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.

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

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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 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

Bart and Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of those quarterbacks is Bart Starr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That is a capsule comment about Bart Starr.”

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No. 86 continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Lavvie Dilweg(2)

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.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame: The Green Bay Packers Deserve More Recognition

hall of fame packer logo 2

The Green Bay Packers have won 13 NFL championships, which is the most in league history. The next closest team to that total is the Chicago Bears, who have won nine NFL titles.

Yet, da Bears have 28 members of their team in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while the Packers have just 25. Something seems amiss to me here.

Here are the Packers who have a bust in Canton:

They are Curly Lambeau (Class of 1963), Robert “Cal” Hubbard (Class of 1963), Don Hutson (Class of 1963), Johnny “Blood” McNally (Class of 1963), Clarke Hinkle (Class of 1964), Mike Michalske (Class of 1964), Arnie Herber (Class of 1966), Vince Lombardi (Class of 1971), Tony Canadeo (Class of 1974), Jim Taylor (Class of 1976), Forrest Gregg (Class of 1977), Bart Starr (Class of 1977), Ray Nitschke (Class of 1978), Herb Adderley (Classof 1980), Willie Davis (Class of 1981), Jim Ringo (Class of 1981), Paul Hornung (Class of 1986), Willie Wood (Class of 1989), Henry Jordan (Class of 1995), James Lofton (Class of 2003), Reggie White (Class of 2006), Dave Robinson (Class of 2013), Ron Wolf (Class of 2015), Brett Favre (Class of 2016) and Jerry Kramer (Class of 2018).

Now here are the Bears who are in the Hall of Fame:

They are George Halas (Class of 1963), Bronco Nagurski (Class of 1963), Harold “Red” Grange (Class of 1963), Ed Healey (Class of 1964), William Lyman (Class of 1964), George Trafton (Class of 1964), Paddy Driscoll (Class of 1965), Dan Fortmann (Class of 1965), Sid Luckman (Class of 1965), George McAfee (Class of 1966), Bulldog Turner (Class of 1966), Joe Stydahar (Class of 1967), Bill Hewitt (Class of 1971), Bill George (Class of 1974, George Connor (Class of 1975), Gale Sayers (Class of 1977), Dick Butkus (Class of 1979), George Blanda (Class of 1981), George Musso (Class of 1982), Doug Atkins (Class of 1982), Mike Ditka (Class of 1988), Stan Jones (Class of 1991), Walter Payton (Class of 1993), Jim Finks (Class of 1995), Mike Singletary (Class of 1998), Dan Hampton (Class of 2002), Richard Dent (Class of 2011) and Brian Urlacher (Class of 2018).

Now let’s look at the years the Packers have won the NFL title:

The years are 1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1996 and 2010.

Here are the NFL titles won by da Bears:

1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1963 and 1986.

The Bears were in the league right from the start in 1920 (when it was the American Professional Football Association), while the Packers joined the league in 1921.

Both the Bears and Packers each won six NFL titles through 1946. Yet, Chicago has 13 players recognized in Canton who played on some of those teams, while the Packers only have eight.

That tells you something right there.

Now I’m not saying that the members of the Bears from those teams don’t deserve to have a place in Canton. They absolutely do.

What I’m saying is that more Packers from that era deserve a place among the best of the best in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Players like Lavvie Dilweg, Verne Lewellen and Cecil Isbell.

Dilweg was a first-team member of the All-Decade team of the 1920s in the NFL. He is the only member of that All-Decade team not in Canton. Dilweg was named first-team All-Pro team six times and was also a second-team selection at All-Pro once. There was no Pro Bowl (started in 1938) when Dilweg played.

The former Marquette star set all the Green Bay receiving records until a fellow by the name of Don Huston came on the scene. Dilweg was part of the squad that won three consecutive NFL titles from 1929 through 1931. This was prior to the playoff era in the NFL. Unbelievably, Dilweg has never been a finalist for the Hall of Fame.

Dilweg was also the grandfather of Anthony Dilweg, who played quarterback for the Packers in 1989 and 1990.

Lewellen was also part of the team which won three straight NFL titles in 1929, 1930 and 1931. The former Nebraska star was a do-it-all type of player. Lewellen rushed for 2,410 career yards and 37 TDs, passed for 2,076 yards and threw nine TDs and gained another 1,240 yards receiving and had 12 more scores.

Lewellen was also the Green Bay punter, as he averaged 39.5 yards per kick. Lewellen was named All-Pro four times and should have been named to the NFL All-Decade team of the 1920s like Dilweg was. Also like Dilweg, Lewellen has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.

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

Cecil Isbell  carries the ball in the 1939 NFL Championship Game at State Fair Park.

Then there is Isbell, who had a short five-year career before he retired. But what a great career he had in those five years. Isbell was a two-time first-team All-Pro and a three-time second-team All-Pro. Isbell also went to four Pro Bowls.

Isbell was so prolific throwing the ball to Don Hutson, that he was named to the NFL All-Decade team of the 1930s. From 1920 through 2000, there have been 21 quarterbacks selected to the All-Decade teams. All but Isbell are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The two best years that Hutson ever had were in 1941 and 1942 when Isbell was throwing him the ball. In 1941, Hutson caught 58 passes from Isbell for 738 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 1942, Hutson caught 74 passes from Isbell for 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns.  In ’42, Hutson became the first-ever 1,000 yard receiver.

The NFL was mostly a three yards and a cloud of dust league before Hutson came into the league. That all changed when No. 14 became a huge receiving threat and had Isbell throwing him the ball.

In his short career, Isbell threw 61 touchdown passes versus 52 interceptions for 5,945 yards. He was not a bad runner either, as he rushed for 1,522 yards and 10 scores. Isbell also found time to catch 15 passes.

So if you can make the case for 13 Bears to be in the Hall of Fame because of the six NFL titles won through 1946, you can also say that the Packers, who also won six championships during that time, deserve more than eight players in Canton from those teams.

Dilweg, Lewellen and Isbell are three more that should definitely have busts right now.

Plus, there are the other Packers who deserve consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I have written about a number of them. Players like Bobby Dillon, Ron Kramer, Boyd Dowler, Fuzzy Thurston, Don Chandler, Gale Gillingham and Sterling Sharpe.

Plus you have to also consider players like Bob Skoronski and LeRoy Butler.

And we can’t forget scout Jack Vainisi either. Vainisi was just as responsible for the success of the Packers of the 1960s, as Ron Wolf was for the Packers of the 1990s.

So, will the Packers ever catch the Bears in terms of having as many or more individuals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Well, the Pack certainly has some excellent candidates to get a bust in Canton.

Plus there is this. The Packers now have a 96-93-6 advantage (regular season) in their series against the Bears dating back to 1921. But it wasn’t until last season that the Packers were able to get ahead in the series for the first time since 1932.

The Packers and Bears are also 1-1 against each other in the postseason, which includes the 2010 NFC title game at Soldier Field, when Green Bay won 21-14.

Packers-Bears Helmets

The bottom line is that the Packers are the most successful franchise in NFL history. They have proven that with their league-leading 13 NFL championships. But some of the great players who helped win some of those championships have been ignored by the Hall of Fame.

That needs to change.

Plus there are players like Dillon, who played on mostly bad teams in Green Bay in the 1950s. Or Gillingham or who played on mostly bad or mediocre teams except for his first two years in the NFL (1966 and 1967) when he played for the Super Bowl I and the Super Bowl II champion Packers.

Gillingham was also on the 1972 Green Bay team which won the NFC Central title, but he missed almost the entire season due to a knee injury after Dan Devine ridiculously decided to move him to defensive tackle.

Playing on mostly bad teams didn’t stop voters from putting Sayers and Butkus in the Hall of Fame. Neither No. 40 or No. 51 ever played in a NFL postseason game. But they were both among the best of the best at their position when they played in the NFL.

That is also true of all the Packers I have mentioned.

And that’s why the Packers deserve more recognition in terms of individuals who belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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 Matuzak 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.

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

Ron Kramer

Now that Jerry Kramer (first team) of the Green Bay Packers was finally rightfully inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after over four decades of waiting, that means that there are just two players who were on the NFL 50th anniversary team who do not have busts in Canton.

Those players are Boyd Dowler (second team) and Ron Kramer (third team).

I wrote about why Dowler deserves to be considered to have a place among the best of the best in pro football about a month ago. Today I am going to state the case for Kramer.

But before I do that, I want you to see the words that Rick Gosselin, who is on the Seniors Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said about both Dowler and Kramer in a podcast on the Talk of Fame Sports Network shortly after Jerry Kramer was named to the Class of 2018 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Can you enshrine too many players from one franchise in the Hall of Fame? That’s the question that came up last week when those of us on the Hall of Fame selection committee enshrined the 12th member of the 1960’s Packers. That’s guard Jerry Kramer.

“That’s more than half of the starting lineup, plus the head coach from one team. A team that won five championships in a span of seven years. And went to six title games in a span of eight seasons. No team of any era, has more players in Canton than those 1960’s Packers.

“They have indeed been rewarded for their success. Should the committee now draw the line there with the Lombardi Packers? Well, ponder this. In 1969, this same Hall of Fame selection committee was commissioned to pick the greatest players in the game’s first 50 years.

“There were 45 players selected to that team. And 43 are now enshrined in Canton. Only two are not. They both played for the ’60’s Packers, split end Boyd Dowler and tight end Ron Kramer. Dowler was selected to the 1960’s All-Decade team as well and Kramer would have been had the committee selected more than one tight end.

“Yet neither of those players has ever been discussed as a finalist for the Hall of Fame. If you were chosen as one of the best players in the game’s first half-century, don’t you deserve a spin through the room as a finalist to determine if you are indeed Hall of Fame worthy.

“It took [Jerry] Kramer 45 years to get in. It took teammate Dave Robinson 34 years and Henry Jordan 21. The Hall of Fame is a process. Maybe Dowler and Ron Kramer deserve to be Hall of Famers. Maybe they don’t. But they certainly deserve a few minutes in that room to start the process and have their cases heard, regardless how many teammates have been enshrined.”

Both Jerry Kramer and Dowler were on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s, as well as being on the 50th anniversary team. And as Gosselin stated in his comments above, Ron Kramer would have been on the All-Decade team of the 1960s if the team would have had more than one tight end.

That in itself makes a compelling case why both Dowler and Ron Kramer deserve to be in Canton.

Besides Jerry Kramer, Dowler and Ron Kramer, there were also a few of their teammates on the 50th anniversary team. They were Ray Nitschke (first team), Forrest Gregg (second team) and Herb Adderley (third team).

Nitschke, Gregg and Adderley were also all on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s. Plus, like Jerry Kramer, all three have busts in Canton.

The thing that voters need to realize is that the NFL was a different game back in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a much more violent game and the running game was still the main staple of most offenses in the NFL.

Originally, when the tight end position morphed into play in the NFL, it was mainly a position that helped out the running game by blocking. Catching the ball was almost an afterthought.

In fact, on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1950s, there isn’t even a tight end listed.

That was the state of the NFL when Ron Kramer was drafted in the first round by the Packers in 1957, thanks to the great scouting work done by Jack Vainisi.

Also selected in that draft was Paul Hornung, who was the first overall selection that year by the Packers, as teams were awarded bonus picks (the No. 1 overall selection) from 1947 through 1958.  Once a team was awarded a bonus pick, they were eliminated from further draws.

Ron Kramer didn’t win the Heisman Trophy like Hornung did in 1956, but he he did finish in the top 10 in Heisman voting, both in 1955 (eighth) and 1956 (sixth), when he was a consensus All-American at Michigan.

Kramer earned nine letters at Michigan, as he was also a talented basketball player who averaged 17 points a game and almost nine rebounds a game, as well being an excellent track athlete.

Kramer was so good at Michigan, that his No. 87 was retired after his senior year. Plus, Kramer was also inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor, as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.

In one of our many conversations, Jerry Kramer talked about the tight end from Michigan who shared his last name.

“Ron was a 260-pound runaway truck,” Kramer said. “He was an outstanding athlete at Michigan. He high-jumped 6’4”. He threw the shot put around 60 feet. Ron was also very good in basketball, was the captain of the team and at one point was the all-time leading scorer in team history at Michigan.

“He was an All-American in football for two years running. Overall, Ron won nine letters in sports at Michigan, three each in football, basketball and track.”

Kramer had a nice rookie year in 1957 under then head coach Lisle Blackbourn, as he was second on the team in receptions to Billy Howton, as No. 88 had 28 receptions.

Kramer missed the 1958 season due to military service in the Air Force, which was probably for the best, as the Packers had their worst season ever that year finishing 1-10-1 under Scooter McLean, who took over for Blackbourn that season.

Kramer was back in 1959 with the Packers and also their new head coach and general manager Vince Lombardi.

In 1959 and 1960, Kramer did not start a lot of games, as Gary Knafelc was the starter at tight end most of the time. Because of his athleticism, Kramer played in every game in both 1959 and 1960 (mostly on special teams), but only started four games at tight end.

Ron Kramer and Vince Lombardi in 1961 NFL title game.

That all changed in 1961. Lombardi recognized that he had an immense talent in Kramer. Not only a receiver, but as a blocker. In fact, the power sweep was the signature play of the Packers under Lombardi, and Kramer was a key attribute on the success of that play due to his great blocking.

From 1961 through 1964, Kramer became the first of the great tight ends to ever grace the NFL. Kramer led the way for players like John Mackey and Mike Ditka, who were also on the NFL 50th anniversary team, plus also have busts in Canton.

I talked to Dowler recently and he talked about Kramer, who was his roommate in Green Bay for five years.

“You should talk to somebody who can talk about the tight end position and tell you who he thinks the best at that position was,” Dowler said. “Give Mike Ditka a call. Ditka has said, and he and Ron were pretty close friends, that the best of the bunch was Ron.”

In 1961, Kramer had 35 receptions for 559 yards (16 yards per catch) and four touchdowns.

In the 1961 NFL title game against the New York Giants at City Stadium (now Lambeau Field), No. 88 caught four passes for 80 yards (20 yards per catch) and two touchdowns, as the Packers won 37-0.

That was the year Titletown was born.

In 1962, Kramer caught 37 passes for 555 yards (15 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. He later caught two passes in the 1962 NFL title game at Yankee Stadium, as the Packers won 16-7, as the other Kramer (Jerry) was the star of the game.

In 1963, Kramer caught 32 passes for 537 yards (16.8 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. And in 1964, Kramer caught 34 passes for 551 yards (16.2 yards per catch).

Ron Kramer in 1961 NFL title game

As you can see by the yards per reception average, Kramer made a lot of big plays down the seam, as quarterback Bart Starr scanned the field. And besides being a big receiving threat, he was also considered the best blocking tight end in football.

While he was in Green Bay, Kramer was named first-team All-Pro by AP in 1962, plus was named second-team All-Pro by various media sources like AP, UPI, NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association) and the New York Daily News six times in 1962 and 1963.

Kramer was also named to the Pro Bowl in 1962.

Kramer played out his option in the 1964 season, which allowed him to sign with another NFL team. Kramer wanted to go back to Michigan to be with his family, so he signed with the Detroit Lions.

Back then, if a player played out his option like Kramer did, the team he played for would get a first-round draft pick. The Packers did receive one from the Lions and used that pick on fullback Jim Grabowski in the 1966 NFL draft.

The player that was probably the closest to Kramer was Hornung, who entered the NFL and Green Bay with No. 88. Hornung has as much fun as anyone in the NFL did off the field when he played. Kramer was with No. 5 on a number of those occasions.

Jerry Kramer recounted that with me.

“Ron was also quite the character off the field,” Kramer said. “He and Paul Hornung were very close. Ron was a unique human being. He was a bit wacky at times. He loved to put a drink on his head because he had a flat spot up there, and he would dance with it up there.

“Ron also like to mess with you. He would kiss you in the ear or some silly-ass thing. Just to irritate you. He would do that just for aggravation and he would giggle and laugh.

“So when Ron died, Hornung goes to his funeral up in Detroit and Ron’s son Kurt picked up Paul at the airport. When Kurt sees Paul, he gives him a big kiss right on the lips. And Paul yells, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ And Kurt said, ‘Dad told me about three months ago that if he didn’t make it and if you came to his funeral, I was supposed to give you a big kiss on the lips and to tell you it was from dad.’

“Paul started crying like a baby after that.”

You can bet that there will be more tears shed if Ron Kramer gets inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Perhaps it will be in 2020, as Gosselin has told me that he trying to get 10 seniors inducted into Canton on the centennial year of the NFL.

When I told Rick that I would be writing a series of articles about Packers who I believe deserve consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he told me to make sure I wrote about Kramer, Dowler and Gale Gillingham.

I have done that now. And it is my sincere desire that at least one of those three players is included among the ten seniors who will hopefully be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

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

Boyd Dowler in Super Bowl II

When Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was finally enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last month, that meant that there are now just two players who were on the NFL 50th anniversary team who do not have a bust in Canton.

Those players just happened to be teammates of Kramer’s on the Packers as well. Those players are wide receiver Boyd Dowler and tight end Ron Kramer.

I’ll be writing a future story about Kramer, the multi-talented athlete who played at Michigan, but this piece is about No. 86, Dowler.

Dowler was on the second team of the 50th anniversary team (named in 1969) and he was joined on that squad by the likes of Sammy Baugh, Bronco Nagurski, Harold “Red” Grange, Forrest Gregg, Raymond Berry, Mike Ditka, Danny Fortman, Mel Hein, Len Ford, Ernie Stautner, Joe Schmidt, Jack Butler, Jack Christiansen and Ernie Nevers.

All but Dowler are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When Dowler retired from the NFL after the 1970 season, he was 10th in all-time receptions in the NFL and 12th in receiving yardage.

Those landmark statistical achievements for Dowler have obviously changed over the years. Especially since the rule changes after the 1977 season which has made the NFL a pass-happy league.

Rule changes like allowing defenders to make contact with receivers only to a point of five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Previously, contact was allowed anywhere on the field, unless the ball was thrown by the quarterback.

Nobody was more physical down the field with receivers than Dick “Night Train” Lane. Dowler matched up against him on several occasions while Lane was with the Detroit Lions.

The NFL also allowed offensive linemen to use extended arms and open hands after the ’77 season.

I’m sure Jerry Kramer would have appreciated having rules like that while he was blocking the likes of Merlin Olsen and Alex Karras in the 1960s.

Besides being named to the 50th anniversary team of the NFL, Dowler was named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade team.

Being named to a NFL All-Decade team usually gets a player strong consideration for getting a place in Canton.

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).

The former Colorado star was also named to two Pro Bowls in his career.

So with all the honors that Dowler received, especially being named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, as well as being named All-Decade in the 1960s, Rick Gosselin, a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and a member of the Seniors selection Committee, wonders why Dowler has not been considered for a place in Canton.

Gosselin feels the same way about Ron Kramer.

This is what Gosselin said in a Talk of Fame Sports Network podcast from back in February after Jerry Kramer was named to the Class of 2018 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Can you enshrine too many players from one franchise in the Hall of Fame? That’s the question that came up last week when those of us on the Hall of Fame selection committee enshrined the 12th member of the 1960’s Packers. That’s guard Jerry Kramer.

“That’s more than half of the starting lineup, plus the head coach from one team. A team that won five championships in a span of seven years. And went to six title games in a span of eight seasons. No team of any era, has more players in Canton than those 1960’s Packers.

“They have indeed been rewarded for their success. Should the committee now draw the line there with the Lombardi Packers? Well, ponder this. In 1969, this same Hall of Fame selection committee was commissioned to pick the greatest players in the game’s first 50 years.

“There were 45 players selected to that team. And 43 are now enshrined in Canton. Only two are not. They both played for the ’60’s Packers, split end Boyd Dowler and tight end Ron Kramer. Dowler was selected to the 1960’s All-Decade team as well and Kramer would have been had the committee selected more than one tight end.

“Yet neither of those players has ever been discussed as a finalist for the Hall of Fame. If you were chosen as one of the best players in the game’s first half-century, don’t you deserve a spin through the room as a finalist to determine if you are indeed Hall of Fame worthy.

“It took [Jerry] Kramer 45 years to get in. It took teammate Dave Robinson 34 years and Henry Jordan 21. The Hall of Fame is a process. Maybe Dowler and Ron Kramer deserve to be Hall of Famers. Maybe they don’t. But they certainly deserve a few minutes in that room to start the process and have their cases heard, regardless how many teammates have been enshrined.”

I most definitely agree with Gosselin.

Jerry and Boyd

So does No. 64, Jerry Kramer.

“Boyd was so precise and so mature his rookie year,” Kramer said. “He started taking care of business right out of the gate. He rarely dropped a pass. He would catch it over the middle, catch it on the sidelines and catch it wherever the hell you threw it. He was consistent throughout his career.”

Plus, Dowler was very confident and also very smart from Kramer’s perspective.

“I think Boyd’s confidence was one of the big reasons why he was accepted so quickly and completely,” Kramer said. “There were no excuses from Boyd. If he screwed something up, he would be the guy to tell you. But he very seldom screwed things up and made very few mistakes.”

Dowler was one of only three rookies on the Packers to ever start for Vince Lombardi. The others were center Ken Bowman in 1964 and center Bob Hyland in 1967.

Dowler’s career in the NFL matches up very well with Lynn Swann of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who played on a team which won four Super Bowls in six years.

Dowler can relate to that, as he played on a Green Bay team which won five NFL titles in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. Plus, Dowler was part of the only team in NFL history, at least in the playoff era, to win three straight NFL championships.

Dowler brought that comparison up to me during one of our conversations.

“Probably the most significant statistic that I can come up with in my career was the fact that I caught five touchdown passes in championship games,” Dowler said. “The guy who sticks out to me who is sort of similar as far as statistics are concerned is Lynn Swann. He probably got inducted because of his play in playoff or championship games.”

In terms of regular season numbers in his career, Dowler had 448 catches for 6,918 yards and 40 touchdowns, while Swann had 336 catches for 5,462 and 51 touchdowns.

In the postseason, Dowler had 30 receptions for 440 yards and five scores in 10 games. One of those games was Super Bowl I, when No. 86 missed almost the entire game due to a shoulder injury.

After that injury, Dowler was replaced by Max McGee, who went on to have the best game of his career, as he had seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, as quarterback Bart Starr looked for No. 85 early and often in the first Super Bowl.

Swann had 48 catches for 907 yards and nine touchdowns in 16 postseason games.

So if you compare the two, Dowler and Swann each caught three passes per game in the postseason. Plus, each caught a touchdown pass in every other playoff game they played in.

The only real difference between the two is that Swann is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Dowler is not.

The best postseason Dowler had was after the 1967 season.

“The highlight for me was the two touchdown catches in the “Ice Bowl” and I got another score in the Super Bowl, the second Super Bowl,” Dowler said.

“I always seemed to come up with something against Dallas. I always seemed to come up with big plays against the Cowboys. I can’t really explain why. We just kind of operated that way.

“We never went into a game thinking that I was going to get the ball a lot this week. We just never did that. We just went along and Bart ran plays on how the game developed. We didn’t game-plan those things or that I was going to catch two scores in the “Ice Bowl” game.”

The second touchdown pass that Dowler caught in the “Ice Bowl”, was one of the favorite calls for Starr throughout his years in Green Bay. It was third and short and on a play-action fake, Starr hit Dowler on 43-yard post pattern.

Boyd Dowler scores TD in Ice Bowl

Dowler talked about the way Starr liked to use play-action on third and short and also about that particular play.

“It almost always worked,” Dowler said, talking about the play-action calls by Starr. “On the long touchdown pass from Bart in the “Ice Bowl”, I kind of went, ‘oh oh’, because he was throwing into the wind. But I was pretty sure I could get to it and the wind held it up just a little.

“On that play, I was a little bit off the line like I was going to block and my eyes met Mel Renfro about the time we got even. He was still facing the line of scrimmage and I was pretty sure I could get by him, even though he was pretty fast, as he was a world-class sprinter. Renfro was an awful good football player and had a lot of speed, but it was the play-call that got me open.”

Bottom line, in the 1967 postseason, Dowler caught nine passes for 183 yards (20.3 yards-per-catch average) and three touchdowns.

When I mentioned to Gosselin that I would be writing a series of articles about former Green Bay players who deserve consideration in terms of having a bust in Canton, he made sure that I mentioned Dowler, Ron Kramer and Gale Gillingham.

None of those players have received their due in terms of being considered for a place among the best of the best in Canton.

That doesn’t bother Dowler though.

“I don’t really have a problem with that,” Dowler said. “I’m real happy with the fact that we won five world championships. I never thought throughout my career or since, that I’ve never been nominated. It really doesn’t surprise me. And it doesn’t upset me.

“That’s just the way it is and that’s the way our team was put together. I was happy that they kept putting out there in the huddle for 11 years.”

But something might soon change for players like Dowler. Gosselin has put out his  “amnesty proposal” which will allow several seniors to get inducted in the 100th anniversary of the NFL, as opposed to the one or two per year as it stands now. That proposal is strongly being considered by David Baker, the President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When I talked to Gosselin in Canton when Kramer was being enshrined on August 4, he told me that he believes he can get 10 seniors in on the centennial anniversary of the NFL.

Perhaps one of those players might be Dowler.

“If a guy [Rick Gosselin] is going to take the ball and run with it for a bunch of old guys for the 100th year of the NFL, that’s fine by me,” Dowler said. “If he wants to put me in that mix, I’m all for it. I’m not going to discourage him from doing that. I think that’s a great idea.”

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

Gale Gillingham II

The Green Bay Packers were very fortunate to have two of the best guards in the NFL from 1959 through 1966 when left guard Fuzzy Thurston and right guard Jerry Kramer were a dominant blocking duo.

Especially on the signature play of the Packers and their head coach Vince Lombardi, the power sweep.

Both Kramer and Thurston were honored due to their outstanding play. Back in the day when No. 64 and No. 63 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).

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).

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).

That’s a combined 12 All-Pro honors. Seven for Kramer and five for Thurston.

But even with the award-winning play, Kramer only went to three Pro Bowls, while Thurston never went to a single one. That seems quite odd and perplexing to me.

Kramer was also honored by being put on the 1960s All-Decade team, plus was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team (the only guard on the first team).

That all led to Kramer being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

The Packers were also very fortunate that they had another talented guard available to take Thurston’s place when No. 63 injured a knee in training camp in 1967.

That player was Gale Gillingham, who was a second-year player out of the University of Minnesota. Gillingham, along with fullback Jim Grabowski, were taken in the first round of the 1966 NFL draft.

Those two rookies played a big role in the 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl when the Packers faced the Dallas Cowboys. After the Packers had grabbed a 7-0 lead after scoring on the opening drive, on the ensuing kickoff, Gillingham forced a fumble by Mel Renfro, which was recovered by Grabowski and returned 18 yards for another touchdown.

After Thurston’s knee injury in training camp in 1967, Kramer soon learned that he was not going to be the fastest offensive lineman on the Packers any more.

“After we did some sprints for awhile, I told Forrest Gregg to forget about trying to beat Gilly,” Kramer said. “The kid could really move, plus he was strong as an ox.”

It was soon apparent that Gillingham was not going to relinquish the left guard spot that was held by Thurston for so many years.

Did Thurston sulk about that situation? Hell no.

“Fuzzy sat besides Gilly for the rest of the ’67 season, ” Kramer said. “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.”

Gilly had a nice season in 1967, as the Packers won their third straight NFL championship, plus won their second straight Super Bowl as well.

That team overcame a lot to become champions. The Packers did not have either fullback Jim Taylor or halfback Paul Hornung in in 1967. Add to that, their replacements, Grabowski and Elijah Pitts, were both lost for the year due to injuries midway through the season.

Even with that, the Packers still finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1967. The play of No. 68 certainly helped that situation.

The 1967 season was also the last year Vince Lombardi coached the Packers.

Gilly blocks Dick Butkus

It was also the last time Gillingham would play for a head coach in Green Bay  with a winning record.

Gilly played eight more years in Green Bay, and only twice did he play on a winning team. That happened in 1969 (8-6) and 1972 (10-4). No. 68 missed most of the 1972 season because of a knee injury. More on that scenario later in the story.

While all that losing was going on, Gillingham still played at an elite level. Just like the era when Kramer and Thurston played in, there were multiple media outlets in which awards were given to positional players in the NFL.

Gilly racked in a lot of hardware from those outlets.

Gillingham was named first-team All-Pro in 1969 (AP and NEA), 1970 (AP and NEA), 1971 (NEA), 1973 (Pro Football Writers) and 1974 (NEA).

Gilly was also named second-team in 1968 (NEA and UPI), 1969 (Hall of Fame, NY and UPI), 1970 (Pro Football Writers) and 1971 (Pro Football Writers).

If you add those numbers up, that’s five first-team All-Pro designations for Gillingham, as well as four second-team All-Pro honors. That’s a total of nine.

There should have been more. You may have noticed that Gilly did not get any awards after the 1972 season, which was No. 68’s second under Dan Devine.

Gillingham was considered one of the best right guards in the NFL going into the 1972 season. He had been named All-Pro four straight years, plus had gone to three straight Pro Bowls (went to five overall).

It was at this point that Devine made one of the most mind-boggling decisions ever in the head coaching history of the Packers. He decided to move Gillingham to defensive tackle. Huh?

Now Gillingham had played some defensive tackle at the University of Minnesota, but he was also a truly elite right guard in the NFL at the time of Devine’s decision. That determination by Devine made no sense to me. Then and now.

Plus, just two games into the season, No. 68 hurt his knee and was lost for the season.

I talked to Kramer about Devine’s decision to move Gilly to defense. No 64. was pretty blunt in his assessment.

“That was stupid,” Kramer said. “That really was a stupid move. That’s the only thing I can say about that. It just boggles your mind taking a kid of that caliber and quality and then move him to a whole new position. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Plus, there is this. That season the Packers were lead by second-year quarterback Scott Hunter. Because of that, the team would have to to depend on the running game to be successful on offense.

John Brockington and MacArthur Lane combined for almost 2,000 years rushing that season, but just imagine their amount of success with Gillingham at right guard. In fact, the Packers were ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing in 1972. If Gilly was playing right guard as he should have been, I could see the Packers being in the top five in rushing, maybe even top three.

Devine came to his senses in 1973 and put Gillingham back at right guard, where he again accumulated awards.

But the losing and the coaching decisions began to wear on Gillingham.

Gillingham talked about that situation in an article written by Martin Hendricks of Packer Plus in August of 2011.

“I had no faith in the line coach and didn’t fit into the system,” Gillingham said. said. “I wanted to be traded.”

No. 68 was talking about the 1975 season in which he sat out the season due to differences with offensive line coach Leon McLaughlin.

Plus, there was the losing.

“The losing killed me,” said Gillingham. “I was burned out and beat up both mentally and physically.”

Tragically, just a few months after the article in Packer Plus was written, Gillingham died of a heart attack at his home in Minnesota while lifting weights. Gilly was just 67 years-old.

Gillingham was inducted in the Packers Hall of Fame in 1982.

IMAG0569

I believe Gillingham belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well. Had not Devine moved Gilly to defense in 1972, I’m sure Gilly would have put together another All-Pro season at right guard.

He also could have experienced winning again first hand, not to mention leading a dominant ground game.

I also believe that Gilly would have had a very good chance to be on the 1970s All-Decade team at guard had he been able to play there in 1972.

Being a member of an All-Decade team usually leads to a bust in Canton in most cases.

Rick Gosselin, who is a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and who also heads the Seniors Selection Committee, sent a note to me a couple weeks back about who to include in my series of articles about other worthy individuals on the Packers who deserve placement in Canton.

Gosselin told me to make sure that Ron Kramer, Boyd Dowler and Gillingham were included in my articles.

Gosselin has put forward an amnesty proposal to David Baker (President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) to implement on the 100th anniversary of the NFL.

The proposal calls for at least 10 deserving seniors to be inducted on the centennial of the league. Based on my recent discussion with Gosselin, it sounds like he will be able to get 10 seniors in.

That would be awesome news!

As would hearing that Gale Gillingham would be among those ten great NFL players who will finally get their due in Canton.