May 26 marks the birthday of Norb Hecker, who was the direct connection between two dissimilar Super Bowl coaches — Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh. Hecker won three NFL titles coaching the Packers’ secondary for Lombardi and two Super Bowls coaching the 49ers’ linebackers for Walsh. As a head coach, though, Hecker won fewer games than he won championship rings under those two great coaches.
A native of Berea, Ohio, Norb spent two years in the Army after graduating high school. After the War, he lettered in football, baseball, basketball and track at Baldwin-Wallace College in his hometown. Norb was a two-time Little All-American and was selected in the sixth round of the 1951 NFL draft by the Rams. Hecker played safety for Los Angeles from 1951-1953, picking off 11 passes. He spent 1954 with Toronto of the CFL and then the next three years with the Redskins, for whom he nabbed 17 interceptions. Norb also was involved in organizing the NFL Players’ Association before returning to the CFL in 1958 as a player/assistant coach for the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
Hecker then joined Lombardi’s first Green Bay staff as defensive backfield coach in 1959 and stayed through the 1965 season. In that time, the Packers won titles in 1961, 1962 and 1965, with Green Bay finishing first three times and second two times in fewest passing yards allowed. Hecker went from first to worst in 1966 when the expansion Falcons named him as their first head coach. Hecker’s brief tenure was dominated by poor personnel decisions, and three games into the 1968 season with an overall 4-26-1 record, Norb was fired and replaced by an old Ram teammate, Norm Van Brocklin.
Hecker subsequently served as the defensive coach for the Giants from 1969-1971 before jumping to Stanford in 1972. Hecker coached for five years under Jack Christiansen in Palo Alto and then was retained on the staff when Bill Walsh took over in 1977. Two years later when Walsh moved to the 49ers, Hecker came with him. Norb coached in San Francisco from 1979-1986 and then worked in the front office until 1991. Four years later, he briefly came out of retirement to coach and manage the Amsterdam Admirals of the developmental World League. He passed away in 2004.
(Adapted from NFL Head Coaches: A Biographical Dictionary, 1920-2011.)