June 11 is a birthday shared by Packer teammates Ron Hallstrom and James Campen, born seven years apart.
The most remarkable thing about Ron Hallstrom’s 11-year career in Green Bay was his health. He never missed a game due to injury in all that time. However, he was never much more than a fairly capable player at his best. Most scouts considered the 6’6” 300-pound Hallstrom a reach as the 22nd player taken in the 1982 draft, but the Packers always seem to have a weakness for Iowa linemen. For his part, Hallstrom was excited to be picked by his favorite team from childhood. Coach Bart Starr and his staff saw a big, competitive player they thought could be dominating, but that never happened.
Hallstrom had a rough time learning the offense, and his rookie year was riddled with disappointments. He was decked on the practice field in a one-punch fight with much smaller linebacker Kurt Allerman during training camp and then was put on the taxi squad at the beginning of the season and appeared in only six games that year. Before his second season, Hallstrom was shifted to tackle because offensive coach Bob Schnelker felt he was “top heavy” and too big to play guard. After a season on the bench, Hallstrom was nearly cut by new Coach Forrest Gregg in the 1984 training camp, but made the team as a reserve. In week four, Gregg replaced both his disappointing starting guards, Syd Kitson and Dave Drechsler, with the more sizeable duo of Hallstrom and Tim Huffman, and line play improved.
Hallstrom remained a starter for most of the rest of the Gregg and Infante coaching regimes and even drew some All-Pro notice for the magical 1989 season, but that was short-lived. Hallstrom continued as a starter for Mike Holmgren’s first season of 1992, but when the team wanted him to take a small raise and serve in a versatile backup role, Hallstrom requested his release. However, Ron found himself not in much demand and signed with Philadelphia for less money than the Packers were offering. It would prove to be his final year in the NFL. He still lives in Wisconsin, running a sports and marine business in a vacation area.
James Campen has become a Packer lifer and is known for his enthusiasm and high spirits. Yet, Campen has worked hard for everything he has achieved. After graduating high school in rural California, Campen spent one year at Sacramento City Junior College before transferring to Tulane where he started as a junior and senior. Undrafted, he talked himself into a tryout with the Saints in 1986. He was cut that year, but caught on with New Orleans in 1987 and spent two seasons there, mostly as a backup.
Needing talent, Green Bay dipped heavily into the new Plan B free agent market in 1989, and one of their signees was the 6’3” 270-pound Campen who apprenticed at center that year under veteran Blair Bush while also playing a little nose tackle and tight end. He won the starting center job outright in 1990 and even drew some All-Pro notice that year. Former center Larry McCarren mused to the Milwaukee Sentinel, “I don’t think James ever has a day he doesn’t want to go to work.” His tutor Bush added, “One of his strengths is the enthusiasm and the emotion he plays with. At times, as in everything, your greatest strength can be your greatest weakness.” Bush was cautioning that Campen played with too much emotion at times because the center makes the line calls as the calm brains of the offensive line.
Vikings defensive line coach John Teerlinck told the Milwaukee Journal in 1993 that Campen was one of the better centers in the league and that, “He grabs on to you and holds like hell. He’s got a great sense of balance. He can shift weight and feel your weight shifting.” Campen’s playing career ended suddenly in week four that season against the Cowboys when he not only tore his hamstring but also cartilage in his knee. Although he finished that game, several knee operations could not rescue his career. James then spent nine years coaching at his high school alma mater before returning to Green Bay as an assistant line coach in 2004. Since 2007, he has been the Packers’ offensive line coach and has developed some quality players. Evaluating himself, Campen told beat writer Bob McGinn, “I was a good pass blocker and a very average run blocker.” That’s a fair evaluation.
(Adapted from Green Bay Gold.)
1984 Hallstrom custom card is colorized.