Packers Top Rookie: 1950


When Gene Ronzani took over as Packers coach in 1950, the cupboard was bare. Only 11 members of the 2-10 1949 Packer team would make the team in 1950, with tackle Dick Wildung and linebacker Bob Forte probably the best players on the squad. Ronzani hired 23-year old Jack Vainisi as the team’s head scout and went about trying to build up the talent base.

12 rookies would play for the 1950 Packers; seven were draft picks and five were free agent signings. Draft picks who made the team included center/linebacker Clayton Tonnemaker (round 1), quarterback Tobin Rote (round 2), halfback Larry Coutre (round 4), safety Jack Cloud (round 6), tackle Willie Leon Manley (round 7) defensive back Rebel Steiner (round 12) and tackle Clarence “Clink” McGeary (round 30). All but Manley were starters as rookies; Manley later spent two seasons in Canada, but had his biggest impact as the offensive line coach for his boyhood friend Darrell Royal at Texas in the 1960s and 1970s. Among the five free agents – tackle Don Stansauk, quarterback Tom O’Malley, halfback Al Cannava, halfback Breezy Reid and guard Ray DiPierro – Reid and DiPierro became starters.

There were also two draftees who never wore Green and Gold, but who played in the NFL. Third round pick Gordy Soltau was traded to Cleveland in August for tackle Joe Spencer and then was traded to San Francisco where he starred for nine years as an end and kicker. West Point star quarterback Arnold Galiffa was selected in the 18th round but was traded to the Giants for Val Joe Walker in 1953 after his service tour was completed.

Reid, Rote and Tonnemaker were the best players of the class. Reid had a serviceable seven-year career in Green Bay and twice led the team in rushing, despite never topping 507 yards rushing. Tobin Rote also had a seven-year tenure in Wisconsin, and was the leading offensive star during that period. As a rookie, though, he was way over his head, completing just 37% of his passes and throwing 24 interceptions to just seven touchdowns.

Although Rote had the longer and more meaningful career as a Packer, Tonnemaker was a respected All-Pro in his rookie season as a hard-hitting run-stuffer. He then spent two years in the service before returning in 1953 as team captain and was named All-Pro in both 1953 and 1954 before retiring in 1955 due to knee problems. He was the Packers top rookie in 1950.

Custom card is colorized and is based on Topps Baseball Rookie Team cards from the 1950s and 1960s.

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