1931 begins a great stretch of Packer rookie classes. In the nine years from 1931-39, 21 of the players who began their NFL careers in Green Bay later would be elected to the Packer Hall oF Fame. Each year, Curly Lambeau brought in a host of new talent that helped make the Packers a powerhouse four-time champion in the decade. By contrast, only six rookies from the 1940s have gained entry to the Packer Hall, and the depreciation in the team was obvious by the late 1940s.
Five of the nine 1931 rookies would have little impact on the team, all vanishing from the NFL after just one season. USC fullback Russ Saunders played in nine games and scored one touchdown, but is more famous as a model for the Tommy Trojan statue at his alma mater. He was an assistant director and production manager for 150 films at Warner Bros. from 1932-1964. Drake center Waldo Don Carlos appeared in 12 games and was the first Hispanic Packer. Hardin-Simmons halfback Wayne Davenport, South Dakota State tackle Roy Jenison and Northwestern end Frank Baker all lasted just two games, although Baker did catch a touchdown pass.
The other four Packer rookies had more success in Green Bay. Michigan State’s Roger Grove was primarily a blocking back and wingback for the Pack. He played in 14 games as a rookie and would score 7 touchdowns and 16 extra points during his five years in town. Marquette fullback Chester “Swede” Johnston appeared in just two games as a rookie, bounced around for a couple of years and then returned to Green Bay as a part-time player from 1934-38. Despite playing in just 26 games over his six-year Packer tenure, he is in the team’s Hall of Fame.
The remaining two rookies fully earned election to the Packer Hall of Fame. Wisconsin end Milt Gantenbein would take over at right end from Tom Nash over the next couple of years and would make a nice receiving complement to Lavie Dilweg and Don Hutson, winning some All-Pro notice from 1936-38, during his 10-year Packer career. Northwestern back Hank Bruder was an all-around performer who excelled at defense and blocking throughout his nine years in Green Bay. He played in 13 games and scored three touchdowns in his first season; Hank Bruder was the Packers’ top rookie in 1931.
All custom cards colorized.