Packers Top Rookie: 1946


With the war finally over, the Packers greeted rookies drafted in the last five NFL drafts in 1946. From 1942, Minnesota tackle Urban Odson was the top pick; from 1943, Minnesota tackle Dick Wildung came in round one, Tulane center Les Gatewood in round eight, Arkansas halfback Bob Forte in round 11, Hardin-Simmons end Hal Prescott in round 19 and Hardin-Simmons guard Jug Bennett in round 23; from 1944, Michigan guard Merv Pregulman was the top pick; from 1945, Texas Tech fullback Walt Schlinkman came in round one and Georgia end Don Wells in round six; from 1946, only Michigan halfback Bob Nussbaumer in round three  and UCLA guard Al Sparlis in round 30 joined the team. The 1946 top pick, Marquette halfback Johnny Strzykalski, opted to sign with the fledgling All-America Conference’s San Francisco 49ers. Undrafted free agents Cliff Aberson (a halfback who did not attend college) and Al Zupek (a fullback from Lawrence) made the team as well.

Of these 13 rookies, Sparlis, Bennett, Aberson and Zupek all had one-year NFL careers, while Nussbaumer, Pregulman and Prescott were with other NFL teams in 1947, and Gatewood was gone after 1947. Odson, Schlinkman and Wells would last with the Packers for the rest of the 1940s. Odson was no longer a consensus All-America after four years in the Navy, and Wells was a defensive specialist. Schlinkman was third on the team in rushing as a rookie and drew some All-Pro notice in 1947.

Forte and Wildung were the two best members of the rookie class. Bob Forte was a versatile defender at both halfback and linebacker for seven years in Green Bay. WIldung also spent seven seasons with the Pack and three times was named to an All-Pro team. In his first year, he appeared in all 11 games and started seven; Dick Wildung was the Packers’ top rookie in 1946.

1946wschlinkman  1946bforte

1946caberson  1946azupek

1946dwells  1946uodson

1946mpregulman  1946asparlis


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