Two Packers who played on three championship teams each, one under Curly Lambeau and one under Vince Lombardi, were born on June 16: Joe Laws and Bob Long. Long was speedy and tall and known more for teaming with All-American Dave Stallworth on the Wichita State basketball team than for his one season on the Shockers gridiron when he was drafted in 1964. Long was a long-distance receiver. The 25 passes he caught for Green Bay from 1964-67 went for an average of 19.5 yards per catch. Traded to Atlanta for nondescript defensive end Leo Carroll in 1968 was a loss for the Packers over the next few years. While Long was not as good as Boyd Dowler or Carroll Dale, he was significantly better than players like John Spilis and Leland Glass who took their places in Green Bay.
Joe Laws was, simply put, a football player. At 5’9” and 185 pounds, he had a chunky build but was an all-around player, first at the University of Iowa and then for 12 years in Green Bay, from 1934-45. Under Lambeau, he lined up at halfback, but also often called signals for the offense. He was noted for his blocking, field generalship, defensive play and returns. In the first half of his pro career, he was consistently third on the team in rushing and receiving. Punt return statistics were not kept at the time, but he was highly valued for his elusiveness in that phase of the game. In 1940, he suffered a serious knee injury and missed eight games – in his other 11 years, he only missed four games.
After 1940, Laws was not as effective running the ball, but continued to be a valuable team member. Ollie Kuechle wrote in the Milwaukee Journal in August 1941 that, “Green Bay’s quarterbacking, for instance, was downright bad at times last year without Joe Laws in the lineup. Against the Bears in the game at Chicago, it left an odor all over the field.” He was also a ball-hawking defensive back, picking off 18 passes officially from 1941-45 and, according to Eric Goska’s research, 20 more before league records were kept from 1934-40. That total of 38 picks ties Joe for the fourth highest total in team history along with Don Hutson, Leroy Butler and Charles Woodson.
While Laws told Bud Lea in 1961 that the first championship in 1936 was his greatest thrill, Joe played a vital role in the final title game of 1944. That day in the 14-7 victory over the Giants, Laws led both teams by rushing for 74 yards on 13 carries, directed the offense and picked off three of Arnie Herber’s passes to help seal the win. In the 1939 title game, Joe caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Cecil Isbell and intercepted a pass as well. In those latter two games, he also returned four punts for 67 yards.
He retired on January 7, 1946, saying, “I know when I’ve had enough. After 12 years of it, I’m not kidding myself. Maybe I could hang on for another year or so playing in spots, but I’ve got a family of five, and I’ve got to look ahead. The chance to be a district representative around Green Bay for a distillery came along and I took it.”
Custom cards of Laws are colorized.