Packers Top Rookie: 1981

rookies1981clewis

One could look at the 1981 Packers’ draft as the last gasp of Bart Starr’s coaching career. With some truly great players available in the early rounds, great players who could have made a difference in the team’s porous defense, Starr drafted badly again. Although he had flown USC cornerback Ronnie Lott to Green Bay before the draft, Starr went against his instincts on draft day and selected California quarterback Rich Campbell instead. Starr later admitted he had noticed a flaw in Campbell’s delivery that kept the Cal QB from throwing very hard, but hoped he could fix it. Five years later, Ronnie Lott recalled his trip to Green Bay and sarcastically commented to the Milwaukee Journal, “But they took Rich Campbell and had a lot of success with Rich.”

In the second round, Mike Singletary, Howie Long and Rickie Jackson were all available when Starr took Texas Arlington tight end specimen Gary Lewis, who never developed into anything except an able kick blocker. Starr then went for Michigan State punter Ray Stachowicz in round three in a move of pure incompetence. The remainder of the draft brought: Oklahoma nose tackle Richard Turner in round four, Alabama defensive end Byron Braggs in round five, Missouri defensive back Bill Whitaker in round seven, Notre Dame guard/tackle Tim Huffman in round nine and Southern Mississippi linebacker Cliff Lewis in round 12.

Three undrafted free agents also made the team: Alabama linebacker Randy Scott, Grambling linebacker Guy Prather and Northern Illinois defensive back David Petway. Scott would last six years in Green Bay, and Prather and Huffman would each last four. Scott, Huffman, Braggs and Turner would eventually become regular starters of middling quality at best. This Green Bay rookie class was weak. My top Packers’ rookie was kamikaze kicking teams firebrand Cliff Lewis who had a four-year tenure as a Packer despite being drafted in the final round of the 1981 draft. At least, his spirit is worthy of a salute.

1981tbbraggs  1981trcampbell

Custom Cliff Lewis card is colorized.

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