Training Camp Stories: Flight Risks

Two fifths of the Packers’ great offensive line from the 1960s were so discouraged in their first training camps with the Packers that they left the team and had to be persuaded to return.

The story of Hall of Fame center Jim Ringo leaving training camp in 1953 is pretty well known. Ringo recalled to Chuck Johnson in 1961:

We were training in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. It seemed like the end of the world. I was pretty light at 208 pounds. In those days, they had middle guards playing opposite the center. They all weighed 270 or 300 or more. The big thing, though, was that I was homesick. One day I saw Bob Kennedy packing , and I told him, ‘Just a minute, you’ve got company.’ We went to a lake near Rhinelander where Bob’s father had a cottage. I sat for two or three days trying to decide what to do. I hadn’t even told my wife. Then finally I went home. The Packers – Coach Gene Ronzani and Jack Vainisi – had been trying to locate me, so my wife knew what was up. When I walked in, she said, ‘Jim Ringo, you’re no quitter. You’re going back.’ So I agreed to return.

Ringo’s recollection is not quite accurate. At the time, the Milwaukee Sentinel reported that Ringo and Kennedy left camp Saturday, August 8, 1953. The paper spoke with Kennedy on Monday the 11th. “Ringo and I drove to Duluth where he went his way and I went mine. I don’t know what Ringo is going to do, but it’s definitely back to school for me.” Ringo returned on Thursday, the 13th.

The other fugitive future star was Bob Skoronski in 1956. That year, the top five Packer draftees all played in the College All Star Game. However, two Oklahoma stars, fourth rounder Cecil Morris and sixth rounder Bob Burris, decided not to play pro football and did not report to Packers camp after the game on Friday, August 10. First rounder Jack Losch, second rounder Forrest Gregg and fifth rounder Skoronski all reported on Sunday the 12th, but Losch and Skoronski left camp that night, driving back home in Skoronski’s car.

Coach Lisle Blackbourn enlisted the help of police in tracking down the players, “We told police after we learned that they had left, they would probably head south on highway 51, but they took other roads and had no trouble. In Pennsylvania, state troopers were alerted, but they still reached home without event.” Reached at their respective home, the two were persuaded to return. Losch reported on Thursday the 16th and Skoronski the day after.

Losch, an All-America at Miami, was a disappointment in Green Bay. He played just one season and then went into the Air Force and never played pro ball again. Skoronski also went into the service after his rookie year, but returned in 1959 to have a Packer Hall of Fame career on Lombardi’s champions.

1953bjringo  1956tbskoronski2  1956tjlosch2

Custom cards are 1953 Bowman style and 1956 Topps-style; all colorized.

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