One of Jim Thorpe’s leading blockers for the pre-NFL Canton Bulldogs, Howard “Cub” Buck, was born on August 7, 1892. Buck was a mountainous tackle weighing in the range of 280 pounds in a period when 220 pounds was considered very big. He had been All-America at the University of Wisconsin before joining Canton in 1916. In that season, he coached the line for the Badgers at his alma mater during the week and on Sundays would meet up with his Bulldog teammates for the league game. In 1917, he became head football coach at Carleton College in Minnesota and continued with his bifurcated career. Thorpe once called Buck the best linemen he had ever played with, and Cub played in Canton through 1919.
In 1921 the Green Bay Packers joined the new league and Curly Lambeau signed Buck as his first real professional player at $75 a game. Cub was a hard negotiator who insisted that the money be guaranteed; Lambeau agreed as long as Buck also worked as the line coach. The 1919 and 1920 versions of the Packers were essentially professional town teams made up of local players. Although Buck was a native of Eau Claire and had played collegiately at UW, he was a five-year veteran of professional football who brought credibility to the franchise and provided an anchor to the line.
Cub was a tremendous competitor with a high voice that could be heard screaming instructions from across the field. He was alternately called “jovial” and “serious-minded” by those who knew him. Unconfirmed stories of his exploits on the field reflect his reputation. Cub was the victim of perhaps the first cheap shot in the history of the Bears-Packers rivalry when Tarzan Taylor broke his nose with a sucker punch in 1921. On another occasion, he was slugged by a different Bear and brow-beat the opponent for not being a gentleman. When still another Bear tried to break his nose with a quick jab, Cub caught the player’s arm and broke it with a sharp twist. In an exhibition game against the Lapham Athletic Club of Milwaukee, Buck grabbed two slight scatbacks from Lapham and hoisted them in the air by their belts.
What is confirmed is that Cub was a player. He was a force on both the offensive and defensive lines and was a skilled kicker and punter as well. Football was vastly different in those days and kicking and punting abilities were highly valued. From 1922 through 1932, the Packers recorded at least five shutouts each year except 1930 when they only rang up four. And Curly Lambeau was known as an offensive coach! Games were determined by field position, kicking, and mistakes. For example on November 4, 1923, the Packers played the St. Louis All-Stars in a muddy Sportsman’s Park. Cub punted 19 times that day, an unofficial league record — punting statistics were not kept until 1939. To show the value of field position, Buck punted five times on first down, once on second, eight times on third, and only five times on fourth down. The only score of the game occurred in the third quarter when Jimmy Simpson of St. Louis fumbled Cub’s 50 yard punt and Green Bay recovered at the St .Louis 16. On third down, Cub drop-kicked a 20 yard field goal. The Packers won 3-0 on field position, kicking, and mistakes.
As a matter of fact, Cub played an integral role in the Green Bay’s very first NFL game on October 23, 1921 against the Minneapolis Marines in Hagemeister Park. The Packers won that day 7-6 in a fourth quarter comeback. Dave Hayes of the Marines muffed Buck’s punt at the Minneapolis 35 with six minutes to play, and six plays later, Art Schmael went over from the four to tie the game. The winning margin was provided by Lambeau’s conversion from the hold of Buck.
Cub scored 54 points for Green Bay on 24 of 35 extra points and 10 of 28 field goals. He led the team in scoring in 1923 and even threw a touchdown pass in 1924. In 1923 Buck took on the head coaching job at Lawrence College, and he would stay there for his last three years as a Packer. Cub became the very first head coach at the University of Miami in 1926 and retired as a professional football player. After three years in Florida, Cub quit coaching altogether and opened an automobile dealership in Rock Island, Illinois where he would live the rest of his life until he passed away at 74 in 1966. The Packers’ first significant free agent acquisition, Buck was elected to the Packer Hall of Fame posthumously in 1977. He had been elected to the Wisconsin Hall of Fame in 1955.
(Adapted from Packers By the Numbers.)
Custom Cards colorized and in the 1926 Spaulding style.