Misjudged Packer Rookie Team: Offense

None of these players ever played for Green Bay, but the Packers held the rights to each of them coming out of college. Depending on the player, there are different levels of regret expressed here:

WR: Alex Hawkins did not get along with rookie coach Vince Lombardi in 1959 and was sold to Baltimore 12 days before the season. He became the NFL’s first Kicking Teams Captain with the Colts and also started at receiver for the expansion Falcons. Good player, but he was not really missed.

WR: Gordy Soltau was drafted in the third round in 1950, but rather than playing with his Minnesota teammate and Packers’ top choice Clayton Tonnemaker in Green Bay, Gordie was traded to Cleveland for lineman Joe Spencer on August 12 when the Packers and Browns met in the first preseason game. Shortly after, Paul Brown sent Soltau to San Francisco for a fourth round draft pick. Gordie was a 49er mainstay both as a receiver and kicker for a decade. Very good player who could have helped the dismal 1950s Packers more than the two years of Spencer did.

TE: Paul Costa was 6’5” and 250 pounds, but signed with Buffalo rather than Green Bay in 1965. He spent four years at tight end before switching to tackle for his last four years as a pro. Costa was pretty comparable to Packer tight end Marv Fleming and so was not a major loss despite being a solid player.

T: Tony Liscio was a promising third round pick out of Tulsa in 1963 who was cut in September. Picked up by Tom Landry, Liscio started at left tackle for most of his nine years in Dallas. For Green Bay, Tony would have filled the role played by Steve Wright as reserve tackle in the threepeat. Liscio was better than Wright, though, so there is some regret here.

T: Dalton Truax was a third round pick out of Tulane in 1957. Traded to New York for an unspecified draft pick on September 18, he failed to make the Giants, but did play 1960 with the fledgling Oakland Raiders of the AFL. Obviously, no loss.

Also of note as a tackle was Bud Wilkinson of Minnesota, drafted in 1937, who went into coaching instead.

G: John Nisby was a sixth round pick out of Pacific in 1957 who was tried at defensive tackle and linebacker before being sold to Pittsburgh on September 18. Nisby played eight years with the Steelers and Redskins at guard and was a three-time Pro Bowler. A very good player who would have negated the need to trade for Fuzzy Thurston, but no real regrets.

G: Ken Gray was a sixth round pick out of Howard Payne in 1958 and lost out to fourth round pick Jerry Kramer for the third guard slot behind veterans Hank Bullough and Jim Salsbury. Cut on September 23, Gray spent all but one of his 13 NFL season with the Cardinals, was named to the Pro Bowl six times and was a two-time first team All Pro. An excellent player, he also would have negated the need for the Thurston trade. Some regrets about Gray.

Three other guards of note all signed with the AFL rather than the Packers and had solid careers: Len St. Jean, Joe O’Donnell and Jim Harvey.

C: Jon Morris was the Packers’ second round pick out of Holy Cross in 1964, but signed with the Patriots of the AFL instead, where he spent 11 of his 15 years as a pro. Morris was drafted the same year as Ken Bowman and Bill Curry, and the seven-time Pro Bowler was probably a bit better than either one. Minor regrets, but Kenny Bowman was a very good player.

Two other Packer draftees had successful careers at center in the AFL despite being first cut by Green Bay: Mike Hudock and Jon Gilliam.

QB: Kurt Warner was an undrafted free agent brought in as a camp arm in 1994 when the Packers already had Brett Favre, Mark Brunell and Ty Detmer. Had Warner made at third quarterback over Detmer, he may have eventually brought more in trade depending on how he performed in preseasons. No real impact.

QB: Daryle Lamonica was drafted in the 12th round out of Notre Dame in 1963 but signed with Buffalo instead. The Mad Bomber would have chafed behind Bart Starr for five years, but if he had taken over from the oft injured Starr in 1968, it could have been interesting. I definitely have regrets on this one.

RB: Don Woods was drafted in the sixth round out of New Mexico Highlands in 1974, but was cut on September 11. Picked up by San Diego, Woods was Rookie of the Year, gaining 1,162 yards and averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Meanwhile in Green Bay, Brockington’s years as a 1,000 yard rusher were done and top pick Barty Smith proved to be a bust. The one thing that keeps this from being a complete loss is that Woods never had another season remotely like his first. One season regrets, though.

RB: Ernie Green was a 14th round choice out of Louisville whom Vince Lombardi had no place for in 1962, so Vince traded him to his friend Paul Brown for a seventh rounder on August 12. Green would have come in very handy down the road a few years once Taylor and Hornung faded. Definite regrets on Green.

FB: Jerald Sowell was a seventh round pick from Tulane in 1997. Very green, but promising, Sowell was claimed off waivers by the Jets on August 26th, and then Jets Coach Bill Parcells sent the Packers tight end Tyrone Davis for “past considerations.” Sowell spent ten years in the NFL, and never became a star, but did start in New York for three years. Minor regrets…Sowell would never have beaten out William Henderson.

Two other runners cut by Vince Lombardi went on to glory in Canada. Both George Dixon and Bill Symons are in the Canadian Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1963ttliscio  1958tkgray

1964pjmorris  1963tdlamonica

1974tdwoods  1962tegreen

Custom cards for Liscio, Gray and Green are colorized.


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