Joseph “Red” Dunn was the Packers’ first great quarterback, known for his accurate passing and kicking, field generalship and defensive safety play. Red joined the Packers in 1927 along with former college teammate end Lavvie Dilweg. Both were born and bred in Milwaukee and both went to Marquette University. At Marquette, Dunn captained squads that went 8-0-1 in 1922 and 8-0 in 1923, outscoring opponents 374 to 15 in that time. Dunn achieved national notoriety in 1923 when he broke his arm on the kickoff in a game against Boston College but played the remainder of the first half. When Marquette scored a tying touchdown in the closing minutes of the game, Dunn came off the bench to kick the winning extra point. He was named a third team All-American that year.
Dunn spent 1924 with the hometown Milwaukee Badgers and then moved on to the Chicago Cardinals for two years before coming to Green Bay. Each year Red shifted clubs, the record of the team he left would decline, while the record of the team he joined would improve. The addition of Dunn to the Packers signaled their ascension into the elite teams of the league.
Dunn was the team’s signal caller. And who can argue with success? In his five years as a Packer, the team went 47-11-6, a .781 winning percentage. Moreover, they won an unprecedented three consecutive titles. For his part according to unofficial counts, Dunn caught 50 passes for 618 yards and a touchdown, rushed 80 times for 290 yards and five touchdowns, and completed 275 of 620 passes for 4,641 yards and 48 touchdowns. In addition he kicked 2 field goals and 48 extra points. Even with the fatter ball used at that time he was an expert at the long pass. On December 9, 1928, he beat the Bears with a 50 yard scoring pass to Dick O’Donnell in the final two minutes of the 6-0 game.
The team’s first title came in 1929. Lambeau had signed three future Hall of Famers in the offseason — linemen Cal Hubbard and Mike Michalske and halfback Johnny Blood. However, at the postseason celebration of the championship, Lambeau paid special tribute to his quarterback and is quoted in the Larry Names history of the team: “There is one man on the team I wish to accord a particular tribute. He is a backfield man who has not scored a touchdown this season, but who has few equals in the game. He is Red Dunn. Red always stepped out of the limelight when a touchdown was needed and called plays for other men. At times he would shift a halfback to his position and drop into the vacated post and call a signal that resulted in a touchdown with the halfback going over on a play that he would ordinarily complete himself.”
After eight years in the NFL, the 5’11” 175 pound Dunn was banged up, and he retired after the third straight title; true to form, the team’s record declined from 12-2 to 10-3-1 in 1932. Red Dunn was an unselfish, versatile player who made his teammates better and regularly led his team to victory. Twice he was named as a second team All-League player. Considering he was competing against the league’s first great passer Benny Friedman, that’s not bad. His three league titles are three more than Friedman earned. The unheralded Red died at age 55 in 1957 and was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame posthumously in 1976.
(Adapted from Packers By the Numbers).
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