Dave Hathcock Turns 74

It’s likely that Dave Hathcock was the unlikeliest member of the 1966 Green Bay Packers. One would not expect someone who never played on a winning team in high school or college, only played college football in his senior year, switched from offense to defense midway through that year, and was drafted in the 17th round of the NFL draft to make the cut of the defending world champions, but Hathcock did. And he earned a Super Bowl ring in doing so.

David Gary Hathcock was born on July 20, 1943 in Memphis, Tennessee.  In high school, Hathcock won state championships in the high hurdles and the decathlon and won a full scholarship to his hometown Memphis State University in 1961. He starred at track there for four years, while thinking about training to try out for the 1968 Olympics in the decathlon. Still needing one class to graduate and having used up his track eligibility in 1965, Dave wrangled a one-year football scholarship. By game four, Dave was the team’s starting “Monster Man” (a hybrid safety/linebacker) at six-foot 195-pounds, and Memphis went on a five-game winning streak. Still, in November when he got a telegram from the Packers saying they had drafted him in the 17th round, he thought it was a joke.

With veteran defensive back Hank Gremminger having been traded in late June, Hathcock took advantage of the open slot and made the team. His primary duty was on kick coverage and return teams. The only game in which Dave got to play much on defense was week seven against the expansion Falcons. Green Bay beat Atlanta 56-3 that day, and Hathcock played about half the game at safety. That week, the Milwaukee Journal noted, “Hathcock has impressed the coaches with his quickness and hitting power.”

As part of the 1966 Packers, Hathcock earned an additional $15,000 by being on the winning team in Super Bowl I against the Kansas City Chiefs. Dave made a couple of tackles on returns in that game, but it also signaled the end of his time in Green Bay. Covering a punt in the closing minutes of the game, he was hit in the knee and suffered cartilage damage. Still not fully recovered, he reported to training camp in 1967 but was beaten out for the sixth defensive back slot by third round draft pick John Rowser.  On September 11, 1967, a week before the start of the season, Hathcock was traded to the Giants for a 10th round draft pick.

Hathcock led the Giants in kickoff returns in 1967, but played less than half the season. In week six, ironically against the Packers, Dave aggravated his bad knee on the opening kickoff and never played in the NFL again. Dave spent 36 years teaching drafting and woodworking in a number of primarily black Tennessee high schools, while also coaching several state track champions and serving as an assistant football coach.

1966pdhathcock4  1967pdhathcart

Hathcock custom cards in 1966 and 1967 Philadelphia style.

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