The 1956 Packer Draft

The 1958 packer draft often is held up as the best draft in team history, with two Hall of Famers and two All-Pros taken in the first four rounds. However, the Jack Vainisi’s haul in 1956 is almost as impressive – two Hall of Famers, a Pro Bowler and an eight-year starter – and more surprising in that the top pick was a bust, so that the stars came in rounds two, five, seven and 17.

Similar to today, the 1956 draft was conducted over three days. The first three rounds were selected on November 28, 1955 when there were still two games left to be played in the season. The second day of the draft took place on January 17, 1956 and consisted of rounds four through 20; the draft concluded the next day with rounds 21 through 30.

In a November 29 story in the Milwaukee Sentinel, Bud Lea called first rounder Jack Losch, “Mr. Offense” at Miami and wrote that “Losch could be the answer to Coach Liz Blackbourn’s dire need for a top notch halfback.” Losch said that day, “I want to play pro football and then go into coaching.” Instead, Jack spent one lackluster year in Green Bay before joining the Air Force for three years and then going into the automotive business. There was a top notch halfback available when the Pack took Losch, though; one pick later, the Colts drafted Hall of Famer Lenny Moore.

In round two, Vainisi did find a Hall of Famer in SMU’s Forrest Gregg, who told the Sentinel, “I’m very happy to be drafted by the Packers and am looking forward to playing with Bill Forester, Val Joe Walker and Doyle Nix (three other former Mustangs).”

Since the Packers lacked a third round pick, they did not draft again till January 17. The wire services noted on the 18th that the Packers drafted two Oklahoma Sooners, tackle Cecil Morris in round four and halfback Bob Burris in round six, while Lea emphasized that Blackbourn focused on improving the line with Morris and with fifth rounder Bob Skoronski of Indiana. Lea also took notice of Baylor end Hank Gremminger, taken in round seven, and several other Green Bay second day picks, but never mentioned the dubious find in round 17, Alabama’s Bart Starr. However, in the final line of that story, Lea did unknowingly foreshadow Packer history: “Fred Thurston, Valparaiso tackle from Altoona, went to the Eagles in the fifth round.”

Even in the final draft roundup story on the 19th, Starr was not mentioned, although Beloit quarterback Rod Hermes, taken in round 30, got his own paragraph. By rookie camp, though, Blackbouen was telling Lea, “There is no question about it. Starr is a smart player who can throw well.” Hermes was gone before the August 4 intrasquad game, and Maryland rookie quarterback Lynn Beightol, taken as a future pick in 1955, was cut on August 20. Bart Starr, the 200th person taken in the 1956 draft stayed in Green Bay for 16 years and five championships.

1956tjlosch  1956tjlosch2

1956tfgregg  1956tbskoronski2

1956thgremminger3  1956tbstarr2

All but Gregg and Losch draft custom cards are colorized.

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