis became very close friends and were often in each other’s company.

“I was always comfortable with Willie,” Kramer said. “It didn’t matter where the hell we were. I could take him anywhere and he could take me anywhere. We were just comfortable with one another.”

Jerry and Willie by Dan

One of those times occurred in 1969. But before that happened, Kramer was invited to the inaugural ball for President Richard Nixon, who had just been elected in November of 1968. Jerry was there with some friends, including former NFL player Claude Crabb, attorney John Curtin and Jay Fiondella, the owner of the famous restaurant in Santa Monica, California called Chez Jay.

Jerry’s new book Instant Replay was doing very well and was on the bestseller’s list and was No. 2 at the time. There were some photographers there and a number of people wanted to be photographed with Kramer.

“So I’m trying to be as pleasant as possible and accommodating,” Kramer said. “One of the photos was with an African-American lady who was a beauty queen. She was just gorgeous. Plus she was very nice.

“So while this is going on, a photographer from Jet Magazine also took a few photos. Jay, who was standing next to the the photographer from Jet Magazine, decided to add a little spice to the evening. He told the photographer that the black lady I had just taken a picture with was my fiancée. And sure enough, the guy publishes the photos in Jet the next week.

“At the time, I was going through a divorce. So my wife was pissed, my girlfriend was pissed and I was pissed when this came out. I called a lawyer to see what we could do and the guy told me to leave it alone. That the story would go away. I was still pissed, as was the lady in the photo, but the story did go away eventually.

“But about three weeks later, I was going to be speaking at the Milwaukee Athletic Club as the Man of the Year, probably due to the book. There were going to have a dinner for me and the room held around 400 to 500 people. It had a stage and everything. Like a movie theater. So I get there early to check things out like the microphone and the setting in the room. I was there about 15 minutes doing that when Willie comes in.

“So Willie comes in the door which is quite a distance from where I was at. Willie starts laughing. He was laughing so hard he could hardly talk. He is just laughing his ass off. Finally he points at me and me and says, ‘Don’t ever let the white man say I can’t communicate. I room with the guy for a year and he’s ready to cross the road on me!’ Willie had obviously seen the photos in Jet and he was just jerking my chain.”

Yes, since they started rooming together in 1968 moving forward to when Willie passed, Jerry and Willie were very close. How close? Jerry told me that Willie was among his five closest friends in the world.

Another memory that Kramer will never forget was when he and Willie were on a fishing trip in Idaho in the Hell’s Canyon region.

“Yes, we were probably a couple hours from Boise,” Kramer said. “We went up over the mountain there over to a guide’s arrangement there with rooms, boats, fishing equipment and things. We stayed with him a couple of days and did a lot of fishing.

“One day we went about 15 miles upstream. The area was wild ass country because the river was only able to accessed by jetboat. We did a lot of lot of laughing and giggling, as we were doing something that Willie had never done. So we were fishing and Willie catches a carp. Of course they aren’t edible and they are basically a garbage fish.

“So Willie reels it in and the guide looks at it and says, ‘I’ll take care of that son of a bitch!’ He then reaches for his knife which had about an eight or nine inch blade on it and he just slits the fish from stem to stern and throws him in the water. Willie’s eyes became huge and he says, ‘J, what did that man do to that fish? What is that fish guilty of?’

“I know I was surprised, so I know Willie was. So we catch a couple more fish. Then Willie catches another carp and had it almost in the boat, but it’s hanging off his pole. The guide says once again, ‘I’ll take care of that son of a bitch!’ He reaches in a compartment in his boat and he has a 12-gauge there. In one motion he just blows the fish to hell and back with the shotgun. The empty hook and the sinker on Willie’s pole are just hanging there and Willie is just looking down at the water.

“Then Willie looks at the shotgun. Then he looks back at the water where the fish has been vaporized. Then he looks back at the gun. But we just had a great time out there and we came back to the cottage with our fish haul and Willie started cooking them. It was just a great time with a great friend!”

Resized_21

When Jerry would get together with Willie and his wife Carol in California, Jerry always knew he had a great setting during his visit.

“I had the Kramer suite at the Davis home in Marina del Ray,” Kramer said. “It was the big bedroom upstairs looking out at the ocean.”

Besides being teammates, plus being together on various All-Pro teams and Pro Bowl squads, Davis, Kramer and Robinson were all on the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade Team of the 1960s. The three of them were joined on that team by teammates Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Boyd Dowler, Forrest Gregg, Jim Ringo, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Wood and Don Chandler.

Everyone of those players I just mentioned have busts in Canton. All except for Dowler and Chandler.

Speaking of Canton, Kramer and Robinson were good luck charms to each other when they were each inducted in the Hall of Fame, a place where Davis received a bust in 1981.

“Yes, the night before I was inducted in 2013 in New Orleans, Jerry joined me for dinner and we had a couple of bottles of wine,” Robinson said. “We did the same thing in Minneapolis in 2018 the night before he was inducted.

“The weird part about being in New Orleans, is that was where Jerry didn’t get in as a senior in ’97. I kept thinking, I hope this isn’t déjà vu. I was a bit nervous. But Jerry settled me down. Jerry told me that our dinner would be good luck for me and it was. So when he came up in 2018 in Minneapolis, my son and I went to dinner with Jerry and some people at Ruth’s Chris and had a great steak dinner. Plus we had our wine, too! I was so happy when Jerry got in. Almost as happy when I went in!”

The legacy that Davis, Kramer, Robinson and so many of their Green Bay teammates have created all stems from the guidance of Coach Lombardi. I have talked with many of the players from those championship teams in Green Bay under Lombardi and all have shown exceptional class and humility.

I talk to Kramer more than anyone and it’s a relationship I truly cherish. I first got to meet Robinson at Jerry’s party in Canton before the induction ceremony and when we talked again recently, it was like we were old buddies. I was only able to chat with Willie once and that was when he was on the phone with his wife Carol talking to me, but what an honor that was.

Getting back to Vince Lombardi now. Obviously, he was a great coach and a great teacher. But he was more than that. He was also a great man. A man who molded great football players to be sure, but more importantly than that, he molded great people.

Davis, Kramer and Robinson are a testament to that!

Only One Player from the Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers on the NFL 100 All-Time Team? Really???

NFL 100 All-Time Team(1)

I can imagine the response from Vince Lombardi in the spiritual world when he saw the final roster for the NFL 100 All-Time Team.

“What the hell’s going on out here?”

Now I’m sure that Lombardi was pleased that he was included among the coaches who were part of this NFL 100 All-Time Team, but to have only one player from his team when he was head coach of the Green Bay Packers make this illustrious squad, had to be appalling to someone who had as much pride as Lombardi had.

I’m talking about his team in Green Bay (aka Titletown) which won five NFL championships in seven years, which included the first two Super Bowls.

Plus, his teams that won the NFL titles in 1965, 1966 and 1967, became the only franchise to ever win three championships in a row since the playoff era started in the NFL in 1933.

That feat has never been duplicated before or since.

Lombardi’s Green Bay teams were 9-1 in the postseason overall.

Forrest Gregg vs. Deacon Jones

Even with that sparkling track record, only right tackle Forrest Gregg was deemed good enough to make the NFL 100 All-Time Team from those Lombardi teams.

To me, that’s a BIG crock!

Yes, safety Emlen Tunnell was also on the NFL 100 team, but he only played three years under Lombardi in Green Bay and spent the major part (11 years) of his NFL career with the New York Giants.

Now the Packers did get some representation on the all-time team, as Curly Lambeau was also part of the group of coaches.

Plus there were players like Don Hutson, Cal Hubbard, Brett Favre and Reggie White who made the all-time NFL 100.

But you can’t tell me that Bart Starr shouldn’t have been included among the all-time team at quarterback.

Or that Jerry Kramer shouldn’t have been among the group of all-time 100 guards.

Or that Ray Nitschke shouldn’t have been in the group of linebackers who made the NFL 100 team.

Or that Herb Adderley shouldn’t been part of the group of cornerbacks on the all-time 100 team.

I could go on and on.

There is halfback Paul Horning.

There is fullback Jim Taylor.

There is center Jim Ringo.

There is defensive end Willie Davis.

There is defensive tackle Henry Jordan.

There is linebacker Dave Robinson.

There is safety Willie Wood.

There is safety Bobby Dillon.

All of those players are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for a reason, although it took far too long for some of them to get inducted.

Plus, there are others who played under Lombardi in Green Bay who also most certainly deserve consideration for getting a bust in Canton. I’m talking about wide receiver Boyd Dowler, tight end Ron Kramer and guard Gale Gillingham.

Guard Fuzzy Thurston and kicker/punter Don Chandler also deserve an opportunity to be talked about in the seniors committee room regarding their accomplishments in the NFL.

But for this exercise, I’m just going to focus on why at least Starr, Kramer, Nitschke and Adderley all definitely deserved to be part of the NFL 100 All-Time Team.

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Photo by John Biever

So why does Starr deserve to be on the all-time team? Well, he did lead the Packers to five NFL titles in seven years. No NFL quarterback ever accomplished that type of achievement in a shorter period of time.

No. 15 was also the MVP of both Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II, plus was MVP of the NFL in 1966.

In addition to that, Starr led the NFL passing three times, and is the highest-rated passer of all time (with at least 200 passing attempts) when it counts the most…the NFL postseason. Bart had a 104.6 passer rating, as he threw 15 touchdown passes to just three interceptions in leading the Packers to a 9-1 record in the postseason.

So, how in the hell could Starr be left out of a group of the 10 best quarterbacks of all time? I have no idea, but the fact that he was left out does not bode well for the NFL history education of some of the voters.

The same goes for Kramer. No. 64 was named first-team All-Pro five times and went to three Pro Bowls. Kramer would have won more awards if not for injuries and illness.

Jerry also performed in the big games, much like Starr did. Kramer’s performance in the NFL title games in 1962, 1965 and 1967 put an exclamation point on that criteria.

Jerry was also named to the NFL All-Decade Team in the 1960s, plus was the only guard named to the first team on the NFL 50th Anniversary Team.

But Jerry was left off the NFL 100 All-Time Team. What made that even more outrageous is that two guards who were behind Kramer on the 50th Anniversary Team, Dan Fortmann (second team) and Jim Parker (third team), made the NFL 100 team.

That is a slap in the face to the voters of the NFL 50th Anniversary Team. Voters who actually witnessed the exploits of the players who they voted for. Unlike the voters of today, who seem to think the NFL started in 1980.

Nitschke was also on the first team of the 50th Anniversary Team. No. 66 was also named All-Pro five times, but for some unbelievable reason, was named to just one Pro Bowl squad.

Ray was the face of those great defenses that the Packers had under Phil Bengtson in Green Bay. The Packers were always a Top 10 defense when Bengtson was the defensive coordinator under Lombardi and were Top 5 seven times and were ranked No. 1 twice.

And Nitschke was the leader of that defense, which is why he was named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1960s. No. 66 was also named MVP of the 1962 NFL title game.

Ray bloody

But like Starr and Kramer, Nitschke did not make the NFL 100 squad. On the 50th Anniversary Team, Nitschke was first team, while Joe Schmidt was second team, but it was Schmidt who made the 100 team, not Nitschke.

Adderley was also on the 50th Anniversary Team (third team). Dick “Night Train” Lane was first team on that 50 team and was considered the best cornerback of his generation, due to his ball-hawking ability and his tenacious and vicious tackling.

Adderley played a similar style of football and he and Lane were considered high above any cornerbacks in the era in which they played in. Why? They played the pass and run equally well.

Compare that to someone like Deion Sanders, who is on the NFL 100 squad. There is no question that Sanders was the best shut-down cornerback in his day versus the pass, but against the run, Deion often looked like he was looking for a fox hole to dive into, as offensive linemen and running backs were heading his way.

Teams never passed on the side of the field that Sanders occupied, but they almost always ran in his direction.

Anyway, back to Adderley. No. 26 had 48 picks for 1,046 yards and seven touchdowns in his NFL career. 39 of those interceptions came when he was a member of the Packers. All of his touchdowns also came while he played in Green Bay.

Adderley also played on six teams which won NFL titles.

Herb vs. the Colts

Like Starr, Kramer and Nitschke, Adderley was also on the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1960s. No. 26 was named All-Pro four times and went to five Pro Bowls.

No. 26 also came up big in the postseason, as he had five picks, which included a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown versus the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II.

Bottom line, it’s unfathomable that only one member of those fabulous Vince Lombardi teams put together in Green Bay in the 1960s made the NFL 100 All-Time Team.

It’s actually embarrassing. For some of the voters, that is.

Looking Back on the Super Bowl I Victory by the Green Bay Packers Over the Kansas City Chiefs

Bart in Super Bowl I

The Green Bay Packers have won 13 NFL titles, which is the most by any team in league history.  The next closest team, the Chicago Bears, have won nine.

Included in their 13 NFL championships, the Packers have also won four Super Bowls.

Let’s take a look back on the first Super Bowl win by the Pack, which was Super Bowl I.

Going into Super Bowl I, which at the time was called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, the Packers were 12-2 in the Western Conference in the NFL during the1966 season and had defeated the Dallas Cowboys 34-27 in the NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

The Chiefs were 11-2-1 that season in the AFL and defeated the Buffalo Bills 31-7 in the AFL title game at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo.

When the two teams met in Super Bowl I, which was played on January 15, 1967, the Packers ended up winning the first championship game between the NFL and AFL 35-10, as quarterback Bart Starr was named the MVP of the game.

No. 15 completed 16-of-23 passes for 250 yards and also threw two touchdown passes. Starr was especially deadly on third down, as the Packers were able to convert 11-of-15 chances on that crucial down.

Fullback Jim Taylor led the Packers in rushing with 56 yards in Super Bowl I and also scored a touchdown on the vaunted play of the Packers, the power sweep.

Jim Taylor scores on power sweep in Super Bowl I

How the championship game got it’s Super Bowl name actually came from Lamar Hunt’s daughter. Hunt was the then-owner of the Chiefs, and like most kids of that era, Hunt’s daughter had a super ball.

The super ball was a rubber ball (with something super inside it) that could bounce way up into the air from the sidewalk and over houses. I had one myself. Anyway, that is how the title game between the NFL and the AFL got its name.

The game occurred after the merger of the two leagues in June of 1966, after the AFL had been trying to sign big-name stars out of the NFL as well as bidding against them to sign talent out of the college ranks after their respective drafts.

To illustrate the magnitude of the game, it was televised by not one, but by two networks, CBS and NBC. CBS was the NFL’s network, while NBC was the AFL‘s network. Between the two, there were over 51 million viewers that day.

The event was also the only game in Super Bowl history that was not a sellout. It was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the attendance was only 61,946 in a stadium that could seat close to 93,000 people in it. Why?

For one thing, Los Angeles wasn’t awarded the game until six weeks before the event, nor was a date set until then. Not exactly a well-planned event, to be sure.

Jerry Kramer first talked about the mindset of the Packers going into that first Super Bowl.

“It’s interesting, because we didn’t really the think the Kansas City Chiefs were a very good football team,” Kramer said. “We didn’t know, because we didn’t know anyone who had played them. We didn’t have any team to measure them against.

“I remember watching the Chiefs defense while we were watching film, and their two safeties ran into one and another. All of a sudden Max [McGee] starts doing the merrie melodies and looney tunes theme song and we all cracked up.

“So we were not really prepared for that first quarter and the quality of talent that showed up for the Chiefs. You were playing against guys like Buck Buchanan, E.J. Holub, Johnny Robinson and Bobby Bell. They had some damn fine football players!”

The Packers only led 14-10 at halftime. But things were completely different in the second half.

Safety Willie Wood picked off a Len Dawson pass early in the third quarter and returned it 50 yards to set up a five-yard touchdown run by Elijah Pitts.

Kramer explained what happened after that.

“We lined up for the extra point against the Chiefs,” Kramer said. “And that’s place where a defender can take a whack at a guy’s head while he’s blocking because it’s exposed. But the kid who was against me just leaned on me with the force of a good feather duster and groaned loudly.

“He used minimum pressure with his effort. He wasn’t trying to block the kick or do anything. After that, I knew the game was over.”

The Packers sacked quarterback Len Dawson of the Chiefs six times, led by the two sacks of Willie Davis and the 1.5 sacks by Henry Jordan.

While the Packers were surprised early in the game by the Chiefs, their head coach wasn’t.

Coach Lombardi knew how good the Chiefs were,” Kramer said. “He tried to impress us about the quality of the team as he raised the fine for breaking curfew from $500 to $5,000.”

That didn’t stop McGee from sneaking out the night before the game, however.

McGee was a star receiver for the Packers in Lombardi’s early years in Green Bay, but in 1965 and 1966, McGee didn’t get a lot of playing time. When he did, he was very clutch.

Before Super Bowl I, McGee caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Starr that was the difference in the 34-27 1966 NFL championship game win at the Cotton Bowl against the Cowboys. But Super Bowl I was where he really made his legend.

Max McGee in Super Bowl I

McGee didn’t expect to play, so he snuck out after curfew the night before the game. McGee couldn’t convince roommate Paul Hornung to go with him that night. No matter, McGee stayed out late that evening and didn’t return until the team breakfast the next morning.

Little did he know what was going to happen that day as he got a one-hour cat nap after breakfast. Starting wide receiver Boyd Dowler injured his shoulder early in the game and McGee had to go in to replace him. McGee was startled as he heard Lombardi yell, “McGee! McGee! Get your ass in there.”

Max got his behind in there all right. Besides catching the first touchdown pass in Super Bowl history, No. 85 put up amazing stats, as he ended up with seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

Kramer talked about how nervous Lombardi was before the big game.

“Frank Gifford and I were talking about the game,” Kramer said. “Gifford was part of the broadcast team for CBS and he interviewed Lombardi before the game.

“Giff told me, ‘I put my hand on Lombardi’s shoulder as I’m interviewing him and I could feel that he was shaking. He was so nervous that he was trembling.’

“Coach Lombardi did take this game very seriously. He was getting notes from the NFL hierarchy, which included George Halas, the Mara family and the Rooney family. They were telling Lombardi that he was our standard-bearer in the NFL and that he represents us. They were saying things like don’t let the NFL down.

“They didn’t want the Packers to just beat the Chiefs. They wanted the Packers to embarrass the Chiefs. So, Coach Lombardi had a lot of pressure on him.”

When it was all said and done, Lombardi and his Packers were victorious by almost a four-touchdown margin in the very first Super Bowl.

The NFL had to be pleased.

When talking about that historical game, Kramer talked about the event which is excited him the most.

“The highlight of the game for me was the astronauts flying around the stadium in a jet pack in the halftime show,” Kramer said. “I thought that was pretty sensational.”

Indeed, it was. I know I loved it being a big Lost In Space fan at the time, as that type of activity was part of the show.

In terms of being sensational, that word describes the Lombardi Packers of the 1960s. Those teams won five NFL championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

Plus, there were the three consecutive NFL titles in 1965, 1966 and 1967. No NFL team has ever duplicated the feat in the playoff era of the NFL, which dates back to 1933.

Coach Lombardi After Super Bowl Victory

Yes, there have been some dynasties in the NFL since then. Teams like the Dolphins, the Steelers, the Cowboys, the Raiders, the 49ers and the Patriots have been dominant at times.

But no team has ever achieved the consistent success of the Lombardi Packers in terms of winning it all in a short period of time.

After all, there is a reason why the ultimate prize in the NFL is called the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles: A Historical Perspective

Packers-Eagles 1960 NFL title game

In their history in the NFL, the 3-0 Green Bay Packers and 1-2 Philadelphia Eagles have played 40 times in the regular season going into tonight’s contest at Lambeau Field. The Packers hold a 26-14 advantage over the Eagles in the series.

The Packers joined the NFL in 1921, while the Eagles came into the league in 1933. In Philadelphia’s inaugural season in the NFL, they met the Packers at old City Stadium in Green Bay and were beaten by a 35-9 margin.

In their most recent meeting in 2016, the Packers defeated the Eagles 27-13 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers is 3-1 lifetime against the Eagles in the regular season and has a 104.4 passer rating against them. Overall, No. 12 has thrown seven touchdown passes vs. two picks for 856 yards.

Philadelphia has also met Rodgers in the postseason, as Rodgers led the Packers to a 21-16 win in a 2010 NFC Wild Card playoff game in Philly. Rodgers and the Packers kept winning that postseason and ended up winning Super Bowl XLV.

Speaking of Super Bowls, the Eagles won Super Bowl LII behind backup quaterback Nick Foles, who had taken over at QB after starter Carson Wentz was lost for the season with a knee injury.

Foles is now in Jacksonville playing with the Jaguars, but will be lost for some time after breaking his clavicle in the first week of the 2019 season.

But Wentz is back. No. 11 is 0-1 in his career vs. Green Bay, as he started against Rodgers in that 2016 regular season game in Philly. Wentz didn’t throw a touchdown in that game, but did throw a pick. He threw for 254 yards and had a passer rating of 75.5.

Now, getting back to the postseason history between the two teams. Overall, Green Bay has won 13 NFL titles, including four Super Bowls. Philadelphia meanwhile, has won four NFL titles, including one Super Bowl.

Before the Wild Card Playoff Game that the Packers and Eagles played in Philadelphia in the 2010 postseason, the two team met twice prior to that in the postseason.

One of those games was in a 2003 NFC Divisional Game, again played in Philadelphia.

The Packers started fast in the game and led 14-0. The ground game of the Packers was especially effective as running back Ahman Green rushed for 156 yards in the game. The Packers were leading 17-14 late in the game when head coach Mike Sherman had a difficult decision to make.

It was fourth down and about a foot to go at the 40 of the Eagles. One more first down ends the game. It’s either go for it or punt. To me, there was nothing to think about. Run for the first down and get ready for the NFC title game the next week.

Why? Well, not only had the Packers been running wild on the Eagles the whole game, they were also ranked third in the NFL in running the ball in 2003. Toting the rock was a big strength of the team.

Still, Sherman decided to punt. The punt went into the end zone and the ball was placed on the 20. The Packers had a net gain of 20 yards after that punt. Plus, Sherman was putting the game in the hands of a defense that was 17th in total defense in 2003 and was even worse in passing defense, as the team was ranked 23rd.

It all led to the 28-yard completion by Donovan McNabb to Freddie Mitchell on the infamous fourth-and-26 play, which led to the game-tying field goal. The Packers later lost in OT, as the Eagles kicked another field goal after Brett Favre was picked off on a deep pass.

Finally there was the 1960 NFL Championship Game played between the Packers and Eagles, again in Philadelphia, but this time at Franklin Field.

I wrote an article about that game almost three years ago. That game was the only postseason loss a Green Bay team coached by Vince Lombardi would ever have.

The Packers dominated the game statistically, but the Eagles ended up winning 17-13. The Packers almost came back to win the game, but the game ended when fullback Jim Taylor caught a 14-yard pass from quarterback Bart Starr, but was tackled at the 8 by linebacker Chuck Bednarik as time expired.

During one of our many conversations, Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer told me that Lombardi addressed the team in the locker room after the game and was very direct in his words.

“After the game, Coach Lombardi stood up on a equipment box and addressed the team,” Kramer said. “He said he was very proud of the way we played. He told us that we were going to be in a number of NFL championship games in the future and that we would never lose again. And he was right.”

The following year the Packers won their first of five NFL titles that the team would win under Lombardi, which included the first two Super Bowls.

After losing that first postseason game against the Eagles, the Packers won nine straight games in the postseason under Lombardi and indeed never lost again.

Carson Wentz and Aaron Rodgers

Back to the game tonight, when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI behind Favre and Super Bowl XLV behind Rodgers, the Packers had also faced the Eagles in the regular season and twice beat them in dominating fashion.

In 1996, Favre and the Packers whipped the Eagles 39-13 at Lambeau Field in a Monday night football game. And in the opening game of the 2010 season, Rodgers and the Packers beat the 27-20 in Philadelphia. The final score did not reflect how much the Packers dominated the game, as the Packers led 27-10 at one point, plus sacked quarterback Michael Vick six times.

We shall see how things will turn out tonight, as the Packers are undefeated and the Eagles are coming into the game banged up.

Based on the history of Rodgers vs. the Eagles, I like Green Bay’s chances, even as No. 12 is still trying to fine tune the offense of new head coach Matt LaFleur.

Plus there is this, the defense of the Packers has sacked opposing QBs 12 times, plus have held the QB to a 63.1 passer rating.

Wentz has been sacked seven times, plus a number of his receiving weapons are injured.

That bodes well for the Packers.

Green Bay Packers: The D gets an A in Beating da Bears

P. Smith chasing Trubisky

Preston Smith of the Packers chases quarterback Mitch Trubisky of the Bears.

The final score on Thursday night at Soldier Field was…Green Bay Packers 10, Chicago Bears 3.

It was apropos that this NFL game between the Packers and Bears was played 60 years after Vince Lombardi made his head coaching debut against George Halas and the Monsters of the Midway at City Stadium (now Lambeau Field).

Yes, in 1959, Lombardi coached his first ever game in the NFL and it was also against da Bears. And like the game was on Thursday night, the contest was a defensive battle. The Packers ended up winning 9-6.

On Thursday night, Matt LaFleur made his head coaching debut for the Packers and like it was for Lombardi in 1959 against the Bears, the defense saved the day.

In 1959, all the Packers could muster on offense was a late Jimmy Taylor touchdown. The only other points scored by the Pack that day was because of a safety after Taylor had scored his fourth quarter touchdown.

In that game, the Packers defense, which was coordinated by Phil Bengtson, held the Bears to 164 total yards. The defense also forced two fumbles, plus scored on the safety.

The Packers only had 262 total yards themselves, led by Taylor’s 98 yards rushing. Paul Hornung also rushed for 61 yards. In all, the Packers rushed for 177 yards behind the work of Jerry Kramer and company on the offensive line.

Quarterback Lamar McHan was only 3-for-12 for 81 yards in passing the ball and also threw an interception.

After the win, the players of the Packers hoisted up Lombardi and carried him across the field.

Lombardi carried off the field in his first game

The Packers carry head coach Vince Lombardi off the field after his debut win versus the Bears in 1959.

On Thursday night, Aaron Rodgers took his career record in the regular season versus the Bears to 17-5, but it wasn’t easy. Rodgers was just 18-of-30 for 203 yards and one touchdown pass, which went to tight end Jimmy Graham from eight yards out in the second quarter.

Rodgers was also sacked five times, as he was trying to implement the new offense that LaFleur has the Packers running this year. The offense is definitely a work in progress. The key to the offense is the outside zone running scheme, but the Packers only had 47 yards rushing, with running back Aaron Jones picking up 39 of those yards.

Rodgers also led the Packers to another score in the fourth quarter, when kicker Mason Crosby connected on a 39-yard field goal.

Other than that, it was the defense coordinated by Mike Pettine which was the story of the game. The Packers harassed quarterback Mitch Trubisky of the Bears all night long and sacked him five times, with 2.5 of the sacks coming from two of the big free agent signings from this offseason, Preston Smith (1.5) and Za’Darius Smith (1.0).

Trubisky was just 26-of-45 for 228 yards and one very costly pick, as former Bear Adrian Amos (another free agent signing) intercepted Trubisky in the back of the end zone late in the fourth quarter.

Adrian Amos pick vs. da Bears

Safety Adrain Amos of the Packers celebrates his late interception of Mitch Trubisky of the Bears.

The defense of the Packers was just as stingy against the run, as they only allowed 46 yards rushing.

The bottom line was that the Packers had a crucial win on the road against their top rival in the NFC North and now will return to play at Lambeau Field to play five of their next six games there.

The next tilt will be against the Minnesota Vikings on September 15, which will also be alumni weekend and also the time when the Packers will honor the late, great Bart Starr.

You may have noticed in the game between the Packers and Bears, that the No. 15 decal was on the back of the Green Bay helmet.

So while the offense of the Packers will continue to have growing pains, the defense looks to be the strength of the team right now. The defense looks to be a top five unit in the NFL this year based on what I saw on Thursday night.

The last time that occurred was in 2010.

That was also the year the Packers went on to win Super Bowl XLV.

 

Green Bay Packers: Catching Up with No. 33, Jim Grabowski

Jim Grabowski vs. the Eagles

Jim Grabowski had some nice karma going for him when he played fullback for the University of Illinois from 1963 through 1965. Grabowski created some of the good fortune himself, due to his fabulous play with the Fighting Illini.

In 1963 as a sophomore, Grabowski rushed for 616 yards and seven touchdowns, plus capped a nice season by being named the 1964 Rose Bowl MVP, as Illinois beat Washington 17-7.

In 1964 and 1965, the Chicago native was named Associated Press All-American in both seasons, as he rushed for a combined 2,262 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Chicago Taft High School alumnus also caught 15 passes in his career at Illinois for 144 yards.

Grabowski finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1965.

Because of his exploits, Grabowski, who wore No. 31 at Illinois, now is in the College Football Hall of Fame, as well as the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

That set things up quite nicely for Grabowski, as the NFL and AFL were still battling for the rights of the best college football talent before the two leagues finally merged in 1966.

Grabowski was drafted first overall in the AFL draft by the Miami Dolphins, who were about to start their expansion season.  Grabowski was also picked ninth overall in the first round of the NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers.

Grabowski explained to me how it felt to be in that enviable position.

“Yes, that was the last year of the competition between the two leagues,” Grabowski said. “It was wonderful for those players who were drafted then. Up until that time, everyone was sort of an indentured servant of the NFL.

“So I had an attorney who was my agent and our strategy was that we had to listen to both offers. Miami was a brand new team. For a little bit of trivia, the very first draft choice of the Miami Dolphins was me.

“But being drafted by the Packers was certainly a factor in their favor. I grew up in Chicago as a Bear fan and I was always aware of the Green Bay Packers. Plus on top of that, they had Vince Lombardi, the god of gods as head coach. That certainly weighed heavy in my decision.”

Grabowski told me how his contract was finalized with the Packers.

“The Packers sent a plane down to negotiate the contract with my agent and myself,” Grabowski said. ” The Packers wanted to fly us to Green Bay. As a kid then, I didn’t realize all this stuff about the best place to negotiate was on your home turf, not theirs.

“So they brought us up there and you have to remember I’m a 21 year-old kid who had not been around much and was happy to play for anything I could get. But my agent really insisted that we play this out. So he told me that no matter what Lombardi said, to not say anything except that we will get back to you.

“Well, we walk into Lombardi’s office and you see all these trophies, championships and pictures around the room. I remember walking into the office and it seemed like the biggest office that I had ever seen. We didn’t sit at his desk, we sat at what looked like a boardroom table. It was pretty impressive.

“So my agent told Lombardi that Miami offered us a wonderful contract. Coach Lombardi went right to the chase. He gave us a number and he said that only provision with that number was that he couldn’t give us anymore than anyone else.

“So he looked at me and said, ‘Son, what do you think?’ I couldn’t help but nod my head yes.”

Lombardi was going through another set of high-priced negotiations with halfback Donny Anderson of Texas Tech, who the Packers had drafted in the first round of the 1965 NFL draft as a future draft pick, which was allowed in those days.

The Packers were battling the Houston Oilers of the AFL for Anderson’s services.

In the end, Lombardi was able to snare both Grabowski and Anderson and the duo was known as the “Gold Dust Twins” because of the contracts they had signed.

Grabowski and Anderson replace Hornung and Taylor

The big deals that Grabowski and Anderson signed did not sit well with one player on the Packers. That would be fullback Jim Taylor. While Anderson received help and guidance from veterans Paul Hornung  and Elijah Pitts, Taylor did not do the same with Grabowski.

“Jimmy was a real competitor,” Grabowski said. “And he was ticked off about the contracts that were signed by Donny and I. And I understood that. Paul was more magnanimous with Donny and Elijah was one of the best guys on that team, as he was very helpful. Jimmy and I had very few words together.”

I know from talking with Jerry Kramer that he really enjoyed his time with Grabowski and Anderson and had no ill will about the contracts that had signed. As Jerry told me once, “Donny and Jim were at the right place at the right time when they came out of college.”

Another veteran on the Packers, Henry Jordan, said this to Grabowski. “I don’t give a crap how much money you make. If you help put a few more dollars in my pocket, I’m with you!”

In his rookie season with the Packers, Grabowski did not get a lot of playing time, as he rushed 127 yards on 29 carries (a 4.4  yards-per-carry average). The game in which Grabowski first received significant playing time was against the expansion Atlanta Falcons at County Stadium in Milwaukee. I happened to be in attendance at that game.

Grabowski led the Packers in rushing that day with 52 yards on just seven carries, as the Packers blew out the Falcons 56-3. It was after that game that Taylor told the media that he was playing out his option with the Packers. That announcement did not sit well with Lombardi.

The most memorable run that Grabowski had as a rookie occurred versus the Minnesota Vikings at Metropolitan Stadium. No. 33 bounced off two groups of tacklers as he scampered 36 yards for a score. All told, Grabowski rushed for 61 yards on just seven carries in the game which was won by the Pack 28-16.

Grabowski also had a big play in the 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl versus the Dallas Cowboys. He was assisted on that big play by Green Bay’s other No. 1 pick in the 1966 NFL draft, guard Gale Gillingham, who was the 13th pick of the first round by the Pack.

After the Packers had grabbed a 7-0 lead after scoring on the opening drive that championship game, on the ensuing kickoff, Gillingham forced a fumble by Mel Renfro, which was recovered by Grabowski and returned 18 yards for another touchdown.

Grabowski recalled that moment.

“Yes, I always got a lot of crap from Gilly because he was in on that tackle,” Grabowski said. “He told me, ‘I caused the fumble and you get the glory.’ I was at the right place at the right time. Plus in that game, the difference in the game was one touchdown.

“I was thrilled. I would like to say that it was a real athletic play, but the fumble came right into my hands and what else could I do?”

Jim Grabowski picks up fumble in 1966 NFL title game

The Packers won that title game 34-27, which set up a match up the first Super Bowl, when the Packers played the Kansas City Chiefs at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The Packers took over the game in the second half and both Grabowski and Anderson got into the game late. Anderson rushed for 30 yards, while Grabowski ran for two, as the Packers won 35-10.

In 1967, both Taylor and Hornung were gone. The new starting backfield for the Packers that season was Grabowski at fullback and Pitts at halfback.

Grabowski got off to a great start that year, both running and catching the football. Against the Bears in Week 2, Grabowski ran for 111 yards on 32 carries and a touchdown, plus caught three passes for 26 more yards.

Grabowski remembered that game well.

“That was a real grinding game,” Grabowski said. “I had a couple carries that were called back. I ended up carrying the ball 36 times overall. I was pretty beat up after that.”

In Week 8, the Packers played the Baltimore Colts at Memorial Stadium. No. 33 was having a great year, as he was third in the NFL in rushing at the time. At that point, Grabowski had 448 yards rushing and had two TDs, plus had caught 12 passes for 171 yards and another score.

But Grabowski and the Packers were struck a cruel blow in the game, as No. 33 went out with a knee injury, while Pitts was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

The injury to Grabowski’s knee was a cartilage issue and he kept rehabbing and working to get back on the field. In fact, Grabowski was able to play in Week 11 against the Bears at Wrigley Field, as he rushed for 18 yards on four carries.

But that would be his last appearance for the Packers that season, even with his efforts to get back on the field. In fact, Grabowski was supposed to start the “Ice Bowl” game at fullback, before he re-injured the knee in pre-game workouts.

Grabowski recalled that moment.

“Yes, I was slated to start,” Grabowski said. “When I had the cartilage injury back then, and I can’t speak for what happens with an injury like that today, but then it just popped and tore everything up and the knee swelled up. So you tried to ice it up and take it easy. I hadn’t done much prior to the “Ice Bowl” for a few weeks, but I was able to practice that week. But before the game I was warming up and I was making a cut on a pass and the knee went out and I was done.”

A lot of people don’t realize that even with the injuries to Grabowski and Pitts that season, the Packers still finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1967, as Anderson and Travis Williams filled in at halfback and Ben Wilson and Chuck Mercein filled in at fullback.

Mercein was a huge factor in the “Ice Bowl”, as he was responsible for 34 of the 68 yards made on that game-winning, epic drive that the Packers made to win the game 21-17.

Mercein told me in one of our conversations that one of his proudest moments came after the game when Grabowski told him that he couldn’t have played any better at FB than Mercein did that day.

With the victory over the Cowboys, the Packers now had won their third straight NFL title and were about to win their second straight Super Bowl, as the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14 at the Orange Bowl in Miami.

In 1968, Grabowski was once again the starting FB for the Packers and he led the team in rushing with 518 yards and also had three rushing TDs. No. 33 also had 18 catches for 210 yards and another score.

That touchdown catch came in the last game of the season, as the Packers played the Bears and Grabowski’s old teammate at Illinois, Dick Butkus. Going into the game, the Packers were 5-7-1 and were out of playoff contention behind head coach Phil Bengtson, who had taken over for Lombardi that year, as Vince was GM only.

Chicago was 7-6 going into the game and a victory would give da Bears the NFL Central title. But after a Zeke Bratkowski injury, Don Horn came into the game at quarterback for the Packers and had a big game. No. 13 threw for 187 yards and two scores and had a passer rating of 142.4 in the game, as the Packers won 28-27.

One of those TD passes was to Grabowski for 67 yards.

Needless to say, Butkus wasn’t too happy when he shook hands with his old buddy Grabowski after the game.

Dick Butkus and Jim Grabowski

The knee injury that Grabowski had suffered in 1967 continued to plague him throughout the rest of his NFL career. In 1969 and 1970 combined, Grabowski rushed for 471 yards and two scores, but people weren’t aware of all the health trauma that the 6’2″, 220-pound fullback was going through.

“What most people don’t know is that in the 1968 offseason that I had a staph infection and was in the hospital for over two weeks,” Grabowski said. “The recuperative part after that took several months. I lost thirty pounds. As I look back at it, the staph infection was a very serious thing and I could have died from it.

“I don’t really talk about this too much. Then the next year the staph infection returned. I was fighting a number of setbacks with my knee over the years. You get injured, then an infection and then another infection. I’m fortunate that I made it through all that.”

In 1971, Grabowski was in training camp with the Packers under new head coach Dan Devine.

Grabowski vividly remembers what happened next.

“I went through about six or seven weeks of camp under Devine and then I was extremely happy to get out of there,” Grabowski said. “Not because of anything to do with the players or the Packers, but I believe I’m in the majority of the people who I have talked to subsequent to those years about playing for Devine.

“Just when we broke up camp, Devine didn’t have the nerve to call me into his office. He cut me, but he made Red Cochran tell me. That’s how brave he was! I told Red that I couldn’t believe that Devine didn’t have the nerve to face me one on one.  I lost all respect for him then.”

Grabowski played with his hometown Bears in 1971 and rushed for 149 yards before he retired.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to continue to play after I was cut by the Packers, as I was basically running on one leg,” Grabowski said. “I was happy to play for the Bears. If you could have told a kid from Chicago that he was going to go on and play for the University of Illinois, then the Packers and end up playing for the Bears, you would say what a dream!”

After he retired from the NFL, Grabowski became a color commentator for Illinois football games and remained in that role for 26 years years before retiring in 2007.

I asked Grabowski what he was up to now.

“I’ve been retired for a number of years now,” Grabowski said. “An old friend of mine, Tom Boerwinkle, who was a center on the Chicago Bulls some years back, retired before I did and I asked Tom what it was like. And he said, ‘I can’t tell you what I’m doing, but I’m busy.’

“That has kind of been my motto. I have grandkids and I watch them do every sport that they are involved in. My wife and I stay busy. Spending time with friends and family and all that. We do a lot of traveling. We’re going to Alaska next month. We’ve been to a lot of places. I’m enjoying the fourth quarter.”

Finally, with the recent passing of Bart Starr, I had to ask Grabowski to share his thoughts about his old teammate.

“With Bart and I, it was like a general and a second lieutenant,” Grabowski said. “He was like Dwight D. Eisenhower and I was a guy with one bar on his helmet. He was the ultimate gentleman. Even in tough circumstances, he was going to treat you with kindness.

“He has always been like that. I felt a real loss when he passed. I knew he was sick and I had not talked with him since he first became sick, as I didn’t want to intrude upon his privacy. But I felt a real loss when I heard he was gone. He was the heart of the Packers. He was what it was all about.

“Thinking about him right now I’m sad that he in no longer with us. There was only one of those guys!”

Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb Have Joined a Legendary Fraternity

Clay Matthews XLV (1)

Packer Nation had a very painful day last week, when they learned that both linebacker Clay Matthews and wide receiver Randall Cobb would be moving on to play for other teams.

Matthews will be going back to his old stomping grounds in southern California, as he signed with the Los Angeles Rams as a free agent. Cobb was a also a free agent and he signed with the Dallas Cowboys.

Both signings occurred on the same day, March 19. It was a double punch to the ribs.

Both Matthews and Cobb left great legacies in Green Bay and gave the Packer faithful many great moments to remember.

In his 10-year career as a Packer, Matthews had 482 total tackles, a franchise record 83.5 sacks, 40 passes defended, six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 15 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries (one returned for a score).

That type of production led Matthews to be honored with six Pro Bowl berths, as well as being named AP first-team All-Pro once and AP second-team All-Pro once.

Matthews was also a terror in the postseason. In 15 games, No. 52 had 53 tackles, 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

No forced fumble was bigger than the one he helped to cause in Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 postseason.  Matthews forced Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall to fumble on the first snap of the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLV, with help from defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

Pittsburgh was driving for a potential go-ahead score at the Packers’ 33-yard line until Matthews’ helmet dislodged the football, popping it into the air.

The Packers took advantage of that turnover with a touchdown drive and went on to win 31-25 and the team’s fourth Super Bowl prize, aptly named the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Clay forces fumble in Super Bowl XLV

Cobb didn’t arrive in Green Bay until 2011, but he had a great career in both the regular season and postseason. In his eight-year career as a Packers, Cobb had 470 receptions (sixth all time in franchise history) for 5,524 yards (11th all time in franchise history) and 41 touchdowns.

No regular season touchdown was bigger than the one Cobb scored in the last game of the 2013 season, when the Packers played the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The winner of that game would win the NFC North, while the loser would go home without a playoff spot.

Here was the situation: There were 46 seconds to go in the game, with the Packers trailing the Bears 28-27 and Green Bay facing a fourth-and-8 scenario.

In the moment of truth, quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who had returned for this game after missing several weeks because of a broken collarbone) first avoided being sacked by Julius Peppers by sprinting to his left and then getting a chip-block by fullback John Kuhn. Rodgers then delivered a 48-yard touchdown pass on the move to Cobb, as the Packers won 33-28.

Cobb was also money in the postseason. In 11 games, No. 18 caught 47 passes for 596 yards and five touchdowns. No TD was bigger than the 42-yard Hail Mary pass Cobb caught from Rodgers at the end of the first half in the 2016 Wild Card Playoff game between the Packers and New York Giants at Lambeau Field.

In all, Cobb caught three touchdown passes in the game, as the Pack whipped the G-Men 38-13.

Rodgers to Cobb in 2013 vs. da Bears

While there is no doubt that both Matthews and Cobb had great careers in Green Bay, they have also joined a legendary fraternity of players who played with the Packers but finished their NFL careers in other cities.

A number of them were players who ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well.

Most notable was Brett Favre.

After announcing his retirement in March of 2008, Favre later decided he indeed wanted to return to the Packers. But the Packers decided by that time to turn things over to Rodgers at quarterback and instead traded Favre to the New York Jets for the 2008 season.

No. 4 then signed with the hated Minnesota Vikings the following year.  Favre played with the Vikings for two years before really retiring in 2011.

Plus there was Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung.

That tandem was the force of the Packers’ vaunted ground game in the Lombardi era from 1959 to 1966.  Taylor and Hornung won MVP awards and helped the team win four world championships.

However, in 1967, Taylor left as a free agent for the New Orleans Saints, and Hornung was also claimed by the Saints in the 1967 expansion draft but never played because of a neck injury.

Paul Hornung and Jimmy Taylor in 1962

There are many other examples of players who later were given busts in Canton, but who ended their NFL careers in other cities instead of Green Bay.

The list includes Arnie Herber, Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Herb Adderley, Dave Robinson, James Lofton and Reggie White. Another player who will soon be joining that club is Charles Woodson.

Another Hall of Famer who could have been in that fraternity is Jerry Kramer. No. 64 retired after the 1968 season and was doing color commentary for NFL games on CBS in 1969.

But because of injuries at the guard position on the offensive line, both the Los Angeles Rams and the Minnesota Vikings wanted Kramer to join them in the 1969 season. Kramer never seriously considered playing for Bud Grant and the Vikings (although he was flattered by the offer), but he did agree to play for the Rams after conferring with George Allen.

But the Packers refused to relinquish the rights to Kramer to the Rams and No. 64 stayed in the broadcast both.

Plus there are the legendary coaches who both have a place among the best of the best at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Team founder and coach Curly Lambeau left the Packers after a dispute with the executive committee in 1950 to coach the Chicago Cardinals.  Lambeau coached the Packers from 1921 to 1949, winning 209 games with a .656 winning percentage and six NFL championships.

But even with that, Lambeau had issues with the executive committee.

Lambeau’s last two teams in Green Bay were a collective 5-19.  Plus, Lambeau ticked off members by purchasing the Rockwood Lodge north of Green Bay for $25,000 for the Packers to practice at from 1946 to 1949.  The facility burned down on Jan. 24, 1950, and Lambeau resigned a week later to coach the Cardinals.

The Cardinals were considered a very talented team when Lambeau arrived there.  The Cardinals had won the NFL title in 1947, and next to the Bears, were clearly the next-biggest rival to the Packers at the time.  Needless to say, people in Green Bay were not pleased when Lambeau joined forces with the Cardinals.

Then another coaching legend arrived a few years later—Vince Lombardi.  The result of his tenure?  Five NFL championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

Included in that tenure was three straight NFL titles (1965-1967), something that was never done in NFL history except once, when Lambeau did it from 1929-1931 with his Packers when the NFL did not have a playoff format.

Lombardi left the Packers after the 1968 season (Lombardi was a GM-only that season) to coach the Washington Redskins.  The Packers had stopped Lombardi from leaving a couple of times before, as the New York Giants had tried to get Lombardi back to his hometown and back with his close friend and college buddy Wellington Mara, who owned the Giants.

Lambeau and Lombardi

Together, Lambeau and Lombardi brought 11 world championships to Green Bay, with Lambeau winning six titles and Lombardi five in seven years, including wins in Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.

Now I’m not saying that either Matthews or Cobb will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (although Matthews has a much better chance), but there is no doubt that both will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame.

There they will join a number of other Green Bay legends who are not in Canton currently, but who also ended up in different locales to finish their pro careers.

People like Billy Howton, Tobin Rote, Ron Kramer, Dan Currie, Boyd Dowler, Elijah Pitts, Lee Roy Caffey, Donny Anderson, Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens and Mike Holmgren.

It’s always difficult saying goodbye to a great player or great coach who moves on to another NFL city, but the memories that they have left behind will live on forever.

That is certainly true of both Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb.

Green Bay Packers: Why Fuzzy Thurston Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Fuzzy leading Jimmy

Photo by Jack Robbins

When Vince Lombardi became head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers in 1959, the first trade he ever made was to acquire guard Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston from the defending NFL champion Baltimore Colts.

Lombardi traded linebacker Marv Matuszak to acquire Thurston, who had been drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1956 out of Valparaiso, where he was a two-time All-American in 1954 and 1955 as an offensive lineman. The Altoona, Wisconsin native ended up getting cut by the Eagles that year and then spent 1957 in the Army before signing with the Colts and being a backup guard on the Baltimore NFL title team.

After watching film of the Packers, Lombardi knew he had an excellent young guard in Jerry Kramer, but he saw that the Pack needed another guard to team with No. 64.

The year before in 1958, then head coach Scooter McLean cut guard Ken Gray, who was part of the great rookie class of that year, when the Packers drafted Dan Currie, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and Kramer.

Cutting Gray turned out to be a big mistake by McLean, as Gray turned into one of the best guards in the NFL with the Chicago/St. Louis Cardinals, where Gray was named to six Pro Bowl squads, plus was named first-team All-Pro four times.

But the departure of Gray from Green Bay opened the door for Thurston to come to the city that would soon become Titletown.

Lombardi saw that Kramer and Thurston had the attributes that would make his signature play succeed. That play was called the power sweep.

When Lombardi looked at the Green Bay film, he saw that Paul Hornung could become his Frank Gifford, who Lombardi had coached (as offensive coordinator) in New York with the Giants from 1954 through 1958.

Lombardi also saw that Taylor could play a similar role that Alex Webster had with the G-Men.

But for Hornung and Taylor to become successful, the offensive line had to be configured correctly. Which is why Lombardi acquired Thurston to play left guard.

In 1958, in a 12-team league, the Packers were 10th in the NFL in running the football. Toting the rock was not a strength for that woeful 1-10-1 team. But all that changed once Lombardi came to Green Bay.

In 1959, the Packers vastly improved running the ball to finish third in the NFL in rushing. From 1960 to 1964, the Packers were ranked either first (three times) or second (twice) in the league in that category.

The staple play was the power sweep.

In one of my many conversations with Kramer, he talked about why Green Bay and Lombardi were a perfect fit.

“Hornung was the reason I believe Coach Lombardi came to Green Bay,” Kramer said. “Bart [Starr] was an unknown then. There were three or four guys trying to become the quarterback then, and we didn’t know who the hell the quarterback was going to be.

“But we did know who Mr. Hornung was. And Coach Lombardi said many times, ‘That the power sweep was the number one play in our offense. We will make it go. We must make it go. And Hornung is going to be my [Frank] Gifford.’

“Hornung was the key with all that. To me, it seemed like Hornung was probably more instrumental in what Coach Lombardi had envisioned for his offense than who his quarterback was. So I think Hornung was the number one reason why Coach Lombardi came to Green Bay.”

The Packers took to the power sweep like a fish takes to water, as Kramer alluded to me.

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

There were a lot of important factors as to how successful the power sweep would be on a given play. Center Jim Ringo needed to make the onside cutoff block on the defensive tackle. Right tackle Forrest Gregg also had an important role.

“If Forrest hit that defensive end with a forearm, he would occupy him for the running back who was going to block him,” Kramer said. “Then Forrest would have a really good shot at getting the middle linebacker.

The tight end (Gary Knafelc or Ron Kramer) had to get the outside linebacker.

If all that happened, the pulling guards (Kramer and Thurston) could lead the ball carrier (Hornung or Taylor) to the second and third level of the opposing defense for a big gain.

Jerry and Fuzzy III

Photo by Jack Robbins

The very successful duo of Kramer and Thurston were awarded for their excellent play.

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 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.

Kramer also went to just three Pro Bowls, while Thurston never went to any. That seems pretty ridiculous to me, based on their excellent level of play.

That exceptional play at guard 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.”

Never was that more apparent than the 1965 NFL title game at Lambeau Field versus the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns and their great running back Jim Brown.

Although the running game of the Packers had struggled almost the entire year in 1965, the Packers could not be stopped on this snowy and muddy day on the frozen tundra.

Green Bay rumbled for 204 yards behind Taylor and Hornung, as the Packers won 23-12.

Meanwhile, Brown, who was the NFL’s leading rusher that year with 1,544 yards, was held to just 50 yards by the stingy Green Bay defense.

The power sweep was especially effective for the Pack, as Kramer and Thurston kept opening big holes for the backs, mowing down defenders left and right, as the Packers kept getting big chunks of yardage on the ground.

Hornung scored the last touchdown of the game on one of those power sweeps. Kramer pulled left and first blocked the middle linebacker and then a cornerback as the “Golden Boy” found the end zone.

Kramer talked about the great success he and Thurston had blocking.

“Fuzz never made a mistake,” Kramer recalled. “We never ran into each other in the eight or nine years that we played together. He was bright and was aware about what needed to be done on a given play.

“Fuzzy also had a lot of heart. He wasn’t the strongest guy in the world, but he gave it everything he had. Fuzz had a lot of energy and he also had a lot of pride. He was going to do his part in helping the team out, no matter what it took.

“He was a great mate. We were like a balanced team of horses. You see pictures of us today, Bob, and you can see us planting our foot at the same precise instant. There is a great picture of the sweep where Hornung plants his right foot, I plant my right foot and Fuzzy plants his left foot. It happened almost precisely at the same instant heading up field.

“We just ran that damn play time and time again at practice. It got to be second nature. But early on in Coach Lombardi’s tenure, when somebody would screw up on the play in practice, we would hear Coach yell out, ‘Run it again! Run it again!’

“Then as time went on and when somebody made a mistake on the play in practice, we wouldn’t wait for Lombardi to yell. One of us would scream, ‘Run it again! Run it again!’

The Power Sweep

I share all this with you because I believe Thurston deserves consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kramer finally received that honor after over four decades of waiting.

I also contend that the player who replaced Thurston at left guard when Fuzzy injured his knee during a scrimmage early in training camp in 1967 deserves the same consideration. That player is Gale Gillingham.

You see, Thurston was not just a great player on the field, but also a great teammate. And not just when he was a regular, but also when he lost his job to Gillingham in ’67.

“Fuzzy sat besides Gilly for the rest of the ’67 season, ” Kramer told me. “He coached Gilly. They sat together in every film session. Fuzzy gave him the benefit of everything he had learned about the defensive tackle that Gilly would be facing that given week.

“Fuzzy told Gilly what he liked to do against that tackle and told Gilly that he should think about doing the same thing. Basically, Fuzzy was Gilly’s personal coach.”

Thurston was always in a positive state of mind. It was always party sunny or the glass was hall full.

Thurston always found something positive even under trying circumstances. Case in point is the 1962 Thanksgiving day game against the Detroit Lions at Tiger Stadium. The Packers were 10-0 going into that game.

Kramer remembers that occasion well.

“Before we played the Lions on Thanksgiving, Fuzzy lost his mother about three days before the game,” Kramer said. “Fuzzy decided to play, but his heart was somewhere else. The Lions just guessed and gambled correctly all day long that game.”

It was that kind of day for Thurston and his Packer teammates, as the Lions whipped the Packers 26-14. The score looked much closer than the game actually was, as the Packers scored 14 points in the fourth quarter after being down 26-0.

The Packers had just 122 total yards and quarterback Bart Starr was sacked 10 times for 93 yards.

But even with all of that, Thurston found some humor in the painful lesson he and his teammates had experienced.

“We are going home on the plane,” Kramer recalled. “And Fuzz says, ‘You know Jerry, at least the whole day wasn’t a loss.’ And I go, “What the hell are you talking about?” And Fuzzy goes, ‘You and I introduced a new block. You know, the look out block. Because every time Bart would go back to pass we would go, “Look out!”

“We giggled about that a little bit. I mean we were feeling lower than whale crap then, but Fuzz was making a joke and being positive. He was still Fuzz. He wasn’t sulking or sucking his thumb. He was just Fuzz.

“He was just that way no matter where you saw him. He always had a big smile and he was always happy to see you. Fuzzy was just a genuine pleasant guy to be around.”

After the debacle in Detroit in 1962, the Packers won the last three games of the regular season to finish 13-1 and then went on to win the 1962 NFL title game 16-7 over the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium.

The ground game and Kramer’s placekicking were the difference in the game.

Kramer ended up scoring 10 points (three field goals and an extra point) on a day when there were the wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Plus, Kramer, Thurston and the rest of the offensive line helped lead the way for Taylor to gain 85 yards rushing and also score the lone Green Bay touchdown. As a team, the Packers gained 148 yards rushing that day.

When Kramer kicked the game-winning field goal late in the title contest, Thurston, No. 63, jumped into the air and signaled for all to see that the kick was good.

Jerry's game-winning FG in the 1962 NFL title game.

It was an apropos gesture for Thurston, because to him, life was also good, even when he was dealing with tough times in business and in health.

Off the field, Thurston loved to hang with his teammates and hoist a couple.

“Fuzzy didn’t fish much and he didn’t bow hunt,” Kramer said. “He didn’t do some of the things I would do with Doug [Hart] and some of the other guys in terms of hunting or fishing. But if I wanted a beer, Fuzzy was the first one in line that I would call.

“He and I and Boyd Dowler used to go out on Monday nights once in awhile. We called ourselves the Three Muskepissers, instead of the Musketeers. Our wives would come looking for us and they we go to a place and find out that we weren’t there yet or that we had just left.

“We would go to a number of different bars and just socialize. We didn’t get in any trouble. We were just relaxing and having some laughs. It was pleasant to be with Boyd and Fuzzy. They were good company!”

Thurston retired after the 1967 season, due to a little prodding from Coach Lombardi.

“It was the 1,000 Yard Club banquet in Appleton,” Kramer said. “It was the dinner when Alex Karras and I exchanged some pleasantries. Anyway, Fuzzy was there and he ran into Coach Lombardi. Coach stopped and said, ‘Fuzzy, when are you going to announce your retirement?’ And Fuzz says, ‘Hmm, right away I guess, Coach.’

Shortly after the conversation with Lombardi, Thurston retired from football. Eight years later, in 1975, Thurston was enshrined in the Packers Hall of Fame along with Lombardi, Kramer, Hornung, Taylor, Don Chandler, [Ron] Kramer, Willie Davis, Max McGee and Henry Jordan.

Off the field, Thurston owned a number of Left Guard restaurants before they went out of business. He also owned a couple of taverns that I always stopped in whenever I was in the Green Bay area.

The first was Shenanigans, which was right across the road from the Fox River. More recently, it was Fuzzy’s #63 Bar & Grill. I always enjoyed going to both places.

If Fuzzy was there, he would be joking and taking pictures with patrons. If he wasn’t there, it was still a great time to walk around the place and look at the photos Fuzzy had accumulated. It was just a great atmosphere.

Thurston passed away in December of 2014 due to liver cancer.

But he will never be forgotten by family, friends and anyone in Packer Nation who ever met him.

“Fuzzy was always positive,” Kramer told me shortly after Thurston had passed away almost four years ago. “He was just consistently up. And he insisted that we all have a good time whether you wanted to or not. You were going to have fun. He would take that upon himself whether it was one or 40. Fuzzy would be the spark.”

When I saw Rick Gosselin at the party the Packers threw for Jerry on the day he was enshrined in Canton on August 4, he told me that he was hopeful that 10 seniors could be inducted on the 100th anniversary of the NFL in 2020.

Gosselin is on the Seniors Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That is why I am writing a series of articles about former Green Bay players who are in the senior category so that they might be considered to be in that group of ten. I’ve already written pieces about Dowler, Gillingham, [Ron] Kramer, Don Chandler and Bobby Dillon.

I realize that maybe only one or two of the players I have written about will be given strong consideration for being placed among the best of the best in Canton in 2020.

All that being said, I believe every one of the players I have written about need to be thoroughly discussed by the seniors committee. That certainly includes Thurston.

“Fuzzy had a great sense of humor,” Kramer told me. “Always up and always positive. He was like an internal flame that never goes out. That fire, that spirit inside of him was constantly there.”

I also stayed positive over the 16 years I wrote about getting Jerry his rightful induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I feel the same way about getting at least one or maybe even two former Packers in as seniors in 2020.

Jerry Kramer and the Packers Were Both Kicked in the Stomach at Lambeau vs. the Vikings

Jerry getting his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring at Lambeau

Evan Siegle, packers.com

Lambeau Field sure looked like the place to be on Sunday. The 1-0 Green Bay Packers were hosting the 1-0 Minnesota Vikings, plus quarterback Aaron Rodgers was cleared to play.

This after the knee injury Rodgers suffered last Sunday night versus the Chicago Bears, as he led the Packers to a thrilling 24-23 victory over da Bears on basically one leg in the second half of the game.

The Vikings are the defending NFC North champs and together with the Packers, the two teams have won the division seven years in a row, with the Packers winning the title in five of those seasons.

The game on Sunday against the Vikings was also the first time Rodgers had played against Minnesota since Week 6 of last season at U.S. Bank Stadium when No. 12 fractured a collarbone. The injury occurred when he was thrown down by linebacker Anthony Barr after he had thrown the ball.

Lambeau was also the place to be for another reason. Jerry Kramer was in town to receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring and to see his name unveiled on the facade at the legendary stadium.

Kramer became the 25th member of the Green Bay organization to have his name displayed on the southwest façade inside the stadium.

I had been in Canton for Kramer’s enshrinement and was invited by Jerry to sit with he and his family in his suite for the game. The Packers had arranged that Kramer and his family would be able to sit in the alumni suite, which is normally used by former Green Bay players.

Unfortunately and regrettably, I was not able to attend. But I truly appreciated the kind offer.

Joining Kramer and his family in the suite was one of No. 64’s old teammates, Donny Anderson.

You might recall a game that both Kramer and Anderson had key roles in from 50-plus years ago at frigid Lambeau Field. And unlike Sunday, when the temperature was hovering around 86 degrees, the classic game from New Year’s Eve in 1967 was about 99 degrees colder.

The organization of the Packers did a fantastic job in honoring Kramer, especially during the halftime ceremony. The website of the Packers did a very nice job in terms of filming the ceremony, taking excellent photos and also showing Kramer’s press conference with the media.

Larry McCarren was the emcee for the ceremony, plus both David Baker (President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) and Mark Murphy (President & CEO of the Packers) also spoke before Kramer talked to and thanked the 78,461 people in attendance.

Jerry being honored at Lambeau

Evan Siegle, packers.com

Kramer was asked about how he felt when he saw his name displayed on the facade when he talked with the media.

“It felt like a kick in the stomach,” Kramer said. “It was a ‘oomph.’ It was a physical reaction and I wondered if I was going to faint or fall over or what I was going to do. It just lasted for an instant, but it was a noticeable shock.”

Very late in the game against the Vikings, the Packers also felt a kick in the stomach, but this one was painful. More on that later.

I had a chance to talk to Kramer today, as he was getting ready to fly out of Wisconsin and get back home to Boise, Idaho where he can relax (in his Big Chair) for a few days after a whirlwind of traveling over the past few months.

When I asked him about what he remembered most from yesterday, he said it was the response from the Green Bay faithful in the stands at Lambeau.

“It was very gratifying and also very humbling to see and hear the reaction that I received from the fans,” Kramer said. “As I was walking, section after section kept cheering for me. Old linemen like me aren’t used to that type of applause.”

Kramer talked about that dynamic at his press conference.

“It’s surreal, I think is the best way to describe it,” Kramer said. “Especially for a lineman. You know, lineman don’t do those kinds of things. Rarely do they do those kinds of things. It was a wonderful day.”

Surreal is a perfect way to describe yesterday, both in terms of honoring Kramer and also the ball game played by the Packers and Vikings.

The Packers were up 29-21 with less than two minutes to go in the game, when quarterback Kirk Cousins of the Vikings threw what looked like the game-clinching interception to Jaire Alexander.

This is when the Packers were kicked in the gut.

Clay Matthews hit on Kirk Cousins

startribune.com

You see, referee Tony Corrente decided to throw a flag. Corrente called a 15-yard penalty on outside linebacker Clay Matthews for unnecessary roughness after Matthews had tackled Cousins to the ground just as he had thrown the ball.

Matthews had used perfect form in tackling Cousins, as he didn’t hit Cousins with his helmet, leading instead with his shoulder. Plus, No. 52 didn’t hit Cousins high, as he tackled at the numbers.

But still Corrente threw the flag and gave no explanation to Matthews as to why he threw the yellow hanky.

After the game, Corrente said he penalized Matthews because he “lifted (Cousins) up and drove him into the ground.”

I don’t know what game Corrente was watching, but Matthews did not lift Cousins up and drive him into the turf at Lambeau.

“I don’t know what else to do,” Matthews said after the game. “Did I put pressure on him? I thought I hit him within from his waist to chest, got my head across, put my hands down.”

That is exactly what Matthews did if you have looked at this play.

But still the flag was thrown and the gut was kicked.

So what should have been a 29-21 win turned into a 29-29 tie and a real nail-biter for Packer Nation in overtime.

Luckily, rookie kicker Daniel Carlson of the Vikings missed both of his field goal attempts in overtime, including a 35-yard chip shot to win the game at the end of OT.

I had a funny feeling Carlson might miss in OT, even though he was considered one of the best kickers in college football.

I saw Carlson play in the 2015 Outback Bowl when his Auburn Tigers took on the Wisconsin Badgers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The Badgers won 34-31 in overtime, as Carlson missed a game-tying field goal in OT to give Wisconsin the victory.

So although the tie against the Vikings wasn’t great and the penalty called on Matthews was a terrible call, it could have been worse. As in a loss, had Carlson made his field goal attempts.

Rodgers played courageously in the game with limited mobility, as No. 12 threw for 281 yards and threw a touchdown pass without tossing a pick. Rodgers was also sacked four times for 28 yards.

Rodgers was obviously very disappointed in the tie.

“Close to an ‘L,’ ” Rodgers said after the game. “Doesn’t feel great.”

Jerry and Aaron at Lambeau

Evan Siegle, packers.com

But was great was seeing Rodgers get with Kramer on the field after the halftime ceremony.

“Yes, Aaron came up to me and congratulated me,” Kramer told me. “He was real cordial to me and we talked for a bit. It was a real classy gesture by Aaron.”

I reminded Kramer that it was against the Vikings at County Stadium in Milwaukee in 1961, when he suffered the most serious injury of his NFL career, when he broke his leg below the knee and separated the bones in his ankle.

I also reminded Jerry that the final score 29-29, which adds up to 58. Talk about surreal or apropos.

1958 was Kramer’s first year with the Packers.  That was the year he was part of the best draft class that the Packers ever had, as three of draftees ended up getting a bust in Canton. I’m talking about Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and now Kramer.

“It’s hard to believe that was 60 years ago,” Kramer said. “But what a wonderful journey it has been over all these years.”

When I talked to Kramer shortly after he was inducted, he talked about how much he was looking forward to not only being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but also about coming back to the stadium at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay.

“Certainly the Hall of Fame itself in Canton in August and all of that,” Kramer told me back in February. “But another moment which will be awfully powerful for me is seeing my name on the facade at Lambeau Field and being honored there in front of those great fans.”

I asked Kramer to describe the events from yesterday at the field he played on from 1958 through 1968.

“It was everything I expected and more. Much, much more!”