Packers by the Numbers Update: #45

45 has been worn briefly by three Hall of Famers (Arnie Herber, Clarke Hinkle and Emlen Tunnell) as well as two members of the team’s honor roll (Verne Lewellen and Dick Wildung), but has not been terribly popular. Only 22 Packers have donned the number, and tackle Dick Wildung wore it the longest, six years from 1946-51.

Back Verne Lewellen first wore the number in 1928, and he was followed by two backs (Herber and Hinkle, both in 1934) and four linemen: center Art Bultman (1932-33), tackle Ernie Smith (1935-37, 1939), guard Bill Kuusisto (1941-45) and then WIldung.

In the post-Lambeau years, it has been worn by 10 defensive backs, three runners, one kick returner and one linebacker.

DB: Doyle Nix (1955), Emlen Tunnell (1959-61), Dave Hathcock (1966), John Rowser (1967-69), Ervin Hunt (1970), Perry Smith (1973-76), Mike Prior (1993), Keith Crawford (1995, 1999), Kerry Cooks (1998) and Derek Coombs (2003).

RB: LaVale Thomas (1987r, 1988), Dexter McNabb (1992-93) and Quinn Johnson (2009-10).

KR: Vai Sikahema (1991).

LB: Vince Biegel (2017).

There have been three gaps of at least four seasons when 45 was not worn in Green Bay: 1962-65, 1977-86 and 2004-08. Now that linebackers are wearing numbers in the forties, there should be fewer gaps.

1928vlewellen2  1935esmith2

1943bkuusisto2  1946dwildung

1961tetunnell2  1966pdhathcock4

1969tjrowser3  1970tehunt2

1973tpsmith  1991tvsikahema2

All custom cards aside from Tunnell, Hathcock, Rowser and Sikahema are colorized.

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Bill Lee and Fred Carr

August 19 is a birthday shared by two members of the Packer Hall of Fame: tackle Bill Lee and Linebacker Fred Carr. Carr, one of my favorite Packers, I saluted in February in commemoration of his unfortunate passing that month. Lee is largely forgotten today but was an excellent tackle for several seasons in the 1930s and 1940s and was selected as member of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1930s.

Bill was an All-America on the Alabama Rose Bowl team in 1935 and, like teammate Don Hutson, signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers football team in the last year before the NFL draft. Unlike Hutson he did not also sign with Green Bay, which he quickly regretted. Lee played for Dodgers for two seasons and received All-Pro notice both years before being traded to the Packers for tackle Av Daniel in October 1937.

Lee was thrilled. He told the Green Bay Press Gazette, “I’ve been trying to get to Green Bay for two years. Only a promise I made to Brooklyn sent me east. I always wanted to play with Hutson and the Packers.” The Alabama-native added, “I never liked Brooklyn. Too big, too noisy, too fast a life. Green Bay is more like home.” A year later he married a Green Bay girl, Rosemary Maloney, and the two would enjoy a long, happy marriage.

Having played the Notre Dame offensive system at Alabama, Lee adjusted immediately to the Packer attack and started for the team into the 1942 season when he went into the Navy. In the off seasons, Bill traveled the wrestling circuit to supplement his income. After the war, Lee returned to the Packers for four games in 1946 and then retired.

Lee and his family returned to his hometown of Eutaw, Alabama in 1947 and lived there the rest of his life, serving as Greene County Sheriff for 16 years before retiring in the early 1970s. Upon Lee’s death in 1998, his widow lovingly recalled to the Montgomery Advertiser, “He was the captain of wherever he was. He was a captain of both ships he was on in the Navy. He was the captain of his high school football team, captain at Alabama and captain of the Green Bay Packers. And he was my captain, too, for 59 wonderful years.”

1938blee  1939bleec

1940blee  1941blee

1942blee3  1946blee

Custom cards all colorized.

Three from the Packer Hall of Fame

Three members of the team’s Hall of Fame were born on August 16: tackle Dick Wildung, kicker Ryan Longwell and safety Nick Collins.

A three-year starter at tackle for the University of Minnesota, Wildung played for two undefeated national championship teams, made All-America in both 1941 and 1942 and was the Gophers MVP in his senior year. He was the top draft pick of the Packers in 1943, but was not able to join them until 1946 after being discharged following three years in the Navy.

In Green Bay, the 6’2” 220 pounder was joined by two of his college teammates, fellow tackle Urban Odson and Heisman Trophy-winner Bruce Smith, but Dick had the longest and best pro career of the three. Wildung played on both offense and defense for the Packers and even played guard in 1947. He was especially noted for his quickness, which is not surprising considering his moderate size. The Packers were in a state of decline during his tenure, but he was one of the few stars on the team. He recalled the end of the Lambeau era to Jerry Poling for Downfield!, “The game kind of passed Curly by. We were still playing the Notre Dame Box and everyone else was in the T-formation.”

When Gene Ronzani replaced Lambeau in 1950, he offered Wildung and linebacker Bob Forte, also a future Packer Hall of Famer, to the Lions for inconsistent young quarterback Frank Tripucka but fortunately was turned down. Both Wildung and Forte were still starting for the Pack when Ronzani was canned in 1953, so Wildung liked to joke that he and Forte “got rid of the only two coaches the Packers ever had.”

Wildung, who sat out the 1952 season to attend to his hardware store, retired for good following the 1953 season. He was a college player of distinction, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and as a pro, he was a respected player–team captain for four years.

The 49ers signed Ryan Longwell out of UC-Berkeley as an undrafted free agent in 1997, but he lost out to 38-year old veteran free agent Gary Anderson in the team’s kicking competition that July. Signed by the defending world champion Packers to compete with third round draft choice Brett Conway of Penn State, Longwell bested the injury-hampered Conway to begin a nine-year career in Green Bay that would make him the team’s all-time leading scorer.

The 6’1” 185-pound Longwell never had the strongest leg in the league and never was selected to a Pro Bowl, but he was accurate and consistent despite dealing with the sometimes treacherous weather conditions in the NFC Central. In his nine years as a Packer, he hit on 45 of 55 (81%) of his December kicks at home, while opponents in those games converted 21 of 29 (72.4%).

He was calm and steady and based his kicking on rhythm and timing. He later told the Journal Sentinel, “Concentrating on rhythm instead of mechanics allowed me to avoid long slumps kickers can go through.” His one bad year was 2001 when his field goal percentage dropped to 64.5%, but the next year he returned to form converting 82.4% as a primarily outdoor kicker. His last year in Green Bay, 2005, was the only other year of his 15-year NFL career that his field goal percentage dipped below 80%, and that dip was due primarily to problems with holder B.J. Sander.

Although he missed his first chance at a game-winning field goal against the Eagles in his rookie year, he blasted 10 game-winners in his Packer tenure. He scored more than 100 points for his first eight years in Green Bay with a high of 131 in 2000; when he left for Minnesota as a free agent in 2006, he had scored a team record 1,054 points as a Packer

Green Bay drafted Nick Collins out of Bethune-Cookman in the second round in 2005 to replace Darren Sharper, who left as a free agent. Collins came from a small school but was a big-time player. While Collins was filling Sharper’s position, he was given Leroy Butler’s number and, indeed, played more like the physical Butler than Sharper.

Collins was a solid tackler and vocal leader who started at free safety as a rookie. By his fourth season, 2008, he began a string of three consecutive seasons in the Pro Bowl and attracting All-Pro notice. That fourth season, Collins returned three interceptions for touchdowns and led the league in interception return yards on his seven picks. He had a nose for the ball and provided quality deep support for the Packer pass defense.

He is most remembered for his first quarter interception of Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLV. He broke quickly on that underthrown pass, grabbed it at the Pittsburgh 37, weaved skillfully through a sea of defenders and leaped into the end zone for the score that put Green Bay up 14-0. Sadly, seven months later, Collins was carted off the field after sustaining a neck injury while attempting to tackle Jonathan Stewart of the Panthers in week two of the 2011 season. Nick was part of a long sad line of Packers to have their careers end due to neck injuries over the last 30 years, including Tim Lewis, Sterling Sharpe and Mark Chmura, as well as eight others since 2000.

1946dwildung  1998rlongwell

2010ncollins

Wildung custom card is colorized.

Champion Guards: Comstock and Timmerman

Two Packer guards who each lasted over a decade in the NFL were born on August 14. Rudy Comstock and Adam Timmerman were both NFL champions with Green Bay and with other teams.

Comstock was born in 1899, played college ball at Georgetown and began his pro career with the Canton Bulldogs in 1923. He spent three seasons with the Bulldogs in Canton and Cleveland, four with the Frankford Yellow Jackets, one with the New York Giants and his last three with the Packers from 1931-33. He won championships with the Bulldogs in 1923 and 1924, with the Yellow Jackets in 1926 and with the Pack in 1931. The 5’10” 210-pound guard was a three-time All-Pro who later coached college ball and died in 1959.

Iowa-native Adam Timmerman was a seventh round draft pick out of South Dakota State in 1995 who became another of Ron Wolf’s diamonds in the rough. Timmerman moved into the starting lineup in 1996 as a solid contributor to the Packers Super Bowl season. After four years, Adam signed with the Rams as a free agent and won a second Super Bowl for the 1999 season. He also went to a second Super Bowl with both teams and was selected for the Pro Bowl once. After a dozen years in the league, Timmerman retired to Iowa in 2007.

1932rcomstock  1996atimmerman

Comstock custom card is colorized.

National Chicle: Surrealistic Linebackers

Having used up the backgrounds from the actual National Chicle set, I decided to branch out. Somehow the desolate surrealism of nineteenth century Italian painter Giorgio Di Chirico seemed a good setting for linebackers…including a pair of two-way performers who excelled as early linebackers: fullback Clarke Hinkle and center George Svendsen.

ncchinkle dichirico street

ncgsvendsen dichirico train2

 

ncctonnemaker dichirico4

ncbforester dichirico red tower

ncrnitschke dichirico enigma hour

ncdrobinson dichirico2

ncfcarr dichirico soothsayer

ncthendricks dichirico evil genius

nccmatthews dichirico melancholy

Custom cards of Hinkle, Svendsen and Tonnemaker are colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #44

Although a few Packers have made 44 iconic in Green Bay, not many players have worn it overall. Just five Lambeau era Packers and 17 in the modern period have worn the number. Members of the Packer Hall of Fame–Baby Ray, Bobby Dillon and Donny Anderson, as well as John Starks more recently–are the best known 44’s in team history.

The number was first worn by back Larry Marks in 1928, and he was followed by back Marger Apsit (1932), blocking back Buckets Goldenberg (1935-37) and tackle Buford “Baby” Ray (1938-48).

In the modern era, 44 has been worn by one defensive tackle, one offensive lineman, eight defensive backs and seven running backs.

DT: Clarence McGeary (1950).

C/G: Dave Stephenson (1951).

DB: Bobby Dillon (1952-59), Bob Kroll (1972), Charlie Hall (1975-76), Dwayne O’Steen (1983-84), Chris Mandeville (1987), Von Mansfield (1987r), Jerry Holmes (1990-91) and Donatello Brown (2017).

RB: Donny Anderson (1966-71), Vickey Ray Anderson (1980), Dexter McNabb (1993), Chris Darkins (1997), Matt Snider (2000), Najeh Davenport (2002-05) and James Starks (2010-16).

Ray wore it the longest, 11 years, and the longest gap without it being worn was from 1960-65.

1928lmarks  1935bgoldenberg

1940bray  1952bbdillon3

1968tdanderson2  1972tbkroll

1975tchall4  1991tjholmes

All custom cards colorized aside from Anderson and Holmes.

Indian Jack Jacobs

Jack Jacobs, who was called “Indian Jack” during his playing days because he was a member of the Creek tribe, was born on August 7, 1919. He grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma and starred for the Oklahoma Sooners in college. Drafted by the Cleveland Rams in the second round of the 1942 NFL draft, Jack played one season in Cleveland before going into the military for over two years. When he returned to the Rams during the 1945 season, rookie Bob Waterfield was in the process of leading Cleveland to the NFL title. In the offseason, the Rams traded Jack to the Redskins, where he backed up Sammy Baugh for one season.

The next year, Curly Lambeau sent halfback Bob Nussbaumer to Washington for Jacobs, whom he envisioned as his first T formation quarterback. In 1947, Green Bay became one of the last NFL teams to switch to the T with the imported Jacobs, who had trained in the scheme over the last two seasons. Lambeau had his own version of the T to some extent, sometimes having the ball snapped directly to a deep back although Jacobs was lined up at quarterback for each play. Jacobs had a good year with 16 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in leading the Packers to a 6-5-1 record, their last winning season until the arrival of Vince Lombardi in 1959. On film, he appears to have a strong but somewhat inaccurate arm, however, the vocal leader also was skilled at running, punting and playing defense.

Jack had some injury problems in 1948 and his TD to INT ratio sank to five TDs and 21 interceptions. The following season, his last in the NFL, he dropped on the depth chart behind struggling youngsters Jug Girard and Stan Heath on a very bad Packers’ team. Looking back, he told the Green Bay Press Gazette in 1968, “Football was a lot simpler back when I played. Not so many plays to remember.  You hardly ever called a play from scrimmage like they do today. Today, you get all sorts of defenses you have to try to adjust to at the last minute.”

Jacobs moved north in 1950 and began a five-year stint with Winnipeg in the Canadian League that would result in his eventual election to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. In Winnipeg, he twice led the Blue Bombers to Grey Cup berths, won the League MVP award once, threw for over 30 touchdowns twice and tossed 104 touchdown passes and just 53 interceptions. After coaching Canadian football for several years, Jack eventually settled in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he had a corrugated box company until he died from a heart attack on January 12, 1974.

1951tjjacobs  1947jjacobs

1948bjjacobs  1949ljjacobs

Custom cards are all colorized.