Cardless Starters of the Lombardi Era: Hank Gremminger, part 1

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Green Bay Gold about an unappreciated Packer defensive back. Baylor’s Hank Gremminger was a seventh round draft pick as an end in 1956 and was moved to the secondary as a rookie by Liz Blackbourn. In his first three years starting at cornerback, Gremminger was learning on the fly. In his book, T.J. Troup describes Hank’s play in those years by saying he “battled” and “gave maximum effort.” Those two qualities remained Gremminger’s hallmark even as his play improved, and he became a solid starter under Vince Lombardi.

Gremminger teamed with right corner Jesse Whittenton and free safety Johnny Symank, to form a trio known as the “Katzenjammer Kids” in the early days of the Lombardi era. The defensive backfield was also called “Hecker’s Wreckers” after secondary coach Norb Hecker. Comparing his two cornerbacks in the 1961 Packer Yearbook, Hecker said, “Hank waits for his man to make his move and for the ball to be thrown,” because his reaction time wasn’t as fast as Whittenton’s. Hecker also pointed out that Gremminger was more conservative because he didn’t have the deep safety help on the left that Whittenton did on the right.

The 6’1” 200-pound Gremminger was never the fastest player, but was quick, with good instincts and was a hard-hitter. He was also excellent in run support. That sounds more like a safety, and Hank moved to the back end in 1962 when Herb Adderley took over at left cornerback. While Gremminger was good enough to start at corner for a championship team, he was better as a safety. He repeated his high of five interceptions in 1958, 1961 and 1962 and scored his only touchdown on a game-clinching 60-yard return of a blocked field goal with seconds left against the Vikings in 1963. By 1964, age was beginning to catch up to Hank, and he lost his starting job the following championship season. Traded to Dallas in 1966, he was unable to agree on salary and was traded to Atlanta and eventually cut. George Allen signed him for the Rams, and Hank finished his NFL career that season in Los Angeles. After that, he retired to Texas where he worked as a building contractor.

1961nuhgremminger  1956thgremminger3

1957thgremminger2  1958thgremminger

1959thgremminger  1960thgremminger2

All Custom Cards are colorized aside from the 1960 Topps.


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