Monday, July 27, marks the birthday of five Packers: current center Corey Linsley, 1958 reserve halfback Jim Shanley, 1940s end Nolan Luhn, 1930s guard/kicker Paul “Tiny” Engebretsen and 1950s return man Billy Grimes.
Linsley’s “short arms” caused him to fall to the Packers in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, but when J.C. Tretter went down to injury, Corey stepped in and played at nearly a Pro Bowl level as a rookie.
Shanley was just 5’9” 170-lbs and made the 1958 Packers as a free agent. After one year returning punts, Shanley quit the pros for high school coaching prior to Vince Lombardi’s first training camp.
Luhn teamed with his former Tulsa teammate Clyde Goodnight to try to do the impossible…replace Don Hutson in the late 1940s. Luhn caught 100 passes for over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns from 1945-49 — not bad considering the failing state of the Packers of the time, but he was not a star.
The 6’1” 240-lb Engebretsen spent eight years in Green Bay as a solid guard and tackle who doubled as a placekicker, particularly on extra points. Tiny led the NFL with 18 extra points in the 1939 championship season. He was elected to the Packer Hall of Fame in 1978.
Grimes is a contender for my All-Time 53-man roster as a punt returner, and I wrote this in Green Bay Gold:
Billy Grimes was an all-around big-play man. Drafted out of Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) in the second round of the 1949 draft by the Bears, the 6’1” 195-pound Grimes signed with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference instead. Billy led the Dons with 1,096 all-purpose yards as a rookie, and when the AAFC folded, was the Packers top pick in the disbursement draft in June 1950.
In 1950, Grimes nearly doubled his all-purpose total to 1,896 yards, including a league-leading 555 yards on punt returns. Billy scored twice on punt returns that year and averaged 19.1 yards per return. Altogether, he scored eight touchdowns that year, with six of them longer than 50 yards, including a 96-yard reception of a Tobin Rote pass. That was his greatest season, and he was All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl that year.
In 1951 and 1952, Grimes was much less effective, and he signed with Hamilton in the Canadian league in 1953. In retirement, he worked for more than 40 years in the Oklahoma oil fields.
Custom cards: Shanley is in the 1958 Topps style; Luhn in 1948 Leaf and Grimes in 1952 Bowman, while Engebretsen uses the 1963 Fleer frame for a set I designed for the 1936 champions. All but Shanley are colorized images.