Green Bay Packers: Clark Hinkle was the Toughest of the Tough

Clark Hinkle

packers.com

The Green Bay Packers won six NFL titles under head coach Curly Lambeau. Those NFL championship teams have been honored by having a number of the players from those teams get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That would include Lambeau himself, along with Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, Johnny “Blood” McNally, Clark Hinkle, Mike Michalske and Arnie Herber.

There should be at least three other players who also played for the Packers in that era who also deserve a bust in Canton. I’m talking about Lavvie Dilweg, Verne Lewellen and Cecil Isbell.

In fact, they all came close to getting in the Hall of Fame recently, as all three were among the 20 finalists for the centennial class in 2020.

I heard all about those players from my dad, as we would be eating dinner talking sports while I was growing up. The Lambeau Packers were the ones my dad grew up watching and by the time he was 18 and serving his country in the Pacific during World War II in the Navy, he had seen the Pack win six NFL titles, including one in person, as he and his dad saw the Packers defeat the New York Giants 27-0 at State Fair Park in West Allis (a Milwaukee suburb) in 1939.

So while I was enamored with the Vince Lombardi Packers in the 1960s and players like Bart Starr, Paul Horning, Jim Taylor, Jerry Kramer, Willie Davis, Ray Nitschke and Herb Adderley, dad made sure that I learned about the earlier version of the Packers under Lambeau.

When I watched the Packers of my childhood, I was in awe of the toughness of players like Taylor and Nitschke and would gush about them to my dad. My father agreed with my assessment, but then told me about the toughest player he ever saw play for the Packers when he was a kid. The player he was talking about was Clark Hinkle.

Hinkle played both fullback and linebacker during his playing days and he was ferocious, both as a runner and a tackler. In addition to that, Hinkle was a fine receiver when called upon, plus could also kick and punt.

But when it came to being just flat out mean and vicious in terms of tenacity, no one could top Hinkle. Not to mention, Hinkle was very talented as well.

The 5’11”, 202-pound Hinkle played much larger than his size. He joined the Packers in 1932 after playing his college football at Bucknell, which was right after the Packers had won three straight NFL titles (before the playoff era started in 1933).

In 10 years in the NFL, Hinkle gained 3,860 yards on the ground. When he retired after the 1941 season, that was the NFL record for rushing yards at the time. Hinkle also scored 35 touchdowns on the ground.

In his career, Hinkle also caught 49 passes for 537 yards and nine more scores. In terms of overall scoring, Hinkle scored 379 points in his career, as he scored 44 touchdowns, kicked 31 extra points and 28 field goals.

Plus just like Lewellen was for the Packers in the 1920s, Hinkle was considered the best punter in the NFL when he played.

Clark Hinkle punting

On defense, opponents of the Packers always kept a close eye on Hinkle, as he would bring the lumber on every play. Ken Strong, who is another Hall of Famer who mostly played with the Giants, said this about Hinkle, “When he hit you, you knew you were hit. Bells rang and you felt it all the way to your toes.”

Hinkle had a great competition with Bronco Nagurski of the Bears, who also played fullback and linebacker. In fact, both Hinkle and Nagurski were selected to the NFL All-Decade team from the 1930s at fullback. They had a number of collisions with each other when they played in the still fierce rivalry between the Packers and da Bears.

Hinkle talked about one of those impacts. “I was carrying the ball and Nagurski charged in to make the tackle. WHAM! We banged into each other. Nagurski had to be removed from the game with a broken nose and two closed eyes. Strangely enough, I suffered no ill effects and was able to continue playing.”

Nagurski certainly respected Hinkle, as he once said, “The toughest man I ever played against.”

In his ten years in the NFL, Hinkle was named first-team All-Pro four times and second-team All-Pro six times. Hinkle also was named to three Pro Bowl teams.

In 1964, which was the second year of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Hinkle joined Lambeau, Hubbard, Hutson and McNally in Canton, as they were part of the inaugural class the year before.

In 1972, Hinkle was enshrined into the Packers Hall of Fame.

There are two practice fields across the street from Lambeau Field, one on each side of the Don Hutson Center. One is Ray Nitschke Field, where the team practices in front of the fans in training camp, while the other is named Clark Hinkle Field, which is the practice field closest to Lambeau.

The names for the practice fields are very apropos. Nitschke was as tough as they came during his era in the NFL.

The same could certainly be said about Hinkle when he played in the NFL.

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

Clay Matthews Jr. tackling Earl Campbell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Junior Seau + Clay Matthews

Derrick Brooks + Clay Matthews

Brian Urlacher + Clay Matthews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay Jr and Clay III After Super Bowl XLV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay Jr. and Jennifer

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

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

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

Anthony Munoz on Clay Matthews

Warren Moon on Clay Matthews

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

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

Ozzie Newsome on Clay Matthews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hall of fame packer logo 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry getting his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring at Lambeau

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

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

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

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

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

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

That certainly helps players like Dowler, Dilweg and Isbell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lavvie Dilweg(2)

Lavvie Dilweg and Boyd Dowler

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

We should know something very soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will know soon enough.

Green Bay Packers: Why Cecil Isbell Deserves Consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Cecil Isbell Football Card

When I was growing up in the 1960s in Milwaukee, the discussion at the dinner table at our home would almost always be about sports. My dad would give me history lessons on the teams in the state, the Milwaukee Braves, the Wisconsin Badgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Now we also talked about the current teams, as I was a big fan of players like Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn of the Braves, Pat Richter and Ron Vander Kelen of the Badgers, plus Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Boyd Dowler, Willie Davis, Herb Adderley, Jerry Kramer and many others on the Packers.

The Packers received most of the attention at the kitchen table, as there were in the midst of dominating the 1960s like no other team in NFL history had ever done before.

Dad loved telling me about the Packers he grew up watching. He told me stories about Curly Lambeau and all the players who played under him like Lavvie Dilweg, Clark Hinkle, Johnny “Blood” McNally, Cal Hubbard, Verne Lewellen, Arnie Herber, Don Hutson and Cecil Isbell.

Just like I was spoiled watching the Packers win five NFL titles in seven years in the 1960s, which included the first two Super Bowls under head coach Vince Lombardi, my dad saw the Packers win six NFL championships under Lambeau by the time he was 18 years-old, while he was serving his country in the Pacific with the Navy in World War II.

When dad talked about the Lambeau Packers, he almost always told me some Don Hutson stories and the men who threw to No. 14, Herber and Isbell.

Hutson and Herber are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Isbell is not. In fact, Isbell is the only NFL All-Decade quarterback (1930s) not in Canton.

To me, the only reason is because his career was so short. Still, the NFL recognized how prolific Isbell was in throwing the football with him just playing two years in the 1930s, that he was named on that All-Decade team at quarterback along with Herber and Earl “Dutch” Clark of the Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions.

The reason why Herber and Isbell got so much attention at quarterback was because of the record-breaking productivity of Hutson at wide receiver. To illustrate that, Hutson led the league in receiving eight times.

Some of that production came when Herber was the quarterback, but a lot of it came from when Isbell played QB.

In fact, for five years, between 1938 and 1942, Isbell would throw half the passes, for half the yardage and half the touchdowns Hutson would have during his 11-year career.

And to put a spotlight on it, Hutson’s two highest reception totals, two of his three highest yardage totals and three of his four highest touchdown totals all came when No. 17 was throwing him the football.

One of my dad’s biggest thrills was being at the 1939 NFL title game at State Fair Park in West Allis (suburb of Milwaukee) with his own dad, when the Packers hosted the New York Giants.

Both Herber and Isbell played quarterback for the Packers in that game and each threw a touchdown pass. Isbell had a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the game. Isbell also rushed for 27 yards.

Cecil Isbell in the 1939 NFL title game at State Fair Park

Cecil Isbell carries the ball for the Packers in the 1939 NFL title game.

My dad and grandpa, along with 32,277 other fans, saw the Packers defeat the G-Men 27-0.

Remember that Isbell made the NFL All-Decade team of the 1930s, even though he was a rookie in 1938 and only played two years in that decade. Why was that? For one thing, he helped lead the Packers into two straight NFL title games at the beginning of his career. Also, it was his record-breaking production at quarterback, as he was throwing the ball more effectively than anyone who had ever played the position.

Plus he seemed to get better each year he played. Over the five years he played in the NFL, Isbell threw 61 touchdown passes versus 52 interceptions for 5,945 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 72.6.

By today’s standards, that doesn’t look like much, but in the 1930s and ’40s in the NFL, that was outstanding.

As an example, let’s compare the numbers of Isbell to those of Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh of the Washington Redskins in his first five years in the NFL. Baugh’s rookie year was in 1937, so this lines up very well in comparison to Isbell.

Baugh threw 41 touchdown passes in his first five years in the NFL (compared to Isbell’s 61), while he also threw 63 picks (compared to Isbell’s 52). That put Slingin’ Sammy’s passer rating at 57.7 his first five years in the league.

In Isbell’s last two years with the Packers, he threw 39 of his career 61 touchdown passes. 27 of those touchdown tosses went to Hutson.

The 24 touchdown passes that Isbell threw in 1942 was a Green Bay record that stood for 41 years with the Packers until Lynn Dickey threw 32 TD passes in 1983.

As Ron Borges noted in his piece on Isbell in the Talk of Fame Network, Isbell played out of this world the last two years of his NFL career.

In 1941, the average NFL quarterback accounted for 6.122 points per game. Isbell accounted for 12 (121 points in 10 games), which put his production 98.99 percent above the norm.

The following season, his last, was even more remarkable. That’s the year he threw a then-record 24 touchdown passes. That season he was 117 percent above the league norm in points accounted for by a quarterback and 62 percent better than the great Sammy Baugh, who passed for 497 fewer yards and eight fewer touchdowns than Isbell that season.

Don Hutson and Cecil Isbell

Don Hutson and Cecil Isbell

After the 1942 season, Isbell retired at the age of 27 to become an assistant coach at his alma mater, Purdue. Isbell made more money at Purdue as a coach than he did in Green Bay as a player with the Packers.

Why was that? Isbell explained it best.

“I hadn’t been up in Green Bay long when I saw Lambeau go around the locker room and tell players like Herber and (Milt) Ganterbein and (Hank) Bruder that they were all done with the Packers,” Isbell said. “I sat there and watched, and then I vowed it never would happen to me. I’d quit before they came around to tell me.’’

Bottom line, Isbell was as good or better than any quarterback who played in his era. As good or better than Herber, Baugh or Sid Luckman of the Chicago Bears.

The Packers certainly recognized that when Isbell was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1972.

When Ken Stabler was finally and rightfully inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, that meant that Isbell is the only NFL All-Decade quarterback not in Canton.

That needs to change at some point.

Green Bay Packers: Why Verne Lewellen Deserves Consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Verne Lewellen

Shortly after Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers finally received his rightful due, which was his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a reader asked Packers Team Historian Cliff Christl on packers.com who was the best deserving player from the Packers not in Canton.

Christl did not name Lavvie Dilweg, Bobby Dillon, Boyd Dowler, Ron Kramer or Gale Gillingham. Instead, he named Verne Lewellen. In fact, Christl took it one step further and said that Lewellen deserved to be in the discussion of being the best player on the Packers ever.

Lewellen played his college ball at Nebraska, where he led the Cornhuskers to a 14-7 win over Knute Rockne and Notre Dame in 1923.

In 1924, Lewellen joined the Packers and played with Green Bay through 1932, except for three games in 1927, when the Packers lent him to the New York Yankees for three games at the end of that season.

This is part of what Christl said about why he thought so highly about Lewellen.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1963, 31 years after Lewellen retired, and even by then the game had changed to such a degree I don’t believe most of those involved in the selection process comprehended Lewellen’s value to the Packers. To be honest, as much time as I’ve spent researching his career, I still find it difficult to fully grasp what the game was like when he played. For example, I recently saw a pre-snap picture from an early 1920s game where the ball was placed so close to the sideline, there wasn’t enough room to the right of it for three offensive players to squeeze onto the field of play.

But here’s what I’ve gathered from Lewellen’s paper trail.

He played nine seasons from 1924-32 and was arguably the Packers’ most valuable player during that period. When the Packers won three straight championships from 1929-31, if the Associated Press had voted for a league MVP at the time, I think Lewellen might have won it in both 1929 and ’30.

I know those are strong statements, but I base them on three things. One was what I’ve learned from reading countless newspapers during Lewellen’s era, particularly game coverage in the Green Bay, Milwaukee, New York and Chicago dailies, where he was often credited with being the difference in many of the Packers’ biggest victories. Two was what his contemporaries said about him. A third consideration was correspondence I found in the Ralph Wilson Research Center in Canton, suggesting Dick McCann, the hall’s first director, was scrambling to get more information on Green Bay’s players before the first vote. What’s more, Art Rooney and George Halas were the two consultants the hall leaned most heavily on in those early years. Halas knew Lewellen as well as anyone. But I have my doubts if Rooney ever saw Lewellen play. He became an NFL owner in 1933, the year after Lewellen retired. Previously, there was no NFL team in Pittsburgh and there was no television. So where would Rooney have watched him?

Something else that hurts Lewellen is that he played in the NFL’s pre-stats era, from 1920-31. Thus, there are no official statistics to confirm his impact other than that he scored more touchdowns than any other player in the league during that period. Unofficially, he also is among the leaders in rushing, receiving and passing, and once led the league in interceptions.

But Lewellen’s greatest contribution was as a punter when that probably was the most important role in the game. From everything I’ve read, he was in a class by himself when teams punted as much on first, second and third downs, as fourth down, because of the importance of field position. Keep in mind, in the days of limited substitution, punting was one of a back’s most important responsibilities.

Obviously, Christl has done an abundance of homework on researching the play of Lewellen when he was with the Packers.

That being said, as good as Lewellen was for the Packers in the 1920s, he was not named to the NFL All-Decade team, as was Dilweg. And based on what Christl has found out about the stellar play of Lewellen during the 1920s, I find that very puzzling.

The 6’1″, 180-pound Lewellen was considered a back (63 starts at halfback and four starts at quarterback) in his era and as Christl notes, was the finest punter in the league.

Lewellen was named First-Team All-Pro four times when he was with the Packers.

Verne Lewellen II

And even with statistics being hard to unearth during the era in which he played, Lewellen had scored 307 points when he retired, which was the most in the NFL at the time.

The 50 touchdowns that Lewellen scored wasn’t broken until Don Hutson passed that amount in 1941.

Plus, during the league’s first 15 seasons, from 1920 to 1934, Lewellen also unofficially ranked sixth in receiving yards and 12th in passing yards, although he was never the Packers’ featured passer.

As Christl notes, Lewellen was the best of the best in terms of punting, which was a huge part of the game when the NFL was basically a “three yards and a cloud of dust” league.

Over the course of Lewellen’s nine-year career, NFL teams averaged fewer than 10 points a game. Being able to punt effectively was very important component of the game.

According to unofficial and incomplete statistics listed in The Football Encyclopedia, published in 1994, Lewellen was definitely the NFL’s most outstanding punter of the pre-statistical era with 681 punts for a 39.5-yard average.

Christl isn’t the only person who believes Lewellen should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When he was named as part of the inaugural class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, along with Curly Lambeau, Cal Hubbard and Don Hutson, Johnny “Blood” McNally said this:

“Verne Lewellen should have been in there in front of me and (Cal) Hubbard.”

After more than 20 years after he stopped playing, Lewellen became general manager of the of the Packers from 1954 through 1958. After Vince Lombardi replaced him in that role in 1959, Lewellen became business manager and held the post until he retired in January 1967. Previously, Lewellen served on the Packers’ executive committee and board of directors from 1950 until he became GM.

Lewellen was put in the Packers Hall of Fame in 1970 and the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1967.

When the 25-person “blue ribbon” committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame meets shortly after Thanksgiving to whittle away the over 200 senior candidates down to 20 about possibly being named to the Class of 2020 in Canton, you can be assured that Lewellen’s impact in the era he played in the NFL will be talked about and debated and perhaps he will be included in that group of 20.

That group of 20 seniors will be discussed by the 25-person “blue ribbon” committee after the New Year and will be taken down to 10. Those 10 seniors will automatically be inducted into the Hall of Fame without a vote from the 48-person selection committee on Super Bowl Saturday, which has been the practice in the past. But 2020 is a special year for the NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as they will celebrate the league’s centennial year.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of those quarterbacks is Bart Starr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That is a capsule comment about Bart Starr.”

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No. 86 continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The 2020 Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Could Add Another Green Bay Packer or More

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Although it has to get final approval from it’s board in early August, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is definitely considering expanding it’s Centennial Class of 2020 as part of the NFL’s 100th-anniversary celebration.

Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker made the announcement earlier this month.

“It is extremely elite company, and it’s not the Hall of very, very good. It’s the Hall of Fame, and so it should be difficult to make it,” Baker said. “But there’s a lot of guys through the years (who deserve to be honored but have not). We have several guys who are on all-decade teams who aren’t in the Hall of Fame. And, so, this is an opportunity with the Centennial coming up. And what we’ve looked at potentially and has been approved, at least in concept, by our operating board, but we’re going to have to go through the full board, is that potentially we would have 20 Hall of Famers enshrined for the year 2020.

“Normally, (like) this year, we have eight. So, this would be quite a few guys (added). But it would be the five normal modern-era players elected from 15 finalists, and then 10 seniors, three contributors — like Gil (Brandt) — and two (coaches). But again, I want to stress that that’s got to be something that’s passed by our board at its meeting on Friday, Aug. 2.”

Most observers expect this proposal to pass.

So what does this mean from the perspective of the Green Bay Packers? To me, that means that the team has a chance to add even more members of the organization among the best of the best in Canton. Currently, the Packers have 25 individuals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a hallowed place. I was there in 2018 when Jerry Kramer finally received his rightful enshrinement in Canton. A number of members of Packer Nation were in Canton that weekend, including Glenn Aveni, who is filming a documentary about Jerry, while I am working on a book about No. 64.

Bob and Jerry at JK's party.

In 2020, Kramer has a chance to be joined by others who played in the town where the Fox River runs through it.

Adding 10 seniors in 2020 was spawned by the proposal of Rick Gosselin, who is on the Seniors Selection Committee for the Hall of Fame. Actually, Gosselin wanted even more seniors added, due the backlog of deserving seniors who have fallen through the cracks through the years, but 10 is certainly better than just two or one per year, which has been the process recently.

Gosselin carries a big voice among Hall of Fame voters and when I told him that I would be writing a series of articles about former players from the Packers who I believe belong in Canton, Gosselin made a point of making sure I wrote about three of them.

Those players are Boyd Dowler, Ron Kramer and Gale Gillingham.

I also know that Gosselin is high on Lavvie Dilweg and Bobby Dillon.

I have also written about Packer seniors like Fuzzy Thurston and Don Chandler. Plus there are also former Packer players like Cecil Isbell and Verne Lewellen.

But with only 10 spots available among the group of seniors, I still think the Packers have an excellent chance of getting a least one player inducted, perhaps even two.

As Baker noted in his comments and as Gosselin has written about, there are a number of all-decade players not in Canton. You can also break that down even further, as there are nine first-team, all-decade players through the year 2000 that are not in the Hall of Fame.

Gosselin writes about seven of those players here.

One of those players is Dilweg, who was given that designation in the 1920s when he played under head coach Curly Lambeau, who incidentally also received that same honor as a player that decade.

Another is LeRoy Butler, who was First-Team, All-Decade in the 1990s, but is not considered a senior as of yet. If Butler is part of the Class of 2020, he would go in as a modern-era player.

In terms of getting some seniors in for the Packers in 2020, I believe the best bet after Dilweg is Dowler. No. 86 was also All-Decade in the 1960s (Second-Team), but in addition to that, Boyd was also one of 45 players on the NFL 50th anniversary team. Only Dowler and [Ron] Kramer have not been given busts in Canton from that 50th anniversary team.

Kramer would probably have been All-Decade in the 1960s had the team had more than one tight end.

Plus, Gillingham almost certainly would have been All-Decade at guard in the 1970s had not head coach Dan Devine ridiculously moved No. 68 to defensive tackle in which Gillingham suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the 1972 campaign. Most experts felt that Gillingham was the best right guard in the NFL when Devine made that colossal coaching blunder.

The Packers also have a chance to add another member of their organization into the Hall via the contributor category. To me, Jack Vainisi would be an excellent choice.

Vainisi was the super scout of the Packers from 1950 through 1960. In those years, Vainisi helped to select seven players for the Packers who would eventually get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Those players are Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and Jerry Kramer.

That number could go up to eight if Dowler is part of the Class of 2020.

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Lavvie Dilweg and Boyd Dowler.

Bottom line, it was the scouting expertise of Vainisi which laid the foundation for the Packers to win five NFL titles (including the first two Super Bowls) in seven years under head coach Vince Lombardi in the 1960s.

I have always been an optimistic person. Add to that, I’m very passionate and persistent regarding my beliefs, especially when talking about former players on the Packers who deserve a bust in Canton.

That was my credo about getting Kramer into the Pro Football Hall of Fame going back almost 30 years ago. I first met Jerry in 1991 when he was at a golfing event prior to Super Bowl XXV in Tampa.

I showed Jerry a letter that I had written to Packer Report about why No. 64 deserved to be in Canton. Jerry was touched. Little did I know that I would actually be writing for Packer Report myself about a decade later at the beginning of my writing career. Since then, I have penned countless articles about why Kramer deserved a bust in Canton.

Then it really happened in 2018.

The biggest breakthroughs from my perspective of getting Kramer his rightful place in the Hall of Fame came from three different areas.

One was getting inside the process by developing a relationship with Gosselin. It was then when I learned how extremely difficult it was to get deserving seniors into Canton. The backlog of seniors who should already be in the Hall is a very difficult task to solve. Why? There are currently over 60 position players who were named on an all-decade team who still don’t have a bust in Canton.

That includes both Dilweg and Dowler.

I was also able to have a nice conversation with Baker about a year before Kramer was enshrined. I learned some very valuable insight from the President of the Hall of Fame during our chat.

Finally, I was also able to talk with Bart Starr Jr. about whether or not his father endorsed Kramer about getting a bust in Canton. I learned that there was no doubt that Bart Sr. wholeheartedly was an advocate for Kramer’s enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bob and Rick Gosselin

Bob Fox and Rick Gosselin. (Daniel Kramer photo)

And then that special moment came. The day of the enshrinement I went to party thrown by the Packers to honor Kramer. One of the first people I ran into was Gosselin. Rick asked me, “So, what are you going to do now?”

I told Gosselin that there were more deserving Packers who belong in Canton and that I was going to get behind them as well. I told Rick to expect more calls and notes from me over the next year. Which is exactly what has happened.

The optimist part of me tells me that the Packers could get two seniors in as part of the Class of 2020. I believe that Dilweg and Dowler are those two seniors. Dilweg has the better chance if only one Packer senior is named in 2020, but Dowler is also a strong possibility in my opinion.

That means the fight for Gillingham, [Ron] Kramer and the other players to get into Canton will have to continue on past 2020.

In terms of Vainisi and Butler, I’m sort of on the fence (50/50) with them in 2020. Now don’t get me wrong, both will eventually get into the Hall, but it may not be in the centennial year of the NFL.

The bottom line is the Packers have an excellent chance of having some representation in Canton for the 2020 Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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

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Anyone who knows the history of the NFL has heard the names of people like George Halas, Curly Lambeau, Harold “Red” Grange, Jim Thorpe and Ernie Nevers. All of them were part of the NFL All-Decade team of the 1920s.

Yes, Halas and Lambeau were very good football players besides being icons as a head coaches.

That group of players who were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame were joined by Guy Chamberlin, Ed Healey, Wilbur “Pete” Henry, Cal Hubbard, Steve Owen, Walt Kiesling, Mike Michalske, George Trafton, Jimmy Conzelman, John “Paddy” Driscoll and Joe Guyon.

They were also named to the NFL All-Decade team of the 1920s.

Almost that entire team has a bust of themselves in Canton. All except for two players. One is LaVern “Lavvie” Dilweg (first-team selection) of the Green Bay Packers, and the other is Hunk Anderson (second-team selection) of the Chicago Bears (who played only four years in the NFL).

Dilweg was considered the best two-way end of his day. Yes, many players played both offense and defense back in the day in the NFL. That continued into the 1950s.

When Dilweg played, the ground game was basically the way the game was played in the NFL. Yes, there were many, many instances of “three yards and a cloud of dust” back in the early days of the NFL.

But that style of play served Dilweg well, as he was considered a ferocious blocker, as well as the best receiving end of his day.

His stats aren’t overwhelming by today’s standards, but they were considered the best in the years he played. Dilweg had 123 receptions for 2,069 yards (16.3 yards-per-catch average) and 12 touchdown receptions.

In fact, even though the ball wasn’t thrown often in the NFL back then in what they call the pre-modern era, Dilweg had better numbers than Halas, Chamberlin, Bill Hewitt, Red Badgro, Ray Flaherty and Wayne Millner.

Everyone of those players are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Dilweg for some reason is not.

The only pre-modern player who Dilweg didn’t outperform at offensive end was a fellow who came to Green Bay the year after Dilweg retired. That would be Don Hutson, who joined the Packers in 1935. Hutson obliterated receiving records once he came into the NFL.

Dilweg started his NFL career with the Milwaukee Badgers in 1926 after graduating from Marquette University with a law degree, and then finished his career with the Packers from 1927 through 1934.

During that time, Dilweg played on three consecutive NFL title teams (1929, 1930 & 1931), plus was named All-Pro six times. There was no Pro Bowl back then.

Of all the players who played offensive end in the NFL, the six times that Dilweg was named All-Pro was the second-best mark in the NFL from 1920 through 1960. Only Hutson topped him with 10 All-Pro honors.

Lavvie Dilweg

Besides being a stud on offense, Dilweg was just as good on defense. No. 22 had 27 career interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Besides making big plays via the pick, Dilweg was also a fierce tackler.

Grange, who was also known as “The Galloping Ghost” said of Dilweg, “I have always said Dilweg is the greatest end who ever brought me down.’’

After his career with the Packers and the NFL was over, Dilweg became a very successful attorney, as well as becoming a Congressman in the U.S House of Representatives for Wisconsin’s 8th district for two years.

Dilweg’s grandson Anthony played quarterback for the Packers for two seasons in 1989 and 1990.

Dilweg died in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1968 at the age of 64.

Dilweg became a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1970 and now needs to join another prestigious Hall of Fame.

It would be fitting that Dilweg is named to 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, as it is expected that several seniors will be inducted that year, as the NFL celebrates it’s centennial season.

Dilweg was one of the big stars in the NFL almost 100 years ago and he deserves a bust among the best of the best in Canton along with the great players of his day.

I know you wouldn’t get an argument from Red Grange.

Wisconsin Filmmaker is Producing Jerry Kramer Documentary

Glenn, Diana and Jerry II

Glenn Aveni, Diana Kramer and Jerry Kramer.

A number of months ago, while I was chatting with Jerry Kramer regarding the book we are working on, he suggested I call someone.

Jerry told me to call Glenn Aveni, an award-winning filmmaker who was in the process of doing a documentary on Kramer. Jerry thought we might be able to share some information. Before I called Aveni, I checked out his biography and I was very impressed. I also noticed that Aveni was a Milwaukee native, just as I am.

When I called Glenn, I soon found out that we had a lot in common. We both grew up on the northwest side of Milwaukee and we knew a lot of the same people, although Aveni is a couple of years younger than I am.

Both of us agreed that we surely crossed paths at some point because of a mutual friend and also because we had similar interests, like sports and music. And just like I am with Jerry, I was at ease talking to Glenn, just like he was a close high school or college buddy.

One thing that really stuck out for me in my conversation with Aveni was hearing the passion that he had for the Green Bay Packers. Like me, Glenn grew up when the Packers under Vince Lombardi won five NFL titles in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls in the 1960s.

I also found out that at the age of nine, Aveni read Instant Replay, the classic book co-written by Kramer and the late, great Dick Schaap, which was a diary of the magnificent 1967 season for the Packers. A year when the Packers won their third straight NFL title under Lombardi, who was coaching his last team in Green Bay.

The documentary that Aveni is producing about Kramer is called You Can, If You Will – The Jerry Kramer Story. The Kickstarter campaign about the film is going live today. You can pre-order by going to this page.

I talked again with Aveni recently and he told me how this documentary idea about Kramer originated.

“A photographer friend of mine, who had done some photos of Jerry a few years ago, saw him at a signing event here in Milwaukee,” Aveni said. “So my friend called me on the phone and told me that Jerry Kramer was there. He told me that he saw Jerry there and congratulated him on being recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“So my friend said to Jerry, ‘Isn’t it about time that somebody does a film on you Jerry?’ And Jerry said, ‘You know, I was just talking about that with my marketing agent, Mark Mayfield.’

“So my friend says, ‘I know the perfect guy to do this. His done films on people like Les Paul, plus he’s from Wisconsin and a huge Packers fan.’ Jerry told my friend to have me call him on his cell phone. So I called him and had short conversation and I told him my background and apparently Jerry had seen my Les Paul film and liked it.

“Jerry cut to the chase and said, ‘How would we do this?’ And I told him that we would basically use the same template I utilized when I did the Les Paul piece. So I told Jerry that my company, Icon TV, would produce the film, handle the distribution and that I would direct the film.

“So Jerry goes, ‘That sounds really good and I think that we could make this work. I’m going to be up at Lambeau tomorrow and perhaps we can meet there for lunch. At least I can look in the whites of your eyes and maybe we can finalize this along with my marketing agent Mark.’

“So we met for lunch and I got us a private table in the back. We had a real nice lunch and I gave Jerry my ideas about how we would do the film. Then he looked at me and says, ‘Let’s do it!’ And then he says, ‘What do you think Mark?’ And Mark goes, ‘I think it’s a great idea. I have checked out Glenn’s background and he checked out great.’ So we shook on it.

“The one thing that was real reaffirming to me, because I’m such a passionate fan of the Packers, was that when we left our table, the entire 1919 Kitchen & Tap crowd stood up and gave Jerry a standing ovation. The place was packed too. Plus, he was mobbed by everyone. Young and old. I knew then that this film was going to be fantastic!”

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So Aveni started working on the film and was in Canton for Jerry’s enshrinement and was able to film Kramer’s acceptance speech. Plus, Aveni and his film crew were able to get a number of interviews with pro football icons like Ron Wolf.

Aveni told me about when he decided to utilize Kickstarter for this film.

“Well, when we started the project, I told Jerry that I would put up my own money to get the film started,” Aveni said. “My business model for all my films is to put up money to get rights for a film.  So I put up enough money to start shooting material to get into production. But I can’t really fund the entire film out of my pocket, as I just don’t have the resources to do that.

“The first goal in my films is to try and get some pre-sale. So I went to the obvious choices, who are NFL Network and ESPN. While both were very interested in the project, because they love Jerry, they really didn’t want to pre-buy, they preferred to wait until the project was done.

“So when I realized there was a high probability that we wouldn’t get pre-sale, I had told Jerry in our very first meeting that would probably crowd-fund the film, like I had done in the past with one of the other films I directed, which was called The US Generation.”

That film was about the Us Festival in 1982, which included musical acts like The Police, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Santana, Jackson Browne, The Cars, The Talking Heads, The Ramones, The Grateful Dead, Pat Benatar & The B52s.

Aveni worked with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in getting that film done. Aveni sees a lot of similarities comparing Kramer and Wozniak.

“Steve is very much like Jerry,” Aveni said. “Steve’s whole goal in life is to help other people’s lives. Not enriching himself, but to help other people. I took that project to Kickstarter and it definitely helped us get over the finish line. The film has had a fantastic response as well.”

One of the people who is assisting Aveni with this film is Jerry’s son Dan, who has had also worked with Kickstarter in the past. In fact, I did a story about his project, which was for his Return To Glory book.

Aveni talked about his association with Dan.

“I met Dan in Canton,” Aveni said. “He did some photography work there and he told me a little bit about his background. Dan is a really talented photographer. He’s very savvy about the media, plus he also has a past with the Kickstarter program.

“Dan and I hit it off personally. Jerry’s family is really a warm, loving family, as I’m sure you know. They were very gracious and very kind to me. They were thrilled that I would be doing the film about their dad.

“Once we realized that we were going to go the Kickstarter route, we thought it would be a good idea to bring Dan aboard on the project and be part of the production team. Dan is going to be invaluable.

“We are also working with Mark Mayfield of Mayfield Sports. Mark is an executive producer for the film. Mark has unbelievable contacts within the sports community, the Green Bay Packers community, as well as the NFL community.”

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Aveni summed up to me why Kickstarter is the perfect vehicle to drive this film.

“Kickstarter is the best, as I’ve had a great experience with it,” Aveni said. “They are more suited towards films and documentaries as well. Kickstarter makes you reach your goal. There is no funny business. You can’t raise a third of the money and just not deliver.

“We think that this will give great rewards to people who pledge to be part of this film. The thing I really like about Kickstarter is the unity that it creates. So whatever story that you are telling, you are able to work within a community of people who have a similar love and passion like you do.

“One of things I would like people to know is that we are going to give a tribute to Bart Starr in the film. Packer Nation loved Bart and they love Jerry as well. I know they will love this documentary.

“The people who help out feel like they are making the film with you. People will get a lot of real cool stuff for the money that they pledge. It’s just a unifying enterprise where the  people who are backing you become your biggest cheerleaders. It’s just a fantastic journey.”

Similar to the journey that Kramer and his teammates made on that epic 68-yard drive in the “Ice Bowl” or the 44 years it took for Kramer to get his rightful place among the best of the best, which is being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This film will illustrate all that and much more!

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

LeRoy Butler In Super Bowl XXXI

Former Green Bay Packers great LeRoy Butler has been patiently knocking on the door of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For two consecutive years, Butler was named among the 25 modern-era semifinalists for enshrinement in Canton.

It’s a well deserved distinction for Butler, who was a four-time, first-team AP All-Pro, as well as being a four-time Pro Bowler.

Butler did not make it to the final 15 for the second consecutive year as a nominee, but it appears the door might be soon be answered in terms of Butler getting a bust in Canton. Or it could also be a case of a window may be opening soon, as Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com recently wrote.

The next safety to most likely make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is Steve Atwater, formerly of the Denver Broncos. Atwater was named to the NFL’s All-Decade of the 1990s team as a first-team safety.

Guess who the other first-team safety was on that 1990s team? If you answered Butler, you are correct.

Atwater and Butler are the only two first-team players on that 1990s team not enshrined in Canton.

I talked to Rick Gosselin earlier this week and Gosselin is not only a voter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he sits on two important committees. One being the Seniors Committee, while the other is the Contributors Committee.

Gosselin played a big role in helping get Jerry Kramer his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Not only did he speak out on Kramer’s behalf in the seniors meeting in August to get Kramer nominated as a senior candidate, he also gave one of two presentations for Kramer to the entire 48-person Selection Committee on February 3, 2018.

Dougherty gave the other presentation for No. 64.

Kramer was inducted later that day.

Gosselin is an avid believer that any player who is named to an All-Decade team deserves strong consideration into being enshrined into the Hall of Fame. That is why he too believes that Butler has a chance to get in fairly soon.

Speaking of All-Decade players, Gosselin also believes that wide receiver Boyd Dowler of the Packers, who was on the the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s, deserves the same consideration.

Not only was Dowler on that team, but he was also on the second-team of the NFL 50th anniversary team. Dowler and tight end Ron Kramer of the Packers (third-team) are the only members of that 45-player team to not have a bust in Canton.

Bob and Rick Gosselin

Bob Fox and Rick Gosselin. (Daniel Kramer photo)

When I told Gosselin last year that I was planning on doing a series of articles about Packers who I believe belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Rick told me to make sure that I included Dowler, Kramer and Gale Gillingham.

Back to Butler now. First of all, the former Florida State Seminole star is one of only four defensive backs in NFL history to have at least 35 interceptions and 20 sacks. Butler had 38 picks and 20.5 sacks in his 12-year career with the Pack.

The other three are Charles Woodson (65/25) formerly of the Packers and Oakland Raiders, Ronde Barber (38/28) formerly of the Tampa Bay Bucs and Brian Dawkins (37/26) formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, who was enshrined into the Hall in 2018.

Woodson looks to be a definite first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2021.

Atwater, who was among the final 15 players this year in the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting had 24 interceptions and five sacks, while John Lynch, formerly of the Bucs and the Broncos, and who was also among the final 15 players in the voting, had 26 picks and 13 sacks.

Lynch has been a finalist six times.

Butler, Atwater and Lynch also all played for Super Bowl champions in their careers.

Butler played a key role in the 35-21 win by the Packers over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. The Packers were down 14-10 in the game when defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur decided to create more pressure on quarterback Drew Bledsoe of the Pats.

Shurmur directed Butler to start blitzing. Butler sacked Bledsoe once, plus his aggressiveness created even more sacks and pass pressure on Bledsoe. The Packers had five sacks in the game (three by Reggie White) and also caused Bledsoe to throw four interceptions.

In the great legacy of the Packers, Butler played in more games (181) than any other defensive back in team history. Besides his 38 picks and 20.5 sacks, Butler also had 13 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries.

No. 36 always seemed to be around the ball.

Butler also created the “Lambeau Leap” in 1993, when in a game against the Los Angeles Raiders, Butler took a lateral from White who had recovered a fumble, and No. 36 took it all the way to the end zone for a score.

It was Butler’s first career touchdown and because of the excitement, Butler leaped into the stands at Lambeau Field. The “Leap” has become a fixture now after the Packers score a touchdown at home. Not all players do the “Leap” after a score, but most do.

LeRoy Butler Lambeau Leap

There is no doubt that Butler has the résumé to definitely become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The door or window seems to be opening for Butler and other safeties like Atwater and Lynch (as well as Troy Palamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers) to get a bust in Canton. Of the 318 members now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there are just 11 pure safeties who have been inducted, with the latest being Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens and Johnny Robinson of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Two of those 11 safeties played with the Packers. One was Emlen Tunnell, who spent most of his career with the New York Giants, while the other was Willie Wood, who Tunnell was a mentor to early in Wood’s career.

Another former Green Bay safety who deserves to be in Canton is Bobby Dillon.

The bottom line is that Butler will eventually get a bust in Canton. I base that comment because of what I have heard from Gosselin, who has one of the more powerful voices among the voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

While I was crusading for Kramer to get his rightful enshrinement among the best of the best in Canton over several years, Gosselin reassured me that Kramer would eventually get in and indeed it finally happened. Rick told me the same thing earlier this week about Butler.

When Butler is finally enshrined, you can bet that Packer Nation will “leap” for joy!