September 1 marks the birthday of two notable Packers, Hank Gremminger and Eddie Kotal. I have written about Hank before, so let’s take a look at Eddie. Kotal was born in 1902 in Chicago. After first enrolling at the University of Illinois, the 5’8” 170 pound halfback graduated from Lawrence College in Appleton Wisconsin and joined the Packers in 1925. Sometimes called the “Lawrence Flash,” Eddie spent five years in Green Bay and was one of the last Packers to play without a helmet. In those five years, he scored ten touchdowns (four rushing, five receiving and one on an interception return) and threw two touchdown passes. Altogether according to the Neft & Cohen’s The Football Encyclopedia, Kotal caught 74 passes and rushed over 300 times. In his best season, 1928, he was named second team All-League as he led the NFL with 28 receptions for 508 yards and also led the circuit with 10 interceptions. Historian Eric Goska also found four interceptions by Eddie in 1929.
Kotal retired in 1930 to coach the football team at his alma mater, but after a 3-5 season, he moved on to Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1931. In 11 years there, he coached conference champions in football, basketball, track and boxing. His overall basketball record was 133-49, while his football squads finished 37-35-9. Eddie rejoined the Packers in 1942, bringing along his star player from Stevens Point, Ted Fritsch. Kotal coached the backs for two years and did some scouting for Curly Lambeau before being hired by Dan Reeves of the Rams as the league’s first full time scout in 1946.
While Kotal also served as a backfield coach for Los Angeles from 1950-53, his greatest impact was in scouting. Under his direction, the Rams amassed the most talent in the league, often from little-known places. Former Ram halfback Tom Keane told the Los Angeles Times in 1991, “There was no such thing as a draft combine in those days. Kotal was the guy who found players like Andy Robustelli at Arnold, Tank Younger at Grambling – he was the first player ever signed from Grambling – and Larry Brink from North Illinois State. He was always finding great players in out-of-the-way places.”
Eddie was a pioneer in scouting black colleges. He told Ebony in 1970, “It was apparent to me then that Negro college teams were coming up. They played good schedules. I knew all the coaches. I made it a habit of seeing their teams play.” Noting the Rams’ success, other teams followed. Dan Daly of the Washington Times found Kotal complaining in 1957, “Even five years ago I could stumble across a sleeper at some small college that no other club knew about. But nowadays, everybody’s scouting system is so exhaustive, there’s no such thing as one.” Eddie, however, continued to find unpolished gems for the Rams like David “Deacon” Jones from South Carolina State and died in Los Angeles on January 27, 1973.
Custom cards are colorized.