In the Words of Sport Magazine: Larry Craig

In the same “Packers of Green Bay” article from the December 1946 issue of Sport Magazine from which I quoted last week about Moose Mulleneaux, there is a nice passage about one of the more unsung men in Packer history, Larry Craig. Craig played blocking back on offense, leading the way on almost every running play. On defense, the burly 6’1” 210 pounder known as “Superman” moved up to play defensive end so the slightly-built Don Hutson could slide back a play safety. Not only did Craig provide sturdy front line on defense, Hutson garnered 33 interceptions in the defensive backfield from 1939-45 after grabbing just five in his first four seasons while playing on the line. Craig twice earned All-Pro notice during his 11 years in Green Bay from 1939-49.

Author Jack Sher wrote:

There have only been a couple of blocking backs as great as Craig. One of them was the Michigan bowler-over, Forrest Evashevski, the other was Ernie Pinkert of Southern California. Larry is a fine-looking, beautifully-built, easy-going guy from South Carolina. He has paved the way for more Packer touchdowns from running plays than any man in the team’s history. A blocking back never gets the glory, and I asked Craig how he felt about this.

“I’ll tell you when I feel good,” he said, “It’s when I crack a guy solid and watch the guy behind me with the ball go sailing into the clear. It gives me a clean, swell feeling.”

Craig was the biggest man on his squad at South Carolina, but he felt like a midget when he came to the Packers. Hinkle and Isbell and Baby Ray, then the stars of the team, took him in hand and gave him the confidence that he needed to go on to greatness.

1939lcraigc  1941lcraig

1943lcraig  1946lcraig

Craig custom cards are colorized.

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Packers Top Rookie: 1935

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Curly Lambeau brought in 10 rookies in 1935 and five would have a significant impact on the team in the coming years. The other five had careers that did not extend beyond one season. In fact, three – Notre Dame end Dom Vairo, Indiana guard Dustin McDonald and Kansas State tackle Buster Maddox all appeared in just one NFL game. Stanford guard Bob O’Connor and Minnesota end Bob Tenner played in seven and 11 games respectively for the Packers in their only NFL season.

Of the five players who would last in Green Bay at least three seasons, Iowa blocking back Herm Schneidman was the most anonymous, but he would serve the Packers through 1939 before finishing his career with the Cardinals in 1940.

Two rookie linemen would later win All-Pro notice in Green Bay, although not in their rookie season. Minnesota center George Svendsen appeared in nine games for the Packers in 1935 and USC tackle Ernie Smith in 12. Smith, a veteran of the Pacific Coast Football League, also scored 14 points placekicking.

Nebraska fullback George Sauer had an excellent rookie season, finishing second on the team to Bob Monnett with 334 yards rushing and scoring 24 points on four touchdowns.

The team’s leading scorer, though, was another rookie: Alabama receiver Don Hutson. Hutson is arguably the greatest receiver ever to play the game and the greatest Packer. While the 18 passes he caught as a first-year man would be a career low, he averaged 23.3 yards per catch and led the NFL with six touchdown receptions. From his first reception of 83 yards for a touchdown against the Bears in week two, Hutson was the team’s star; Don Hutson was the Packers’ top rookie in 1935.

1935dhutson  1935gsauer

1935gsvendsen  1935esmith

1935hschneidman  1935boconnor

All custom cards are colorized.

Bill Anderson R.I.P.

Another of Vince Lombardi’s players passes away a few days ago. Here’s an excerpt of the profile I did on Bill Anderson for The 1966 Green Bay Packers:

Three members of the 1966 Green Bay Packers never appeared in the NFL again after Super Bowl I. Paul Hornung, once the team’s biggest star, was the only player not to play that day for Green Bay. However, little-used veteran journeyman ends Bill Anderson and Red Mack ended their pro football careers that day by playing on the sport’s biggest stage. For Anderson, it was his second straight championship, which was a long way from how his pro career began.

Walter William Anderson was born July 13, 1936 in Hendersonville, North Caolina. He grew up in Onoco, Florida, near Sarasota. He enrolled in the University of Tennessee, where he would play his three varsity seasons under Coach Bowden Wyatt. Anderson was the team’s starting wingback in the single wing offense, averaging 11.4 yards per rush on 29 carries and 23.1 yards per catch on 20 receptions. As a senior, the respected team leader and celebrated defensive back was also co-captain of the squad.

The Washington Redskins, whose coaches worked with Bill in the Senior Bowl, selected him in the third round of the 1958 NFL draft. He would be one of only five of their 30 picks that year who would ever play for the team and the only one who would play more than one full season in Washington.

The 6’3” 210-lb Anderson began his rookie year in the Redskins defensive secondary, but switched to split end in week three. In Washington, Anderson went to the Pro Bowl for both the 1959 and 1960 seasons, catching 35 and 38 passes respectively despite being hampered by a hamstring pull in 1959 and leg problems in 1960. Anderson was switched to tight end in 1961, and at his new position, he caught a career high 40 passes, including 10 for 168 yards in one game against the Cowboys. Nevertheless, Washington’s record was a dismal 1-12-1 in 1961.

At long last the Redskins finally integrated their roster in 1962 by acquiring halfback Bobby Mitchell from Cleveland and moving him to flanker where he caught 72 passes for the improved 5-7-2 Redskins. Anderson shared the tight end job with Steve Junker that year and dropped to 23 catches. The following season, Bill was beaten out by rookie Pat Richter and caught just 14 passes for the sinking 3-11 Skins.

In six years in Washington, Bill had played for three coaches that finished a collective 17-55-6, although his 168 catches in that period were second only to Bones Taylor in team history. However, when his alma mater offered Anderson a position as end coach with the Volunteers, Bill accepted. Also added to the Tennessee staff was Forrest Gregg who retired for the first time from the Packers. Gregg had played under Doug Dickey in service ball, but was talked into returning to Green Bay just two months later by Vince Lombardi.

After one season as a coach, though, Anderson returned to Washington to restart his playing career. He told the Washington Post he retired because, “I was tired of getting banged around every Sunday.” After a year on the sidelines, his feelings changed, “I really want to play now. I didn’t know I had it so good. Coaching makes you appreciate being able to play.” Returning to the Redskins, he found a logjam at tight end. Since Green Bay had lost starting tight end Ron Kramer to the Lions, Vince Lombardi was looking for veteran insurance behind new starter Marv Fleming, so he gave Washington a sixth round pick for Anderson on August 18, 1965. Bill later told the St. Petersburg Times, “My first reaction was one of disappointment at being traded. After all, I had made quite a few friends in Washington, and here I had to almost start over again. Yet, I had an idea I might be traded. As it turned out, it was the greatest thing that could have happened to me.”

Anderson was brought in as a backup and as the edge man on the kickoff coverage. He spent most of the 1965 season in that capacity, catching just eight passes all year. His seasonal highlight came in week 12 when Bill caught a 27-yard touchdown for the winning score in a 24-19 triumph over the Vikings. Although having some back problems, Anderson began to be used more late in the year due to Fleming’s sore ankle and lackadaisical play. After the Minnesota game, Lombardi beamed, “Anderson was worth his whole year’s salary in that one game last week.”

The 1965 season concluded with the Packers and Colts tied for the lead of the Western Conference, necessitating a playoff game between the two on December 26, 1965 in Lambeau Field. The Colts were under the handicap of having lost both starting quarterback Johnny Unitas and backup Gary Cuozzo to injuries and were relying on halfback Tom Matte to run the offense. The first play from scrimmage evened things up a bit between the two clubs. Bart Starr connected with Anderson on a pass play, but when rocked by defensive back Lenny Lyles, Bill fumbled. Colt linebacker Don Shinnick scooped up the ball and returned it for a touchdown, with Starr cracking his ribs in the melee at the goal line. He explained to the St. Petersburg Times, “What happened was that the ball hit me in the shoulder, instead of the stomach. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a defender coming in to hit me, and I was trying to get the ball down into my stomach in time. I didn’t quite make it,” Bill recalled and added, “If there was a tunnel handy, I’d have crawled into it and run out of the stadium and kept on running.”

Ironically, had the play occurred today, it most likely would have been ruled incomplete since Anderson was unable to complete a “football move” after grabbing the ball. In addition, during the scramble for the loose ball, Anderson was hit in the head and suffered a concussion, “It was all a little hazy the rest of the way,” he later noted.

Hazy or not, Anderson proceeded to have the game of his life, catching seven more passes from backup quarterback Zeke Bratkowski to lead the team in receptions. Often, he slipped into the middle of the field vacated by blitzing middle linebacker Dennis Gaubatz to give Bratkowski an outlet. Bill’s last catch came late in the overtime period and went for 18 yards to move the ball close to midfield; eight plays later, Don Chandler kicked the game-winning field goal. Chandler’s first field goal had tied the game in the last two minutes and remains controversial to this day. Whenever anyone questioned Anderson whether that field goal went through the uprights, though, Bill would hold up his hand and reply matter-of-factly, “I’m wearing a dang ring.”

One week later, a bruised Starr returned for the NFL Championship against the defending champion Browns, held again in Lambeau. Bill again started, but served primarily as a blocker. Starr told the Milwaukee Sentinel, “Early in the game, I was trying to hit Anderson but in the pass coverage Cleveland was using, it was awfully tough to throw to the tight end. They were holding up Anderson at the line of scrimmage.” Bill caught no passes that day, but Green Bay won handily 23-12 for Lombardi’s third title and Anderson’s “dang ring.”

Bill returned to the Packers for 1966. By opening day, though, he was again backing up Fleming. Anderson got into 10 games in 1966 and caught just two passes, including one during the game-winning drive in the opener. Despite his diminished role on the Super Bowl-winning Packers, Bill was invited back by Vince Lombardi for 1967, but decided to get on with his life’s work. A year later, he was paired with play-by-play announcer John Ward to broadcast Tennessee football games. Bill would be Ward’ color analyst for the next 31 years, and the two would retire together following the 1998 season; their final broadcast was the Fiesta Bowl on January 4, 1999 when Tennessee beat Florida State 23-16 to win the National Championship, a fitting conclusion to the longest running broadcasting partnership in college football. The two were somewhat analogous to the Packers 20-year broadcasting pair of Jim Irwin and Anderson’s former teammate Max McGee who ended their run just one day earlier on January 3, 1999.

1965pbanderson  1966pbanderson

Custom cards in Philadelphia style.

Scouting Report: Forrest Gregg

The scouting report on SMU tackle Forrest Gregg on view at the Packer Hall of Fame was filed by Packers’ Hall of Fame guard Mike Michalske during Gregg’s senior season and was very frugal in its description. Michalske, then the line coach for the University of Texas, wrote:

Best all around tackle in our conference

Aggressive

Strong

Rugged

Big Enough

I recommend

Michalske also noted that Gregg had average speed and his military status was unknown. Indeed, Gregg would miss the 1957 season due to a military obligation. Although not long on the adjectives, Michalske nailed it in his report, as the best all-around tackle in the Southwest Conference became the best all-around tackle in the NFL for a decade plus.

1951tfgregg  1937ymmichalske

1956tfgregg  1957tfgregg3

Custom cards are colorized.

Packers Top Rookie: 1934

Rookies1934jlaws

Following the Packers’ first losing season ever in 1933, the team brought in 10 rookies in 1934, and three in particular would have a lasting effect on the franchise’s continuing success. Some of the first-year-men passed through town quickly though.

Notre Dame guard Harry Wunsch who appeared in 2 games, Indiana guard Bobby Jones who played in 12 games, Stanford end Al Norgard who played in 10 games and Gustavus Adolphus back Earl Witte who was in five games all disappeared from the NFL after 1934. TCU halfback Cy Casper and St. Mary’s tackle Carl “Bud” Jorgensen played in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia respectively in 1935 to end their careers. Jorgensen should not be confused with the team trainer of the same name. Carl Anker Overgaard Jorgensen from California was a lineman; Carl Wallace Jorgensen handled the liniments.

Hefty Michigan State center Frank Butler had an on-and-off tenure in Green Bay, playing for the team from 1934-36 and then in 1938, but playing in just 26 games total in that period. Two other rookie linemen had a bigger impact on the team. Wisconsin tackle Champ Seibold appeared in just one game in 1934 but would stay with the team through 1940 as a sometime-starter and would play in 48 games…and, yes, Champ was his given name. Oregon State tackle Ade Schwammel had a bifurcated career as a Packer. A regular from 1934-36 who was named All-Pro in his second season, Ade left football in 1937. He returned to the Packers during the War to finish his career from 1943-44.

Iowa halfback Joe Laws would appear in 120 games in a dozen years in Green Bay. He was another one of Curly Lambeau’s versatile halfbacks who could do a little of everything and excelled on defense where he picked off at least 29 passes in his career. Laws appeared in all 13 games as a rookie and scored two touchdowns, while finishing third on the team in both rushing and receiving; Joe Laws was the Packers’ top rookie in 1934.

1934jlaws  1934aschwammel

Custom cards are colorized.

In the Words of Sport Magazine: Carl Mulleneaux

Carl Mulleneaux returned to the Packers from three years in the service in the middle of 1945. Hoping to restart his career at age 29, he reported to training camp in 1946, but his career abruptly ended on opening day in a 30-7 loss to the Bears after a blind side hit on a kickoff. The Milwaukee Journal noted, “It was not as rough as some Packer-Bear games, but it had a few rough spots – roughest when 240 pound John Schiechl knocked out Carl Mulleneaux. Mulleneaux was carried from the field.” The Green Bay Press-Gazette added that Bears lineman John Schiechl “caught him under the chin with both ‘mitts.’” Cliff Christl reported in Mudbaths and Bloodbaths that Mulleneaux suffered five dislocated vertebrae, a concussion, a broken nose, facial cuts and three broken teeth on that hit.

In Jack Sher’s article “Packers of Green Bay” in the December 1946 issue of Sport Magazine, Sher describes the hit:

Mid-way through the game, he [Don Hutson] saw Carl (Moose) Mulleneaux put on ice, watched as they carried him off the field, his face cut and bloody. Moose was out cold, and this was a guy who had decoyed at end in many a ball game so that Don Hutson could snare a pass and leg it for a TD…

Down on the sidelines that day, they dropped Mulleneaux right at my feet alongside the bench. He looked as though he had walked into a barrage of Joe Louis punches. He didn’t move. Trainer Bud Jorgensen worked over him frantically. It took a full ten minutes to bring him around and then he began to moan, move his arms, talk and swear and thrash his legs as though he were still in the game.

To me, as I watched Mulleneaux struggle for consciousness, he wasn’t just another ballplayer knocked stiff in a game. He was someone with whom I had lived and eaten and traveled, shared bull sessions and laughs and confidences. He was a guy I liked all the way. I remembered that just before the game, Tony Canadeo, the halfback, had said, ”I wonder if Moose will throw up. Ever since I’ve known him he’s always heaved up his cookies just before a Bear game. The excitement always gets him.”

Seeing Moose stretched out, turning and twisting, I thought about the first time I had ever seen him. It had been ten days before, on that gloomy train back to Green bay after the Packers had dropped a grueling [preseason] game to the Giants in New York. Lambeau was locked up in a compartment, Hard-faced and angry. His players were sprawled through two cars, dejected, tired. Moose saw me standing in the aisle, looking like a stranger at a funeral, and he asked me to sit down next to him.

“We’ll get over this,” he smiled slowly. “We’re always like this after we lose one. Curly is worse than any of us. We all hate to lose, but it hits him harder.”

According to Christl, Mulleneaux showed up five weeks later at the rematch, although in street clothes because he had been released after the injuries. He looked for Schiechl at Wrigley Field outside the Bears’ locker room, but the Bear mauler apologized, and Moose accepted it.

1946cmulleneaux  1946tcanadeo

Custom cards are colorized.

Scouting Report: Herb Adderley

In his senior year at Michigan State, Herb Adderley was scouted by the Packers when the Spartans played Indiana. The scouting report is posted at the Packer Hall of Fame:

Offensive Ability: This fellow’s got it. Good movement. Strong power. Good pass receiver. He’ll hit in there where it’s thick

Defensive Ability: He can play defense.

Favorable Pro Points: Big and strong. Can take their beating. Runs with “receivers abandon.” He’ll make the short yardage when you need it.

Evaluation as Pro Possibility and Discuss Desire: Good

I have to say that the “He can play defense” comment turned out to be an understatement. The primary thrust of the report was that Herb would not shy away from contact, and that would be borne out by both his willingness to play the run and by his skill for rough tackling. The scout was also rather terse in the final category on Adderley’s pro potential and desire.

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Fleer draft pick custom card is colorized.