Packers Top Rookie: 1956


1956 would prove to be one of Jack Vainisi’s best drafts, despite misfiring on the first round selection of halfback Jack Losch. A fine athlete, Losch was the centerfielder for the Williamsport, Pennsylvania team that won the first Little League World Series in 1947 and later drew All-America notice as a running back at the University of Miami. After one unimpressive season in Green Bay, though, he served three years in the Air Force, where an injury ended any chance of a return to the NFL.

However, Vainisi hit it big with second round tackle Forrest Gregg, fifth round tackle Bob Skoronski, seventh round defensive back Hank Gremminger and 17th round quarterback Bart Starr — two Hall of Famers and one Pro Bowl player. Four other rookies played for the Pack that year. Center Larry Lauer, who had been cut by the Bears, free agent halfbacks Glenn Young and Bill Roberts, who both were just out of the army, and defensive end Emery Barnes, an 18th round Packers’ draft pick from 1954 who also just had been released from the service. Respectively, these four players appeared in just 6, 4, 4 and 2 games for the Packers. Still, I will have more to say about Barnes in another post.

As for the rookie seasons of the four draftees who would enjoy long careers as Packer starters, all showed early promise. Starr completed 54.5% of his passes as Tobin Rote’s backup and got to start his first NFL game on November 18, losing 17-16 to the 49ers. Gremminger, an end at Baylor, earned a starting position in the defensive backfield and played reasonably well at left corner. The two future bookend tackles for the Lombardi era, though, were the top of the rookie class. Both would be in the army a year later.

Bob Skoronski, who left training camp for a few days in August, started at left tackle for the entire season and made a solid showing. Future Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg didn’t move into the starting lineup until midseason when he replaced Buddy Brown at right guard. As T.J. Troup notes in The Birth of Football’s Modern 4-3 Defense, even as a rookie, “Gregg was an exceptional run blocker and had the techniques needed to be an All-Pro.” Gregg was the textbook offensive lineman for his time and excelled right from the start; he was the Packers’ top rookie in 1956.

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