A Card for Everyone: Donohoe and Havig

May 6 marks the birthdays of two former Atlanta Falcons whose careers ended in Green Bay in the 1970s. Tight end Mike Donohoe was a ninth round draft pick of the Vikings in 1968 who caught eight passes in three years with the Falcons before coming to the Packers in 1973. In the final two seasons of the Dan Devine tenure, Donohoe served on kicking teams, catching just two passes, in 1973 and ’74. He was cut in training camp in 1975 and finished his career with the Hawaiians of the World Football League.

Guard Dennis Havig was Atlanta’s eighth round pick in 1971 and started for the Falcons for four seasons, before being traded n to the Oilers in 1976. Bart Starr picked up Havig in the 1977 exhibition season, and Dennis started six games in an injury plagued season. He was cut the following August to end his career.

1974tmdonohue  1977tdhavig

Custom cards in Topps styles.

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Robby

Most happy 77th birthday wishes to one of my all-time favorite Packers, Dave Robinson, today. I had the pleasure of giving Dave some of my custom cards of him a few years back and he was very gracious in speaking with me. He was such a special player that I was delighted when he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013. Here’s what I wrote about him in Green Bay Gold:

Penn State’s Dave Robinson was the 14th overall pick in the 1963 draft as an end but was shifted to linebacker in Green Bay. After a one-year apprenticeship, Dave moved into the starting lineup at left linebacker and stayed there for the next nine years. He was a four-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl player who competed with San Francisco’s Dave Wilcox and Dallas’ Chuck Howley to be the best strongside linebacker in the game, although it was Robinson who was named to the 1960s All-Decade team.

Dave Hanner once told Cliff Christl, “I know some people think I’m crazy, but if you had to pick between Nitschke and Dave Robinson, I’d take Dave Robinson.” I’m with Hanner; Robinson was the best linebacker in Green Bay in the 1960s. The 6’3” 245-pound Robinson was rangy, fast and powerful. His fellow left side Hall of Famer Willie Davis told the Journal Sentinel, “I would say the greatest thing about him was how physical he was. I can tell you right now, there wasn’t a tight end that didn’t have great respect for Dave.”

From the strong side, he didn’t blitz much, ending up with 19.5 sacks in Green Bay (Webster and Turney), but his most famous play came on an unplanned blitz on the last defensive play of the 1966 NFL title game against Dallas when he forced Don Meredith to toss a pop fly interception in the end zone. Robinson likes to tell the story that he was marked down on that play because he did not follow his defensive assignment, but his improvisation shows boldness and intelligence in that he saw the Cowboys mistakenly lined up split end Bob Hayes at tight end, changing the situation considerably.

Robinson was tough at the point of attack, exceptionally quick and agile and able to ward off blockers, but his best features were his speed and depth in pass defense. My personal favorite Robinson play came at the end of the first half of a Packers-Colts showdown in Baltimore in the next-to-last game of 1965. The Packers were leading 14-13 when Colts backup quarterback Gary Cuozzo tried a swing pass from the Packers two-yard line.  Robinson leaped, tipped the ball to himself and returned it 87 yards to the Colt 10.  The Packers scored a quick touchdown to close the half up 21-13 rather than down 20-14.  That crucial 14-point swing at the close of the half enabled them to go on to win easily 42-27.

Robinson went down with an Achilles injury in 1970, but returned in 1971 under new coach Dan Devine. Dave since has maintained that Devine was the worst coach for whom he ever played. He retired after the 1972 division championship season and told the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1988, “I played here for ten years, then Dan Devine ran me out of town.” Robinson also was unhappy with Devine removing him when the team shifted to the nickel defense, since pass defense was always a strength and source of pride for Dave. Although Robinson announced his retirement in the offseason, Devine traded him to Washington for a second round draft choice. Redskin coach George Allen persuaded Robinson to return in 1973. Just like Dan Currie, Dave replaced Jack Pardee for two years under George Allen and then retired.

1963tdrobinson4  1963tdrobinsoncas

1964pfreshfaces  1965pdrobinson2

1969tdrobinson  1972tdrobinson

1973tdrobinson  1948lpbdrobinson2

First 2 and last custom cards are coloroized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #32

32 remains one of the weakest represented numbers in Packer history. The first players to wear it were also the best ones. Both quarterback Red Dunn and guard Jim Bowdoin wore it in 1929, with Bowdoin also doing so in 1930. In the Lambeau era, 32 was also worn by guard Rudy Comstock (1931-33), center Art Bultman (1934), tackle Claude Perry (1935), end Wayland Becker (1936-38) and guard John Biolo (1939).

After Biolo, there was a 29-year gap before the number was worn again. Frustrating kicker Booth Lusteg donned 32 for four games in 1969. Since then it has been worn by 14 running backs and five defensive backs.

RBs: Don Highsmith (1973), Ken Starch (1976), Steve Atkins (1979-81), Steve Avery (1991), John Stephens (1993), Reggie Cobb (1994), Travis Jervey (1995-98), Rondell Mealey (2001-02), Walt Williams (2004), ReShard Lee (2005), Brandon Jackson (2007-10), Cedric Benson (2012), Christine Michael (2016) and Devante Mays (2017).

DBs: John Simmons (1986), Dave Brown (1987-89), Don King (1987r), Bryant Westbrook (2002) and Chris Banjo (2013-15).

Red Dunn is the only member of the Packer Hall of Fame to wear 32, but Bowdoin and Comstock were good guards and Dave Brown recorded the last 12 interceptions of his distinguished career in Green Bay. Pro Bowl kicking teams gunner Travis Jervey wore the number the longest at a measly four seasons.

1929rdunn  1930jbowdoin

1936wbecker  1973tdhighsmith

1987tdbrown  1993jstephens

1998tjervey  2010bjackson

First three custom cards are colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #31

31 has been worn by several good players in Green Bay, but it will always be Jim Taylor’s number. Taylor, probably the greatest runner the team has ever had, wore the number the longest-nine years– and with the most distinction. He and guard Mike Michalske are the two Hall of Famers to don the number. 31 has also been worn by seven members of the Packer Hall of Fame: Taylor, Michalske, Verne Lewellen, Nate Barragar, Fred Cone, Bob Mann and Gerry Ellis.

31 was worn first by back Verne Lewellen (1929-30). He was joined in the Lambeau era by seven linemen: tackles Roy Jennison (1931) and Joe Kurth (1934); guards Clyde Van Sickle (1932) and Michalske (1933); centers Barragar (1931 and ’35) and Roger Harding (1949); and end Ace Prescott (1946). The longest gap was from 1936-45.

Since 1949, the number has been worn by one wide receiver, nine running backs and six defensive backs:

WR: Bob Mann (1950-51).

RBs: Bill Boedecker (1950), Fred Cone (1952-57), Jim Taylor (1958-66), Perry Williams (1969-73), Jim Culbreath (1977-79), Gerry Ellis (1980-86), Tony Hunter (1987r), Allen Rice (1991) and Buford McGee (1992).

DBs: George Teague (1993-95), Rod Smith (1998), Fred Vinson (1999), Chris Akins (2000-01), Al Harris (2003-09) and Davon House (2011-14, 2017).

1930vlewellen  1935nbarrager

1952bfcone  1962tjtaylor2

1978tjculbreath  1985tgellis

1994gteague  1998rsmith

Custom cards of Lewellen, Barragar, Cone and Culbreath are colorized.

Marco Rivera

Marco Rivera turns 46 today. No Green Bay guard was named to the Pro Bowl from 1971 until 2002, when Marco ended that 30-year drought. Rivera made the Pro Bowl three consecutive seasons before leaving as a free agent in 2005. After a long apprentice in the late 1990s, Rivera teamed with Mike Wahle to give the Packers the best set of guards the team had employed since the Lombardi era.

Drafted out of Penn State in the sixth round of the 1996 NFL draft, Rivera spent that championship season on the Packers’ practice squad and then served as a reserve lineman in 1997 before finally winning the starting left guard slot in 1998. A year later, he shifted to the right side and stayed there through 2004. At 6’4” 310 pounds, Marco had good size and excellent strength; he truly was a mauler.

Rivera was also exceptionally tough. He played through a torn MCL in both 1998 and 2002, as well as a broken hand and other knee problems in other seasons. For such dedication, he won the team’s Ed Block Courage Award in 2004. His position coach Larry Beightol told the Journal Sentinel, “Marco may be the toughest guy in the National Football League. He’s just an old throwback. He just likes to mix it up play after play.” In seven years as a starter, Rivera missed just one start; he showed up to play every week. Bill Parcells signed him as a free agent in Dallas in 2005, and Marco lasted two years as a starter before back problems ended his career in 2007. He was elected to the Packer Hall of Fame in 2011.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1997mrivera  1998mrivera

1999mrivera  2000mrivera

Custom cards in various styles.

The NFL Draft

In commemoration of this week’s NFL draft, here are some custom cards in the 1955 Topps All-American style. All are Packers who won All-America recognition while in college, but did not quite pan out that way in Green Bay.

1955acvercko1  1955tabrown

1955tbgarrett  1955tbparilli

1955tbbain2  1955tbhyland

1955tjcloud  1955tjgirard

1955tjtagge  1955thfaverty

All custom cards except Brown, Bain and Tagge are colorized.

A Couple of Overachievers

April 22 marks the birthday of two Packers long on heart but not on talent: Larry Krause and Mark Murphy.

Krause was a local Wisconsin boy raised on a dairy farm who attended St. Norbert’s College where the Packers held training camp in the 1960s. Drafted in the 15th round of the 1970 draft, Krause was a running back who carried the ball just six times and caught just two passes in his four years on the roster. He did return 35 kickoffs, including one for a 100-yard touchdown, but his main contribution to the team was in kick coverage where he was a leading tackler. Unfortunately, he broke his jaw in 1972 and spent the division championship year on injured reserve, but returned to play on the 1973 and ’74 teams before his pro career ended.

Murphy had a much more extensive NFL career and cut a distinctive profile with his completely bald head years before Michael Jordan popularized the look, but Murphy’s hairless dome was due to a condition known as alopecia that he contracted when in third grade. Far from the most talented player on the field, he carved out a long, productive career through determination, preparation and hard work.

Murphy was an undrafted free agent out of tiny West Liberty State in 1980 but broke his wrist in the first preseason game, causing him to miss the entire year. Watching from the sidelines, Murphy paid attention and learned. Johnnie Gray recalled to the Journal-Sentinel, “Mark was like a sponge, always listening and learning and trying to improve. He was a great teammate, hardworking, unselfish and a tough competitor. I think I trained him to take my job.”

A reliable special teams’ performer, the 6’2” 200 pound Murphy finally became a permanent starter in 1983 at free safety. A year later, he moved to strong safety and remained the starter there through 1991 — although he missed the 1986 season due to a broken leg. He was slow, but a very hard hitter, much more effective in zone than man-to-man coverage. When Mike Holmgren took over as head coach in 1992, Murphy was demoted to third string prior to training camp, so he requested his release and eventually went into high school coaching. Holmgren’s defensive coach Ray Rhodes was looking for a strong safety with range, not just a force player stationed close to the line of scrimmage.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1970tlkrause  1974tlkrause

1988tmmurphy  1989tmmurphy

Custom cards in Topps style.