A Card for Everyone: Dave Kopay

Dave Kopay, who finished his nine-year NFL career in Green Bay in 1972, turns 76 today. Kopay, a Chicago native, first enrolled at Marquette, but then transferred to the University of Washington after the Hilltoppers dropped football in 1960. In 1964 he made the 49ers’ roster as an undrafted free agent rookie.

In his career, he never gained more yards rushing than the 271 he accumulated as a rookie, nor caught more than the 20 passes he grabbed that season. Kopay was a reserve player who stayed in the league primarily as a kicking teams’ standout. He spent four years in San Francisco, one in Detroit, two in Washington and one in New Orleans before being claimed on waivers by the Packers during training camp in 1972.

Lee Remmel profiled him in the Green Bay Press Gazette in October of that season and quoted backfield coach Red Cochran’s assessment: “Dave’s a veteran and knows what he’s doing in all situations. He runs both positions in the backfield equally well. And he’s a coachable kid–he looks younger than he actually is so you think of him as being younger than he actually is. He is an accomplished football player.”

Kopay told Remmel, “I really feel this is very much a team. I’ve seen situations where that wasn’t true and I think there’s a closeness here when the guys get together to play football.” Kopay’s kick coverage play was a positive factor for the 1972 division champs. He returned to the Packers training camp in 1973 but was placed on the taxi squad and never played in the NFL again.

Two years later, of course, Dave became forever known as being the first former NFL player to come out as being gay. He tried to get into coaching in the league, but Packers’ coach Bart Starr was the only person who even replied to his inquiries. Kopay never had an official card for any team for which he played. Here’s an unofficial one.


Custom Card in 1972 Topps Style.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #38

Although worn longest by 2018 returning cornerback Tramon Williams, 38 was most prominently worn by Hall of Fame tailback Arnie Herber from 1935-40. Herber is one of two Hall of Famers to wear the number–the other being Cal Hubbard. Two other Packers, Jug Earp and Joe Laws who wore the number are members of the team’s Hall.

Earp was the first to wear the number in 1929, and he was joined in the Lambeau Era by back Cully Lidberg (1930), tackle Cal Hubbard (1931), center Art Bultman (1933), back Herdis McCrary (1933), back Joe Laws (1934), Arnie Herber (1935-40), back Chuck Sample (1942) and end Nolan Luhn (1945-49).

In the two way era, the number has been worn by a quarterback, two kickers, three runners and 10 defensive backs. There was a gap from 1952-67 with no Packers wearing 38.

QB: Robin Rote (1950-51).

K: Mike Mercer (1968-69) and Tim Webster (1971).

RB: Brian Satterfield (1996), Matt Snider (1999) and John Crockett (2015).

DB: Hurles Scales (1974), Estus Hood (1978-84), John Sullivan (1986), Norm Jefferson (1987-88), Chuck Washington (1987r), Adrian White (1992), Bruce Pickens (1993), Blaine McElmurry (1997), Jeremy Thornburg (2005) and Tramon Williams (2007-14).

1929jearpe  1936aherber

1947nluhn2  1951btrote

1969tmmercer  1982tehood

1987tnjefferson  1987xtcwashington

1996bsatterfield  2010trwilliams

First four custom cards plus Jefferson are colorized.

Remembering Ron Kramer

Speaking before a group of football researchers in 2013, Hall of Fame linebacker Dave Robinson asserted that he played against the greatest tight end in history, but it wasn’t Mike Ditka or John Mackey. Instead, it was teammate Ron Kramer every day in practice. Kramer is largely forgotten in NFL history, but in the 1960s he was seen as the forerunner of an evolving position, the tight end. As Ron told Bud Lea in 1963, “You can call me a tackle who has to catch passes. My job is twofold: making blocks and catching passes.”

Listed at 235 pounds, Ron played closer to 250, and there had never been a receiver as big and athletic before. At Michigan, where Kramer was a two-time All-American in football, he also was the 6’3” starting center on the basketball team. When he graduated from Ann Arbor as the Wolverines’ all-time leading basketball scorer, he was a fifth round draft pick of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. In football, Kramer was drafted fourth overall by Green Bay in the 1957 draft, and personnel director Jack Vainisi reported, “He’ll be Green Bay’s right halfback or slot-back as we call it – to make use of his pass catching, blocking and ball-carrying ability.” When Kramer signed months later, Coach Lisle Blackbourn said, “”I intend to use Kramer at right end. Billy Howton will be shifted to slotback. That way we can make use of Kramer’s blocking ability as well as his pass catching.”

Kramer had a solid rookie year, but tore knee ligaments in the season’s penultimate game. However, he missed no time due to the injury because he spent 1958 fulfilling a military obligation. Kramer returned to the Packers one week before the 1959 season, not in football shape, and was relegated to the kicking teams by new coach Vince Lombardi. Kramer continued in a backup role in 1960, catching just four passes all year.

Kramer finally got serious in 1961 and almost immediately became an All-Pro. Not only was he outstanding in sealing off the end of the line on Lombardi’s power sweep, but he also was a dependable receiver in the middle of the field, catching 32-37 passes each year for the next four years. He proved just how unstoppable he could be in the 1961 title game against the Giants when he caught four passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Lombardi said at the time, “Having Ron Kramer on the team is like having a 12th man,” referring to him being able to both block like a tackle and average over 16 yards per catch downfield. Bears’ coach George Halas said in admiration of Kramer, “You’ve got to have someone who can block and is big and can catch the ball no matter if he is hit or has somebody hanging all over him. Kramer could do that. He was a natural for the job. And he was mean. He liked to knock people down. He liked contact.” Frustrated by trying to defense Kramer, Vikings coach Norm Van Brocklin dubbed him the “Big Oaf” to the delight of Ron’s Packer teammates.

At the pinnacle of his career, though, Kramer played out his option and requested a trade to the Lions because he had some problems in his family and needed to be closer to home. Lombardi went along with the receiver and in return received a 1966 number one draft pick that he used on Jim Grabowski. Things did not go very well for Ron in Detroit. He did not fit in with what Coach Harry Gilmer wanted to do on offense and primarily backed up starter Jim Gibbons, who was more of a receiver than blocker. Three years later, Kramer was released.

Kramer was a dominant figure in the NFL, but for too brief a time to ever draw Hall of Fame consideration. His performance in the dual roles of blocking and receiving, though, were critical in the evolution of the tight end position. He would have been 83 today.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold.)

1957trkramer  1957trkramer2


1963trkramer  1964prkramer

1957 Packer Kramer custom card is colorized.

Fred Cone Turns 92

Fred Cone never played high school football, but was recruited to Clemson University by the sister of Tigers’ coach Frank Howard who was impressed by his athleticism in diving. From 1948-50 at Clemson, Cone set career records for yards rushing (2,183) and touchdowns (31). The Packers drafted him in the third round of the 1951 NFL draft.

Fred led the Packers in scoring for six of his seven seasons in Green and Gold and connected on 59% of his field goal attempts as the team’s primary kicker from 1951-57. While 59% sounds abysmal today, in the 1950s when all kicking was done straight-on and was generally performed by position players the league average was under 50%. So Fred gave the Pack one of the most reliable legs in the NFL during his career.

Cone also played fullback and was part of a line of RB/K’s for Green Bay that extended from Ted Fritsch in 1946 to Paul Hornung in 1964. Cone averaged just 3.3 yards per rush but was a good blocker and was useful as an outlet receiver. He retired in 1958, but then returned to the NFL two years later as the first placekicker for the Dallas Cowboys. He led the Cowboys in scoring that year with 39 points, giving him a total of 494 points as a pro.

Fred was just the fourth player added to the Clemson Football Ring of Honor in 1997 and was inducted in the Packer Hall of Fame in 1974.

1951bfcone  1952bfcone

1953bfcone2  1954bfcone

1955bfcone  1956tfcone2


All custom cards are colorized.


The “Pillsbury Doughboy” turns 41 today. Despite his sloppy-looking, pudgy body, Mark Tauscher was a continually underrated overachiever at right tackle, at 6’ 3”, 320-pounds. Raised on a Wisconsin dairy farm, Tauscher was a walk-on at the University of Wisconsin and finally earned a starting position in 1999 when All-America tackle Aaron Gibson was drafted by the Lions in the first round of the NFL draft.

Tauscher was drafted a year later by Green Bay in the seventh round and was scouted personally by Ron Wolf who saw that Mark had “exceptional footwork and balance and strength.” In contrast to the massive and highly-touted Gibson’s very disappointing career, Tauscher earned a starting spot as a rookie and played consistently well for 11 years. He went down to a torn ACL in 2002 and again in 2008, the year he won the team’s Ed Block Courage Award, but returned to earn back the starting position each time. He began the 2010 championship season as the team’s starter, but severely sprained his shoulder in the fourth game of the year and finished his career on injured reserve, although he did earn a Super Bowl ring to retire on.

Tauscher was exceptionally studious and dedicated and rarely made mistakes. It was not until his seventh season that a holding penalty was called against him, despite his being a very fine pass blocker. He just studied the tape on his opponents and did things the right way. Teammate Joe Johnson, a defensive end, told the Journal-Sentinel, “A man that size and stature, to be able to move the way he does, that’s something special.” He wasn’t the strongest or the biggest or the quickest, but he anticipated very well and moved effectively to counter the defenders.

Late in his career, he told the Journal-Sentinel, “If you’re a productive, consistent player, you’re going to last a long time in this league.” That was Mark Tauscher in a nutshell, and players like that are always welcome on any team.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold.)

2000mtauscher  2010mtauscher

Custom cards.

Greg Koch Turns 63

Loquacious Greg Koch was once dubbed the “Texan with the ten-gallon mouth.” Fittingly, he earned his law degree after his playing career and also worked in sports talk radio. Drafted out of Arkansas in the second round of the 1977 draft, Koch took over from veteran Dick Himes at right tackle in 1978 and was the 6’4” 270-pound anchor of a middling line for the next eight years.

Koch came out of a running offense in college and took some time learning how to pass block in the NFL, but became a good, solid tackle who even was named a second team All-Pro in 1982, his best season. The next year, he left training camp, but Coach Bart Starr downplayed the disappearance, by saying, “Greg Koch has been one solid performer for us. He’s proven himself to be a clutch footballer.” Two years later under new coach Forrest Gregg, Koch left camp again, but this time in a dispute with gruff line coach Jerry Wampfler. Gregg commented at the time, “He’s a good football player. We know he can play. We were not unhappy with Greg Koch.”

Like many veterans, Koch did not get along with Gregg and was released after the 1985 season. He spent 1986 with the Dolphins and finished his career as a guard with the Vikings in 1987. As a tackle, Koch had great upper body strength, at least partially attributable to taking steroids, to which he has readily admitted. He was never a great player, but instead a solid one who was selected for the Packer Hall of Fame in 2012.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold.)

1977tgkoch  1980tgkoch

1983tgkoch2  1986gkoch

First two custom cards are colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #37

Packers by the Numbers Update: #37

Originally a lineman’s number, then a running back’s, 37 has been owned by defensive backs in Green Bay for the past 40 years. Tackle Claude Perry and end Tom Nash both wore the number in 1929, with Nash repeating in 1930 and Perry in 1933. In the Lambeau era, it was also worn by tackle Red Sleight (1931), end Al Rose (1932), fullback Swede Johnston (1934), tackle Zud Schammel (1937), guard Potsy Jones (1938), guard John Brennan (1939), end Connie Berry (1940) and guard Lee McLaughlin (1941).

After a ten-year gap, fullback Bill Reichardt was the first modern Packer to wear it in 1952. Since then, 37 has been worn by three more running backs, two linebackers (who began as runners), one kicker and seven defensive backs.

RBs: Bill Reichardt (1952), Howie Ferguson (1953-58), Larry Hickman (1960) and Terry Wells (1975).

LBs: Tommy Joe Crutcher (1964) and Phil Vandersea (1966).

K: Dale Livingston (1970).

DBs: Tim Moresco (1977), Mark Murphy (1980-85, 1987-91), Keshon Johnson (1994), Tyrone Williams (1996-2002), Mike Hawkins (2005), Aaron Rouse (2007-09) and Sam Shields (2010-16).

Murphy wore it the longest, 11 years in Green Bay, but Williams and Shields each wore 37 for seven seasons as Packers. Murphy, Ferguson and Swede Johnston are all members of the Packer Hall of Fame, and Williams and Shields may receive that honor at some point as well. The tradition will continue in 2018 with rookie corner Josh Jackson donning it. Here’s hoping it’s a long tenure.

1929cperry  1929tnash

1937yzschammel2  1940cberry2

1954bhferguson  1960tlhickman3

1973tithomas2  1983tmmurphy2

1999twilliams  2010sshields

All but last three custom cards are colorized.

More National Chicles

A while back, I posted a group of cards of Packer passers done in the style of the 1935 National Chicle card set. I have continued working with that set. Here are nine receivers using the backgrounds of the original cards:

ncdhutson  ncmgantenbein

ncbhowton  ncmmcgee

ncbdowler  ncpcoffman

ncjlofton  ncssharpe


Gantenbein, Howton and McGee custom cards are colorized.

Ring Bearers

Last month, we lost two more Lombardi era Packers, guard Dan Grimm and quarterback Dennis Claridge. Neither one ever achieved stardom, although Grimm did start at guard in 1964 when Jerry Kramer was laid up. Both won a championship ring from the bench in 1965 and then were drafted by the expansion Falcons in 1966. Both started for Atlanta the next year when Green Bay pummeled the new team 56-3 in Milwaukee. Claridge completed six of 11 passes that day and ran for 22 yards–he would run for -10 yards for the rest of his career. Grimm started for the Falcons for their first three years.

On a championship team, everyone makes a contribution. Rest in peace to both men.

1963tdgrimm  1964pdclaridge3

Grimm custom card is colorized.