The Lambeau Era Packers had three linemen known as Tiny: Cahoon in the 1920s, Croft in the 1940s and today’s birthday boy, Engebretsen, in the 1930s. The circumstances that brought Paul Engebretsen to Green Bay were circuitous indeed. He was a year behind Hank Bruder at Northwestern, but would not join him on the Packers for three years. In 1932, Tiny was signed by George Halas to play for the local pro team, the Bears and helped beat the Packers 9-0 in December by kicking a fourth quarter 14-yard field goal in the snow. He spent the entire season with Chicago as they won the championship in the first-ever NFL playoff against the Portsmouth Spartans also by a 9-0 score.
Meanwhile in Green Bay, Curly Lambeau sent veteran end Tom Nash to the football Braves for rookie USC halfback Ernie Pinkert in April 1933. However, Nash refused to report in September, so the trade was nullified. Milt Gantenbein moved into the starting lineup in Nash’s place and Tom did not appear in any preseason or regular season games for the Packers. Four weeks later on October 11, Nash was acquired by the football Dodgers. The AP reported that the packers sold Nash for $1,500 dollars, but the Green Bay Press Gazette quoted Lambeau as saying that it was a loan and no money was involved.
In 1933, Nash played for Brooklyn, and Tiny Engebretsen moved from the Bears to Pittsburgh where he played nine games and then came back to Chicago where he played two games for the crosstown Cardinals. In 1934, he traveled on again, this time to Brooklyn where Tom Nash was playing the last three games of his career. All this rambling was mirrored in Engebretsen’s off season activity at the time, prospecting for gold out West. On October 30, 1934, Curly Lambeau obtained the rights to Engebretsen, and it was reported that the Packers relinquished all claims to the services of Nash. So Tiny was the player to be named later from 1933, although that does not preclude the possibility that Green Bay did get the $1,500 as well. Engebretsen joined the Packers after playing five games with Brooklyn in 1934 and roomed with his old pal Bruder. He would remain in Green Bay until his career ended in 1941.
In Green Bay, the 6’1″ 240 pound Engebretsen became a solid starting guard and part of the placekicking committee that the Packers employed. In that era, teams did not carry a separate placekicker; the job was done as a supplement to a player’s regular duties. Due to injuries, inconsistencies, and varying skill levels, it made sense to use more than one kicker at a time. Each year the mix for the Packers was a little different. In 1934, the duties were split between backs, Bobby Monnett, Clarke Hinkle, and Hank Bruder. During 1935 and 1936, Ernie Smith handled most of the extra point tries, while Hinkle and Ade Schwammel attempted field goals in the former year and Smith and Engebretsen tried them in the latter. By 1937, Tiny was helping Smith with the points after touchdown as well as trying his share of field goals. For the remainder of his time in Green Bay, Tiny was the primary extra point man and tried his share of field goals as well.
Although amongst the 300-pound linemen of today his nickname would be meant literally, it was said with irony at the time. Tiny was a big man for the 1930s. In the New York Times preview of the 1938 championship game against the New York Giants, much fanfare was given to the advantage of the larger Green Bay line — bigger by an average of 10 pounds per man. One reason the Packers were favored was that they had four behemoth tackles around 250 pounds each, together weighing “almost half a ton.” The packers lost that game, though, despite Engebretsen contributing five points with a field goal and two extra points.
As to Engebretsen, he would return to help the Packers win another title in 1939 when he would once again score five points with a field goal and two extra points as the Packers main kicker. As a Packer, he kicked 43 extra points and 14 field goals in the regular season for a total of 85 points to add to his 10 postseason points. He would spend just one more full year in Green Bay, leaving after one game in 1941 to spend most of the year coaching the Buffalo Tigers in an early version of the American Football League. Despite the presence of his old Packer teammate 38-year-old Johnny Blood, the team finished 2-6. He eventually returned to his native Iowa and ran a farm until his death in 1979. Tiny was elected to the Packer Hall of Fame in 1978.
(Updated from Packers By the Numbers.)
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