Packers Top Rookie: 1951

Rookies1951jmartinkovic

Personnel man Jack Vainisi was instrumental in drafting the players that Vince Lombardi would mold into a dynasty, but his 1951 draft was almost a total washout. Ten rookies would make the 1951 Packers, but only four came from the draft: fullback Fred Cone (round 3), end Carlton Elliott (round 13), lineman Dick Afflis (round 16) and end Ray Pelfry (round 17).

Green Bay’s first round selection, tackle Bob Gain, decided to sign with Canada’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Packers traded his rights to Cleveland a year later, and Gain received All-Pro notice nine times in his 12 years in Cleveland. The Browns gave up Dom Moselle, Ace Loomis, Dan Orlich and Bill Schroll for Gain, and it was a steal for them.

The Packers made a second trade with the Browns involving a 1951 draft choice. Cleveland traded its seventh rounder, Walt Michaels, to Green Bay for end Dan Orlich. Unfortunately, the talented Michaels would be sent back to Cleveland at season’s end…and Orlich would return to the Packers in the aforementioned Gain trade.

Green Bay used its 1951 second round pick on defensive back Rip Collins, who played for the original Baltimore Colts in 1950 before the team went bankrupt. Oddly, Collins was traded to Philadelphia a year later for Dan Sandifer, his college teammate at LSU.

Tackle Howie Ruetz, end Dick Moje and linebacker Charlie Robinson were the Packers’ free agent rookie acquisitions, but made no lasting impact in pro football.

While third round pick Fred Cone would have a moderately successful career as Ted Fritsch’s successor at fullback and kicker, the only real player among Packer rookies in 1951 was defensive end John Martinkovic. Martinkovic was drafted out of Xavier by Washington in the sixth round and traded to Green Bay for veteran end Ted Cook. It was the one good deal the Packers made that year. Martinkovic was a pass rusher who was named to three Pro Bowls in his six years in Green Bay. Ultimately, he was traded to the Giants in 1957 for a 1958 third round pick who would turn out to be Ray Nitschke – a fitting coda for the Packers top rookie of 1951.

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

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