A Couple of Bills

August 9 marks the birthday of two Packers named Bill who each played in the NFL for 11 years and are connected by Bart Starr. Starr was Bill Forester’s teammate for eight years and made Bill Bain his first-ever draft choice after being named head coach in 1975. The Green Bay experience was quite different for our two Bills, however.

Drafted out of SMU in the third round of the 1953 draft, Forester came to the Packers with Al Carmichael, Jim Ringo and Roger Zatkoff in a pretty good haul of personnel. The 6’3” 235-pound Forester started the season at middle guard in the Packers’ 5-2 defensive scheme. He played middle guard for his first four seasons, but in the Packers defense, he would often drop back into the middle linebacker position in a 4-3 before the snap of the ball. In 1957, Forester was moved to the right side and stayed there for the rest of his career. After a solid season that year, he dropped off so badly in 1958 that he lost his job to journeyman Marv Matuszak in midseason. The next year, Lombardi came in and traded Matuszak to the Colts; Forester drew All-Pro notice for the next five years and three times went to the Pro Bowl. Forester told Bud Lea that his improvement was due to Lombardi’s conditioning program and Phil Bengtson’s coaching.

Lombardi valued pursuit perhaps above all other defensive qualities, and Forester ranged all over the field in making tackles. He was also an able blitzer from the weak side, recording nearly 25 sacks according to Webster and Turney, including double digit sacks in 1959; dropping into coverage, he picked off 21 passes. Bears’ tight end Mike Ditka remembered Forester to the Journal Sentinel in 2012, “He was a hard guy to block because he used his hands so well. Guys that used their hands well bothered me, because you couldn’t put a good lick on them. They kept you away from the body.”

Bubba Forester was tough and durable, never missing a game in his career. As Lombardi wrote in Run to Daylight, “There is an aura of efficiency about him that others respect and rise to.”

USC’s Bill Bain came to the Packers in the second round  in 1975, and said on his first trip to Green Bay that, “Every minute I’m here I like the place more,” calling Coach Starr, “a straightaway guy who doesn’t pull any punches.” Pressed into the starting lineup at tackle as a rookie, the 6’4” 280 pound Bain struggled and soon returned to the bench.

The next year, the flaky Bain and the inexperienced Starr had a falling out in training camp, so Bain was dealt to Denver for a third round pick a week before the final preseason game. Bain played for the Broncos for two years and bounced through the Giants and Redskins organizations before landing with the Rams in 1979. He spent seven years in Los Angeles, eventually landing a starting position at tackle and drawing some All-Pro notice in 1984. He finished his career with the Jets and Patriots in 1986.

(Forester material adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1958tbforester3  1975tbbain

Custom cards are colorized.

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