Packers Top Rookie: 1980

Rookies1980gellis

While 1980 represented another failed draft for Bart Starr, the rookie class was not a complete washout due to some astute free agent pickups. Problems with the draft started right at the top with Penn State nose tackle Bruce Clark, the fourth overall pick, opting to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL instead of Green Bay.

Starr then selected undersized linebacker George Cumby of Oklahoma with his second first round pick and Washington cornerback Mark Lee in round two, both of whom would develop into starters. The rest of the draft included Wake Forest guard Syd Kitson in round three, Oklahoma wide receiver Fred Nixon in round four, Boston College tackle Karl Swanke in round six and Alabama tackle Buddy Aydelette in round seven.

Lee was the only one of four drafted defensive backs to make the club, but undrafted free agent safety Mark Murphy from West Liberty State would have a long career in the Packer defensive backfield despite spending most of his rookie season on injured reserve. One other undrafted free agent made the team, too — Oklahoma runner Vickey Ray Anderson.

Four other rookie free agents were signed off the waiver wire: Michigan safety Mike Jolly and Michigan runner Harlan Huckleby from the Saints, Oregon linebacker Bruce Beakley from the Falcons and Missouri fullback Gerry Ellis from the Rams.

Ellis was the one rookie who had the most immediate impact, moving into the starting lineup, rushing for 545 yards, catching 48 passes and scoring eight touchdowns in his first season. Ellis would be a solid Packer performer for seven years; he was the Packers’ top rookie in 1980.

1980tmlee  1980tmmurphy

Murphy custom card is colorized.

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