Born on this day in 1931, Jim Ringo was the best center of his time and went to 10 Pro Bowls, seven as a Packer, so it is no surprise that he is in the Hall of Fame. Ringo was a seventh round pick out of Syracuse in 1953 but was undersized at 210 pounds and a bit of a longshot to make the Packers as a rookie. Even Jim had his doubts and left camp for home in Easton, Pennsylvania during training camp. When he got there, his family told him not to be a quitter and sent him back to Green Bay.
Ringo made the Packers in 1953 and became the regular starter in his second season; from 1954-67 in Green Bay and Philadelphia, he never missed a game and set an NFL record with 182 consecutive starts. Although he bulked up to 230 pounds, the 6’1” Ringo was always on the smallish side and relied primarily on his quickness. In Run to Daylight, Vince Lombardi credits the league-wide defensive switch from a 5-3 with a large middle guard lined up over the center to the 4-3 with no one on the center’s nose as allowing Ringo to thrive in the league. The Vikings Mick Tingelhoff was very much Ringo’s successor as the league’s top center and was about the same size. Look at how Mick was manhandled in Minnesota’s Super Bowl appearances against high-quality odd-man fronts, and Lombardi’s point about size is clear.
Teammate Bob Skoronski told the Journal Sentinel that Ringo, “was so quick that when Lombardi came in, he was able to change the blocking schemes. People thought it was impossible to do what he did. We had a sweeping cut-off block that he had to make against those defensive tackles, but he was so quick off the ball he could make it.” Position coach Bill Austin added to Chuck Johnson, “He knows what every lineman does on every play – all five interior men. His desire and personal pride is [sic] tremendous. He is a student of the game. On pass protection, he is very good at moving back and picking up the red dogs and blitzes.”
In 1962, Ringo told Bud Lea, “When I lose my quickness, I won’t kid myself about continuing in the sport.” Two years later, the 32-year old Ringo was traded to the Eagles and the apocryphal story is that he came to negotiate his contract with an agent and an incensed Vince Lombardi traded him within ten minutes. Besides the fact that four-man trades do not come together that quickly and that personnel man and contract negotiator Pat Peppler has rebutted the tale decisively, Lombardi himself gave his view to reporters two weeks after the trade, “There are two ways to look at a team. One, you wait until the team is down in the bottom of the standings. Then you run around like mad trying to plug holes. Or you make your moves when you’re near the top. I have a great deal of respect for veterans. Trading a veteran is one of the toughest jobs for me. But you have to do things to help your club.”
Ringo and fullback backup fullback Earl Gros brought in young linebacker Lee Roy Caffey and a number one draft pick that was used for Donny Anderson. Jim played four more years in Philadelphia. It was a decent deal for Philadelphia, but a great one for Green Bay. Ringo subsequently had a long successful career as an offensive line coach in the NFL. He died two days before his 76th birthday in 2007.
(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)
1955, 1958 and 1963 custom cards are colorized.