Packers Top Rookie: 1979

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After a couple of decent drafts in 1977 and 1978, Bart Starr’s luck ran out in 1979. The 1979 draft is one of the great what ifs in the team’s history. First round runner Eddie Lee Ivery appeared to have all the skills to be an All-Pro, but tore up the same knee twice in his first three seasons – both times against the Bears on opening day, in 1979 and 1981. Add in later problems with cocaine and alcohol, and Ivery never became more than a decent player.

Rounds two and three brought more what if disappointment. According to Milwaukee Journal beat man Chuck Salituro in a piece on October 20, 1983, Director of Player Personnel Dick Corrick lobbied hard for Auburn runner William Andrews and Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana, who were both available for the Packers to select in either the second or third rounds. Instead, Starr grabbed Maryland runner Steve Atkins in round two and Maryland nose tackle Charles Johnson in round three. Both picks were wasted.

In later rounds the Pack selected North Carolina linebacker Dave Simmons in round six, Mississippi State defensive back Henry Monroe and Alabama linebacker Rich Wingo in round seven, Utah State wide receiver Ron Cassidy in round eight and Utah State tight end John Thompson in round nine. Only Wingo, Cassidy and Thompson lasted more than three seasons.

Seven free agents, mostly undrafted, also made the Packers: Kansas center Mike Wellman, Angelo State DB Wylie Turner, Massachusetts linebacker Joe McLaughlin, Arizona State defensive lineman Kit Lathrop, California-Davis defensive lineman Casey Merrill, Oklahoma wide out Bobby Kimball and Michigan State kicker Tom Birney. None lasted in Green Bay longer than two years.

Of this weak crop, two moved into the Packers’ starting lineup as rookies: Johnson and Wingo. Both were primarily run stuffers who had 1.5 sacks in 1979. Wingo also had had two interceptions and a longer career; Rich Wingo was the Packers’ top rookie in 1979.

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