Packers Top Rookie: 1978


For the second year in a row, Coach Bart Starr brought in an impressive class of rookies in 1978. In fact, that season 18 rookies played in at least one game for the Packers, the most rookies Starr ever used. Eight of the team’s 14 draft picks made the team and all but one became significant contributors in Green Bay. Once again, Starr had two first round picks and chose very wisely with Stanford wide receiver James Lofton and Michigan linebacker John Anderson. Additional picks included: Minnesota linebacker Mike Hunt in round two, Illinois State defensive back Estus Hood in round three, San Diego State linebacker Mike Douglass in round five, Arkansas guard Leotis Harris in round six, Arizona State quarterback Dennis Sproul in round eight and Alabama nose tackle Terry Jones in round 11. Lofton , Anderson and Douglass are all members of the Packer Hall of Fame.

One of the ten free agents to make the 1978 Packers also is in the Packer Hall of Fame, Kansas State tight end Paul Coffman, who was the subject of my last blog entry. The other nine free agents were: Delaware State receiver Walter Tullis, Pittsburgh receiver Willie Taylor, Arkansas tackle Gerald Skinner, Arkansas defensive back Howard Sampson, Michigan State linebacker Paul Rudzinski, Clark fullback Walter Landers, Tennessee State linebacker Danny Johnson, Wyoming linebacker Francis Chesley and Eastern Kentucky receiver Elmo Boyd. All but Coffman, Sampson and Rudzinski originally were drafted by other teams and obtained via the waiver wire.

Altogether, that’s five rookie linebackers and four rookie wide receivers. Among the linebackers, Anderson, Hunt and Douglass would all move into the starting lineup by 1979, although Hunt’s career ended abruptly by injury. Starr had less luck with his three free agent wideouts who collectively caught 10 Packer passes – all by Tullis. However, Bart hit it big with Lofton who established himself immediately as a star deep threat, went to the Pro Bowl in his first season and eventually was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame; James Lofton was the Packers top rookie of 1978.

1978tdsproul2  1978tjanderson

Custom cards in 1978 Topps style.

Free Agent Birthdays

March 29 marks the birthday of two notable undrafted free agents who excelled in Green Bay: Emlen Tunnell and Paul Coffman. Tunnell was already the NFL’s all-time leading interceptor with 74 in his 11 years as a New York Giant when new Coach Vince Lombardi brought him to the Packers in 1959. Tunnell started for two years, but his more significant role was in the locker room and in training his successor at free safety, Willie Wood, another undrafted free agent who, like Em, later would be elected to the Hall of Fame.

From a modest start, Paul Coffman went on to become Green Bay’s all-time leading pass receiving tight end. In 1978, Packer assistant coach John Meyer was dispatched to Manhattan, Kansas to work out linebacker prospect Gary Spani, and Coffman — Spani’s roommate and a walk-on at Kansas State — tagged along to help out. Spani was drafted by Kansas City in the third round that year, but Coffman was ignored due to his slow 4.9 40 time and his lack of size. However, when the Packers needed another tight end in camp, Meyer remembered Coffman. Once in camp, Paul made the team. A year later, he was the starting tight end and set a team record for a tight end with 56 catches. Position coach Lew Carpenter told the Milwaukee Journal, “Paul doesn’t have great athletic ability, but because he pushes himself so hard he produces with all the best tight ends.”

The 6’3” Coffman was a complete ball player despite lining up at a mere 220 pounds. He was a solid and tenacious blocker, a very dependable sure-handed receiver and a spirited and vocal teammate. Although he was neither fast nor shifty, he consistently found open spaces on the field and was a hard runner after the catch. Both David Whitehurst and Lynn Dickey relied heavily on Coffman popping open over the middle of the field to extend drives and to score touchdowns.

Paul’s best season was 1983 when he averaged 15 yards per catch on 54 receptions and scored 11 touchdowns in one of his three Pro Bowl seasons. A year later, he caught nine touchdowns. Two years after that, however, the 30-year old Coffman was cut by Coach Forrest Gregg in a youth movement and signed with Kansas City. While it may have seemed harsh at the time, Coffman dropped to 17 receptions over two seasons with the Chiefs and finished his career quietly in Minnesota in 1988.

During his seven years as the Packer starting tight end, though, Coffman was a leading part of one of the most prolific passing offenses of the early 1980s. Green Bay has not had as consistent a receiving tight end either before or since.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1960twelcome3  1961fetunnell2

1978tpcoffman  1979tpcoffman

1960 Tunnell and 1978 Coffman custom cards are colorized.

Obscure Origins: Part 1 of 2

Recently, I created Packer alumni teams for each of the major colleges that have produced the most Green Bay players. Here, let’s take a look at the more obscure launching points for Packers. Below is a list of colleges that sent between 6-10 players to the NFL through 2015. I have limited the search to players who have played since 1950, but earlier Packer players for these schools are noted, too.

NFL Players School Packer Earlier Packers
10 John Carroll Ed Ecker
10 SW Missouri State Bob Dees
10 Tarleton State Randy Winkler
10 West Alabama Charles Martin
10 Coastal Carolinas Maurice Simpkins
10 Henderson State K.D. Williams
9 Southwestern Texas Carlton Massey
9 Northeast State (OK) Bob Hudson
9 Wayne State (NE) Rubin Mendoza
9 Delta State Aubrey Matthews
9 Missouri Southern Allen Barbre
8 Austin Billy Bookout
8 Valparaiso Fuzzy Thurston
8 Morningside Herb McMath
8 Gustavus Adolphus Kurt Ploeger Earl Witte 1934
7 Oachita Baptist Ed Neal
7 Hillsdale Chester Marcol
7 American Intl. Terry Randolph
6 Wisconsin Superior Dom Moselle
6 Loras Howard Ruetz Tom Cronin 1922
6 Minnesota Duluth Dick Pesonen,

David Vianee

6 Calif. Riverside Michael Basinger
6 Clark (GA) Walter Landers
6 Trinity Joe Shield
6 Chadron State Don Beebe
6 Newberry Brandon Bostick

1951teecker  1951tfthurston

1952bbdees2  1953bhruetz2

Custom cards all colorized.

Remembering Aaron Brooks

March 24 is the 39th birthday of Aaron Brooks, a seven-year-starting quarterback who has been out of the league nine years. Originally drafted in the fourth round by Ron Wolf for the Packers in 1999, Brooks was traded to New Orleans a year later, primarily for linebacker K.D. Williams. Despite leading the Saints franchise to its first-ever playoff game, his career crashed and burned quickly after some early success. He was released by the Saints in 2006 following a 3-13 season and signed with Oakland where he threw for three touchdowns and eight interceptions in one season. The Raiders cut him and his career was over. No one was interested in this talented but wildly inconsistent mobile passer who was Michael Vick’s cousin and who was elected to the Saints Hall of Fame (yes, they have one) in 2014.

Brooks is a member of two uniquePacker clubs. First, he is one of 18 quarterbacks (not including replacement player John McCarthy during the 1987 strike) to be on the Green Bay active roster in a season, yet not appear in a game:

1964 Dennis Claridge
1974 Dean Carlson
1978 Neil Graff
1980 Mark Miller
1985 Vince Ferragamo
1985 Joe Shield
1989 Blair Kiel
1990 Mike Norseth
1992 Ty Detmer
1993 Mark Brunell
1994 Ty Detmer
1998 Rick Mirer
1999 Aaron Brooks
2002 Craig Nall
2005 Craig Nall
2006 Todd Bouman
2008 Brian Brohm
2010 Graham Harrell
2011 Graham Harrell
2014 Scott Tolzien
2015 Brett Hundley


Second, Brooks is one of a small handful of black quarterbacks to be associated with the Packers.

Charlie Brackins appeared in seven games for Green Bay in 1955, but mostly just kicking off; he only threw two passes before being cut at midseason.

Willie Wood came to the Packers as a free agent former USC quarterback in 1960 and reportedly got to throw a few passes in training camp before being shifted to safety.

Tulane’s Nickie Hall was a 10th round pick in 1981 and spent that season on the injured list before being cut in training camp in 1982. He spent 1983 and 1984 with Winnipeg and Saskatchewan of the CFL before falling out of football.

Brooks spent 1999 as the well-rested third quarterback behind Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck.

Henry Burris was signed out of Canada in 2001 and spent that season on the practice squad. After a season with the Bears, Burris returned to the CFL where his career has extended into his 40s.

Akili Smith was signed in the spring of 2003 and cut in August.

Seneca Wallace became the second black quarterback, and first to start a game, for Green Bay in 2013, but injury forced him to the sideline and ended his career. Wallace threw just 24 passes for the Packers.

Brett Hundley is the current backup to Aaron Rodgers. He has yet to throw a pass or appear in a game in the regular season.

1964pdclaridge  1974tdcarlson

1978ngraff  1980tmmiller2

Custom cards are colorized.

Packers Top Rookie: 1977


After a streak of four years of skimpy rookie crops, the Packers began to turn that around in 1977. Bart Starr had two first round draft picks and used them both on defensive ends: Mike Butler from Kansas and Ezra Johnson from little Morris Brown. In the second round, he grabbed a tackle who would also prove to be a long-term starter: Greg Koch from Arkansas. Third round runner from Memphis Terdell Middleton came via a trade with the Cardinals and would have a brief moment of stardom in Green Bay. Seventh round guard Derrel Gofourth from Oklahoma battled injuries to serve as a decent starter for five years.

Other draft picks to make the team included: Tennessee State runner Nate Simpson in round five, Syracuse defensive back Tim Moresco in round six, Furman quarterback David Whitehurst in round eight, Oklahoma runner Jim Culbreath in round 10 and American International defensive back Terry Randolph in round 11. Wide receiver Aundra Thompson, the fifth round pick from 1976, came off the injured list to start his career in 1977. Two free agents also joined the team: guard Blane Smith and wide receiver Keith Hartwig.

Greg Koch got to start three games as the heir apparent to right tackle Dick Himes, and Ezra Johnson showed flashes of his pass rushing prowess coming off the bench, gaining his first three sacks. Top pick Mike Butler moved right into the starting lineup on opening day and finished with five sacks, third on the team behind Dave Roller and Bob Barber; Mike Butler was the Packers’ top rookie in 1977.

1977tejohnson  1977tgkoch

Koch 1977 custom card is colorized.

Packer Bookshelf: Five Odd Titles of Interest (and two others)

  1. The Green Bay Packers: A Pictorial Drama. By Richard Rainbolt, Nodin Press, 1975. Rainbolt dramatized the history of the team through the 1974 season, mixing narrative and very corny and quirky dialogue. He wrote a similar book about the Vikings and several juvenile sports titles in the 1970s. Great photos, though.
  2. The Purple Lawman: From Horned Frog to High Sheriff. By Lon Evans, The Summit Group, 1990. 1930s Packer guard Lon Evans traces his past through his recollections and the scrapbook writings of others. The Packer years are somewhat interesting, and Evans also worked as a referee and served as the Sheriff of Tarrant County Texas (Fort Worth) from 1960-84
  3. Strike Three! And You’re Out: The Cal Hubbard Story. By Mary Hubbard, Walsworth, 1986. A hagiographic telling of Cal Hubbard’s life by his sister. Not much Packer info here.
  4. The 41st Packer: A Rookie’s Diary. By Dan Eckstein, Jacobs Press, 1970. 15th round pick Eckstein was cut from the Packers the week before the start of the 1969 season, hence the title. This is his diary of training camp and a subsequent brief experience in the CFL. It’s worth reading. Eckstein later got his PhD in psychology and wrote other books in his chosen discipline.
  5. Young Sports Photographer with the Green Bay Packers. By John Biever with George Vecsey, Norton, 1969. The one title in this list that was published by a major publisher and with a coauthor from the New York Times, no less, this is the story of team photographer Vern Biever’s son who later went to work for Sports Illustrated and is one of a small handful of men to photograph each of the first 50 Super Bowls.

Two other odd titles that I have not read and don’t plan on doing so are Green Bay Love Stories and Other Affairs by Sandy Sullivan (a Packer groupie recounting her brushes with fame in the 1960s) and Leap of Faith: God Must Be a Packer Fan and its two sequels by Steve Rose.

1936levans  1969tdeckstein

Custom cards colorized.

Packers Top Rookie: 1976


The disastrous John Hadl trade from 1974 was fully cashed out in the 1976 draft, costing the Packers first and second round picks. Bart Starr regained a later first rounder from Oakland as part of the fee for the Raiders signing Ted Hendricks, and he spent that on Colorado tackle Mark Koncar. Green Bay’s next pick came in round three and was used to grab Koncar’s fellow Buff, defensive back Mike McCoy.

The rest of the draft was pretty weak: Pittsburgh linebacker Tom Perko in round four, Nebraska defensive back Jim Burrow in round eight, Tulane linebacker Jim Gueno in round nine, Tulsa receiver Jesse Green in round 10 and USC guard Mel Jackson in round 12. Fifth round receiver Aundra Thompson from East Texas State injured his back and spent the season on IR. Perko, Burrow and Green all lasted just one year, while Jackson and Gueno stuck around for five years each.

The waiver wire brought guard Steve Knutson defensive back Steve Wagner and linebacker Bob Lally. Defensive end Bob Barber, came via a trade of a fourth round pick to Pittsburgh. The 12th rookie to make the team was undrafted free agent runner from Wisconsin, Ken Starch. Of this group, Lally and Starch lasted one year, Knutson two and Wagner and Barber four.

Altogether, it was not a rookie class that provides the foundation for a Super Bowl run. McCoy turned out to be the best player of the class, but Koncar moved into the starting lineup in his first year, unlike any others; Mark Koncar was the Packers top rookie in 1976.

1976tMMCCOY  1976tmjackson

Custom cards in 1976 style.

Birthday Boys: Brock and Douglass

March 15 marks the birthday of two undersized, but quick All-Pro Packer linebackers separated by four decades: Charley Brock and Mike Douglass.

6’1” 210 pound Charley Brock was drafted out of Nebraska in the third round in 1939 and spent the next nine years as a fixture both at center on offense and linebacker on defense for Green Bay. While not quite Mel Hein or Bulldog Turner, the league’s two best center/linebackers, Brock was not far behind and five times received All-Pro notice. He is listed as having 20 interceptions for his career, but that total is incomplete in that interception statistics were not kept in his rookie season.

However, the Green Bay Press Gazette ran play-by-play accounts of all Packer games in the 1930s and 1940s. Researcher Ed Coen went back and tallied up the totals for the Professional Football Researchers’ Association in 1995 and published the results in PFRA’s publication, The Coffin Corner. Coen found that Brock picked off eight passes in 10 games as a rookie in 1939. Packer historian Eric Goska confirmed that total for me, so that brings Brock’s career interception total to 28, the most of any Packer linebacker. 28 exceeds the total of 25 attained by both Ray Nitschke and John Anderson in Green and Gold.

Oh, Brock nabbed two more errant passes in the 1939 championship game, giving him 10 altogether as a rookie and 30 as a Packer. Charley retired in 1948, spent one year as an assistant coach in 1949 and then became very involved with Packer Alumni Association. He died in 1987 in Green Bay.

6’ 210 pound Mike Douglass was even more of a size anomaly in his era. A fifth round pick out of San Diego State in 1978, he took over at right linebacker in 1979. The “Mad Dog” made up for his lack of bulk with speed, quickness and attitude. Douglass led the team in solo tackles in 1980, 1981 and 1983, was the team’s defensive MVP in 1980 and 1981 and received All-Pro notice in 1981 and 1982. Linebacker John Anderson, who played on the right side in 1978 as a rookie before moving to the left in 1979, told the Milwaukee Sentinel, “Mike’s more suited to blitzing and the open field situation, while I’m better suited to playing over a tight end.”

That year, Mike told the Milwaukee Journal he was ready, “I’ve got good strength and speed, and I love to hit. And I’ve learned the game. Now when it comes time to act, I do it instinctively, instead of having to think about it.” His position coach John Meyer told the Sentinel, “He’s about as physical as you can be for a weakside linebacker. He makes things happen.”

His Mad Dog nickname was apt. Douglass streaked across the field like a heat-seeking missile and exploded on contact. That same attitude led to occasional problems in the locker room with coaches. In 1983, he walked out of team meeting and was suspended by Coach Starr. Later that year, he was suspended again for talking to the press about screaming at assistant coach Monte Kiffin. In 1985, he had another vocal altercation with an assistant coach following a loss.

Over his career, Douglass recorded 30.5 sacks (Webster and Turney’s research) with a high of nine in 1984. After dropping to just 1.5 sacks in 1985, Douglass was cut by Coach Gregg, and his lack of pass rush was cited as the reason. He finished his career in San Diego in 1986 and then opened his own fitness center. Always a health food fan, Douglass never used steroids, and in retirement won the California Natural Body Builder championship five times. Although he was too small to have a long career, for five or six years, he was an impact player in Green Bay.

1944cbrockc  2waycbrockc

1979mdouglass  1984tmdouglass

Both Brock and 1984 Douglass custom cards are colorized.

About That Long Run…


In 1964 and 1965, the Philadelphia Football card sets featured a Play of the Year card like the one above for each team. We have all seen the NFL Films clip of the play drawn on the 1965 card, in which Jim Taylor took a quick toss to the right from Bart Starr, followed point-of-attack blocks by Ron Kramer on the defensive end, Paul Hornung on the linebacker and Forrest Gregg on a defensive back to break free and score on an 84-yard run. It’s still the third longest run in team history.

What has always been particularly striking to me, though, is the final block by Bob Skoronski. Left tackle Skoronski hustles all the way across the field to make his block 80 yards downfield. Imagine an offensive tackle doing that today. It wouldn’t happen; they are too big and slow to go that far.

In the Milwaukee Journal the next day, Terry Bledsoe rounded up these quotes:

I could feel somebody coming up on me toward the end. Skoronski had [Dick] LeBeau going in front of me, but I figured I couldn’t break out past LeBeau. So I decided to just stay there behind Bob. Then we got to the five and I could see that end zone, so I ran right up Skoronski’s back. I thought LeBeau would have a harder time stopping two of us, and we hit him together.

Then I felt a little more load on my back than I figured on – That was [Wayne] Walker getting into it. But I was driving for that flag. I made up my mind they weren’t going to get me out of bounds before I got into the end zone. – Jim Taylor

LeBeau kept backing up on me. I just ran him back. I could feel Jim on my tail, and I knew we were gaining another yard every time LeBeau backed up so that was fine with me. If he’d planted his feet, I would have taken him out – I was kind of hoping he would as a matter of fact. – Bob Skoronski

I like playing guard. You can get clear quick. On Jimmy’s run I caught the safety and took him out and we were off to the races. – Forrest Gregg


The description on the back of the card differs from Gregg’s account, saying he took out the halfback, and the card is correct. Bobby Thompson, the Lions left corner was blocked by Gregg, while left safety Bruce Maher is chased away by Boyd Dowler. Thirty yards downfield, right safety, Yale Lary, bounces off Taylor at the Packer 47. Then, at the end of the play, right corner LeBeau and right linebacker Walker make a final unsuccessful bid to stop Taylor. It’s a beautiful play and great blocking all around. As the headline on Bledsoe’s piece put it: Football As It Should Be – That Was Taylor’s Dash.

1964pbskoronski2  1964tjtaylor2

Custom cards in Philadelphia and Topps styles for 1964.

Buckets’ Birthday

Today’s birthday boy, Charles (Buckets) Goldenberg, is not remembered much today, but was considered one of the top lineman in the league during his career and was one of the team’s most popular figures for years after his career ended. He was born in Odessa in Ukraine in 1911, but his family emigrated to the U.S. when he was four. He grew up in Milwaukee and was an All-City halfback in high school, where he inherited his older brother’s posterior-inspired nickname “Buckets.” At the University of Wisconsin, he starred both in the line and the backfield, until Curly Lambeau signed him to a pro contract in 1933. He spent the next 13 years in a Packer uniform mostly as either number 44 or 43.

Lambeau originally employed Buckets as a single wing quarterback, better described as a blocking back, for his first few years. He led the league in touchdowns with seven as a rookie, but in his backfield years he only carried the ball 108 times and caught 11 passes. Almost half of his carries came in his rookie year when he backed up Clarke Hinkle at fullback, but he was the starting blocking back on the 1936 champions. At 5’10” and 220 pounds, he had the body of a 1930s lineman, and Mike Michalske helped convince Lambeau to convert Buckets to guard where he spent the last two-thirds of his career. As a guard/linebacker he was first team All-Pro once and second team another year. He was known as a flattening lead blocker on offense and a tenacious tackler on defense. Despite his talent and popularity, Lambeau actually traded him and Swede Johnston to Pittsburgh for Pat McCarthy and Ray King in 1938 when Johnny Blood became coach of the Steelers. Fortunately for all in Green Bay, the deal fell through when Buckets retired rather than report to Pittsburgh. He stayed in Green Bay for two more championship runs.

In his off-seasons, Goldenberg was a professional wrestler for many years until the travel became too much of a drain on his family life, so he opened a restaurant in Milwaukee in 1941. His restaurant was very successful for decades and featured several large photographs of Packer players in action. Like many former players of his time, he continued as a fan of the team in his retirement and regularly attended all Packer games in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Chicago. In many ways, he was similar to another guard known more for his nickname than his given name, Fuzzy Thurston. He also served on the Packers Board of Directors from 1953 till the year before he died, 1985. He was inducted in the Packers Hall of Fame in 1971 and was named “Outstanding Jewish Athlete of All Time” by the Green Bay B’nai B’rith lodge in 1969.

(adapted from Packers By the Numbers)

2waygoldenbergc  1936bgoldenberg

1941bgoldenberg  1944bgoldenberg

Custom cards all colorized.