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Donald Driver scores with Thank You Fans Tour

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

GREEN BAY – Donald Driver swept into the Boys & Girls Club the same way he cut across the middle of a football field: with energy, optimism and a clear purpose.

Driver, in fact, is sweeping across all of Wisconsin as part of his Thank You Fans Tour, which began Thursday and wraps up Sunday with his charity celebrity softball game at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.

His message for the boys and girls was that they can be anything they want to be if they work at it and their parents support them; "Even the next Green Bay Packer. Just don't break my records," he said, flashing his trademark smile.

He knows what it is to overcome long odds. Growing up in Houston, Driver was homeless for a time in his early teens and admits to stealing cars and selling drugs to support his family. Moving in with his grandmother and athletics allowed him go a different, better direction. He was a four-sport star in high school and excelled at track and football at Alcorn State in Mississippi, where the Packers found him.

Driver, who retired in 2012, is the Packers' all-time leading receiver, with team records for receptions (743) and receiving yards (10,137). He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on July 22 at Lambeau Field.

It was a loud, rambunctious group at the club, as you'd expect from a room full of pre-teens, but when Driver told them, gently, to shush, they shushed and listened to his message.

The west-side Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay was his seventh stop of the day, several of them unannounced. He dropped in at restaurants where people nudged each other and wondered if it was really him, until he smiled. Then they knew.

Photo: Richard Ryman/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Photo: Richard Ryman/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

"It's been a great lesson for myself. It kind of brings you back to reality," Driver said. "It makes you appreciate the fans so much more now. We even stopped in these little towns and see individuals that never get a chance to see us at all.

"Every stop we've had since Thursday morning has been remarkable."

Proceeds from Sunday's charity celebrity softball game and from corporate sponsorship of the tour go to the Donald Driver Foundation. Supporting the tour are Kohl's, Jockey International, Associated Bank and Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin.

"We've helped so many organizations and programs continue to grow. We've supported the Boys & Girls Club right here in Green Bay," he said. "We just left the Miracle League (in Manitowoc). We helped build a playground and baseball field for those individuals who just want to play the sport that they love."

Acoya Hernandez, 12, of Green Bay, was thrilled to present Driver with a drawing made by club members and to help him draw tickets for a raffle, even though one of the tickets she pulled out of the bucket belonged to her sister, Haylie, 13, and she admitted that she's at least half a Dallas Cowboys fan.

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Kaeden Harris, 10, more than balanced Hernandez's fandom. Wearing a Driver jersey, he stepped up to the microphone and explained they had a drawing "for his guy here," before reading a poem that was part of the artwork, his smile equaling that of Driver.

"You wonder why we do the things that we do? This is why we do this, because of kids like this," Driver said. 

Other tour highlights included giving three families back-to-school shopping sprees, making cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair, dropping in at Leinenkugel's 150th anniversary celebration Saturday in Eau Claire and more.

"I give to the state of Wisconsin because you all have given me so much for 14 amazing years of playing," he said. "This is why we've done this tour. This is why we continue to support the local community. To give this support back."

Story by Richard Ryman, courtesy of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

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Donald Driver softball game lineup includes former Packers, celebrities

GRAND CHUTE - When the Donald Driver thank you tour makes its way to Fox Cities Stadium on Sunday, a handful of former Green Bay Packers will share the field with a mix of celebrities from the entertainment world.

Driver, who has embarked on a thank you tour following his induction into the Packers Hall of Fame, will host a softball game at 1:05 p.m. Sunday on the field usually occupied by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Joining Driver and his family will be former Packers James Jones, Dorsey Levens, Andre Rison, Nick Collins, Aaron Kampman, Robert Ferguson, Craig Nall and Tony Fisher.

Other athletes in the lineup include five-time Olympic gold medalist Bonnie Blair, former UFC Lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, former Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette basketball player Steve Novak and former Wisconsin Badgers basketball player Josh Gasser.

The entertainment world — which Driver has dabbled in since winning ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" in 2012 — will be represented by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Gavin DeGraw, "Gossip Girl" actress Jessica Szhor, "General Hospital" actress Emily Wilson, "Rules of Engagement" actor Adhir Kalyan, "The Voice" contestants Andi and Alex Peot and NBC’s "The Biggest Loser" host Jen Widerstrom.

“We will have a great group of Packers legends and celebrity friends battling it out this Sunday,” Driver said in a released statement. 

Fox Cities Stadium is familiar territory for Driver. During his playing days, he hosted the annual charity game that features current Packers players. Jordy Nelson is now in that role.

General admission tickets for Sunday's game are $10 and available at 920-733-4152, in person at the stadium box office or through timberrattlers.com.

The parking lot opens at 9:30 a.m. Parking is $10 for cars and $20 for buses and RVs.

The gates to the stadium will open at 10:30 a.m. There is a sponsor game scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. The featured game will start at 1:05 p.m.

Story by Ed Berthiaume, courtesy of postcrescent.com.

 

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Donald Driver will make cream puffs at State Fair on his "Thank You Fans" Tour

As if Donald Driver could get any more popular around here, the beloved former Packers wide receiver, as part of his "Thank You Fans" tour, will help make cream puffs at Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 11.

The tour, believed to be the first of its kind for a professional athlete to travel around and formally recognize his supporters, will help benefit the Donald Driver Foundation and also give fans an opportunity to interact with the charismatic and ever-active retired player, who still looks as fit as he was in his playing days.

"I am excited to make some cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair, and maybe eat a few too," Donald Driver said in a statement. "A great Wisconsin tradition, plus I get to share a treat with some awesome fans."

Kathleen O'Leary, Wisconsin State Fair Park CEO, said cream puffs and Donald Driver, both cherished and smile-inducing, are a natural local pairing.

"As iconic as Original Cream Puffs are to the Wisconsin State Fair, and Donald Driver is to the Green Bay Packers, we are excited to bring them together," O'Leary said.

Click here to watch a video of Driver talking about the upcoming tour stop.

Also on Wednesday, it was announced that Driver will attend the Miracle League of the Lakeshore's All-Star Game in Manitowoc on the evening of Aug. 11. He will participate as a coach, and might even put on a glove and play too. The annual Donald Driver Softball Game in Appleton will be held on Aug. 13.

These stops, as well as others yet to be announced, are part of Driver's much-anticipated Aug. 10-13 tour through Wisconsin. Driver, who was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame on July 22, retired from the NFL in 2012, following a 14-year career and as the franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards.

"I have wanted to do this tour since I first announced my retirement from the Packers, and now is a perfect time to say thank you for all of the support," Driver said. "My wife Betina and I raised three beautiful children here, and we remain ingrained in our support for the state of Wisconsin, because of the incredible, lifelong friendships and relationships that have been built over 20 years."

Driver's adversity-overcoming story from homeless kid in Houston to seventh-round draft pick in Green Bay to four-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl champion, "Dancing with the Stars" winner and New York Times bestselling author is well-documented and inspiring. Inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016, he has returned to the state many times for charity events and public appearances. He spoke to OnMilwaukee in February on a range of topics, including his extensive post-career work, love of Green Bay fans and Aaron Rodgers vs. Brett Favre.

On Aug. 11 at the State Fair, you won't want to miss a chance to see Driver and perhaps even eat a cream puff prepared by the Packers legend.

Story by Jimmy Carlton, courtesy of onmilwaukee.com

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Donald Driver's 'amazing' story never gets old

Franchise's all-time leading receiver cherishes Packers Hall of Fame induction

Photo: Victoria McBryde / packers.com

Photo: Victoria McBryde / packers.com


GREEN BAY – As the 1999 draft wound down to the seventh round, then Packers general manager Ron Wolf saw one player left on his board graded a bit higher than everyone else.

“I think he was up there in the fourth round,” Wolf said of the scouting staff’s evaluation. “The board was wiped out, and we kept staring at Donald Driver, Donald Driver.

“Even though we thought we didn’t need a wide receiver, we finally took one, and look what happened.”

Packers fans are forever grateful Driver’s availability couldn’t be ignored. Green Bay drafted him with its final pick in ’99, No. 213 overall in the seventh round, and over the next 14 years, Driver would go on to become the franchise’s all-time leading receiver.

Driver was immortalized on Saturday night at Lambeau Field with his induction into the Packers Hall of Fame. It’s an honor that was inevitable once his name was splashed all over the team record books but equally improbable given his humble upbringing in Houston, modest college career at Division I-AA Alcorn State, and longshot status in the draft.

Driver caught just 37 passes over his first three years but then developed into a go-to guy. He eventually posted seven seasons with 70-plus catches and 1,000-plus yards, breaking Sterling Sharpe’s franchise mark for receptions and James Lofton’s for receiving yardage.

His career totals of 743 catches and 10,137 yards go along with three Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl title, plenty to be proud of for a guy who started by running around with reckless abandon on special teams just to get noticed in practice.

“I don’t know if it’s one thing specific that I can pick,” Driver said Saturday, regarding what he’s most proud of. “Everything in my career has been truly a blessing. I think God made a way out of no way.”

From living out of the back of a U-Haul truck at one point as a kid, Driver grew to love football from his father, a quarterback who earned a scholarship to Texas A&M and might have turned pro if not for his own father’s death, which forced him to give up his NFL dreams and take care of the family.

Driver simply never let his dream die. Wolf credited Alonzo Highsmith, now the Packers’ senior personnel executive, for scouting Driver at Alcorn State. Then, as a rookie longshot, Driver kept making an acrobatic play almost daily in his first training camp.

“He was just fearless, so you knew right away if we nurture this, we have something really special here,” said Wolf, who presented Driver for induction. “If he doesn’t kill himself first.

“Obviously we didn’t realize the steps this young fellow here would take, but we didn’t draft players to fail. We drafted players we thought would have an opportunity to make our team, and Donald more than did that.”

He even overcame a scary neck injury in 2003 against the Vikings that saw him leave a nearly silent Lambeau Field on a stretcher. Driver said after that, his wife wanted him to hang it up.

“I told her, ‘I don’t think God’s done with us yet. If I can recover from this, let’s just see where God takes us,’” Driver said. “Eleven years later, He took us to places we never thought we would go. It’s been truly amazing.”

A fan favorite who triumphed on “Dancing With The Stars” before his final season in 2012, Driver was involved in countless community endeavors during his time in Green Bay. His post-football life has continued in that vein, with television and book projects oriented toward special, inspirational stories.

None will ever be as big as his own, though.

He admitted the thought of entering the Packers Hall of Fame never crossed his mind until he was approaching Sharpe’s franchise receptions record in 2009. Two years later, he broke Lofton’s yardage mark after missing the second half of the Super Bowl due to a leg injury.

 “To be the all-time Packers leading receiver in franchise history, that tells you you’re among some of the greatest icons and legends that have played in green and gold,” Driver said. “To surpass those individuals is something I know I’m going to cherish for a long time.

“And my day will come when somebody will break mine, and I hope they cherish it as much as I cherished it when I broke theirs.”

Story by Mike Spofford, Courtesy of the Green Bay Packers.

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Only one former head coach was ever rehired by Packers

Lombardi brought Blackbourn back as a scout

Photo: Green Bay Packers

Photo: Green Bay Packers

“Who is Lisle Blackbourn?”

If there was a Jeopardy category titled “Packers History,” it’s a question that would likely stump many a contestant if given only the following clue.

“The Only Former Head Coach Rehired by the Team”

Blackbourn coached the Packers from 1954-57 and rejoined the organization in 1964 as a scout.

During his four seasons as coach, Blackbourn compiled a dismal 17-31 record and left a trail of bad blood behind.

He was 54 years old when he was hired by the Packers and had never coached in the pros. His relationship with his players turned sour in his second season and never improved. Blackbourn also said years later that he was required to meet with the executive committee every Monday noon and answer questions about the previous day’s game. “Sometimes they’d clap, sometimes they’d boo,” he said.

He was eventually fired Jan. 6, 1958, while on a scouting trip to Mobile, Ala. Fred Trowbridge of the executive committee called Blackbourn at the Senior Bowl and asked him to resign. Blackbourn rejected the euphemism and insisted that the Packers announce he was fired.

But, clearly, Vince Lombardi held Blackbourn in higher regard. Six years later, Lombardi hired him to scout college prospects for a new scouting pool the Packers had helped form.

Blackbourn had been a successful coach at the high school and college level for 30 years before he was hired by the Packers the first time and was well connected.

It was on Blackbourn’s watch that the Packers drafted 11 players who became key starters on at least two of Lombardi’s championship teams. The list included Hall of Famers Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr from the 1956 draft; Paul Hornung as the first overall pick in 1957; and the Packers’ biggest one-day draft haul ever – Dan Currie, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and Jerry Kramer – over the first four rounds of the 1958 draft, held a month before Blackbourn was fired.

Now that the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s voting procedure has opened the door a little wider for contributors, there’s a movement afoot to promote the candidacy of Jack Vainisi, the Packers’ talent scout from 1950 until his death in November 1960 at age 33.

Vainisi certainly warrants consideration. If the Hall is ever going to honor a scout, Vainisi and Eddie Kotal would be the strongest candidates. They were the leading pioneers in the field and might have uncovered more rare talent than any two NFL scouts ever.

Kotal, hired by the Rams in 1945, was the first scout to live on the road for weeks if not months at a time driving from college to college in search of players. Through his efforts the Rams landed three of the most unheralded Hall of Famers of all-time: Andy Robustelli, a 19th-round draft choice; “Night Train” Lane, an undrafted free agent; and Deacon Jones, a 14th-round pick.

Kotal, by the way, played for the Packers from 1925-29 and served as an assistant coach from 1942-43. Also, he and Blackbourn both played at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wis., in the early 1920s.

Vainisi had a hand in selecting 16 of the 22 starters on Lombardi’s first championship team in 1961.

But too often history is viewed in terms of black and white, or good guys and bad guys.

While Vainisi deserves all the credit he gets for his role in helping build Lombardi’s dynasty, Blackbourn should at least share in it.

During Blackbourn’s years as head coach, Verne Lewellen was general manager and Vainisi held the title of administrative assistant and talent scout. All three played a role in the draft, although Blackbourn once said they usually agreed with Vainisi’s recommendations.

Actually, it was Blackbourn who expanded Vainisi’s role and paid him a salary equivalent to the assistant coaches.

Blackbourn also was the one who declared after the first day of camp in 1956 that Starr, a 17th-round draft pick, had already jumped out at him, and he remained in Starr’s corner throughout their two seasons together.

“He was very gracious and very kind and extremely helpful as a coach to me,” Starr said four years ago. “I thought he was a good teacher.”

Lombardi, in turn, paid Blackbourn the highest testament when he hired him in 1964 as Green Bay’s CEPO scout. CEPO (Central Eastern Personnel Organization) was the Packers’ first scouting combine.

Story by Cliff Christl, Courtesy of the Green Bay Packers.

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Peter Jackel: My Mount Rushmores of Wisconsin sports

Since 1941, the majestic sculpture of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt in the Black Hills of Keystone, S.D., have represented one of the most iconic and enduring images of the United States.

I am thus inspired to present my “Mount Rushmore” of sports in Wisconsin, both at the local and state levels. For better or worse, here’s what I offer for your consumption:

PACKERS: Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Don Hutson

Comment: The first three are obvious. The fourth was a real challenge considering Reggie White, James Lofton and Forrest Gregg are among the other greats who played for the Packers. The choice falls to Hutson, a receiver who revolutionized his position during his Packers career from 1935-45.

BREWERS: Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Prince Fielder, Rollie Fingers

Comment: As great as Yount was, Molitor is my choice for the greatest Brewer. He is 10th all-time in major league history with 3,319 hits. Had he not missed most of the 1984 season with an injury, Molitor easily could be in the top five.

BRAVES: Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette

Comment: What’s remarkable to me is Aaron won only one National League MVP award during his 23-year-career. No player has ever intrigued me more than Spahn, who didn’t win his first major league game until the age of 25 and finished with 363 victories. At the age of 44 in 1965, he finished his career with the Giants by compiling a 3.39 earned run average in 71⅔ innings. And then he was released. How many millions would such a performance be worth these days?

BUCKS: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Sidney Moncrief, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Comment: The Bucks have abused the ridiculous practice of retiring numbers as much as any sports organization, with eight numbers hanging in the rafters to show for their one NBA championship. But Abdul-Jabbar is one of the five greatest players of all time. Robertson is still in the top 20 in NBA history. And it’s remarkable to think Antetokounmpo is still only 22.

UW FOOTBALL: Russell Wilson, Ron Dayne, J.J. Watt, Joe Thomas

Comment: I was so tempted to put Brent Moss on this list and it doesn’t have anything to do with being a homer. Let us not forget that the former Park High School All-State running back was the focal point on the first Badgers team to win a Rose Bowl in January 1994. And that team laid the foundation for the football excellence that has been on display in Madison ever since. And I do realize Alan Ameche won the Heisman Trophy in 1954, but I just cannot omit any of the four names listed above.

RACINE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Tony Romo, Burlington; Brent Moss, Park; Kevin Barry, Park; Johnny Clay, Park

Comment: It hurts not to include Chris Maragos, the only player from Racine County to earn a Super Bowl championship ring and who might end up with the longest NFL career of any Racine County player. But Barry and Clay are the only two county Players to ever be named the AP Player of the Year in Wisconsin. Moss was the Rose Bowl and Big Ten MVP during the 1993 season. And the recently retired Romo is, statistically, one of the five greatest passers in NFL history.

RACINE COUNTY BOYS BASKETBALL: Jim Chones, St. Catherine’s; Robert Berryhill, Horlick; Caron Butler, Park; Jim McIlvaine, St. Catherine’s

Comment: I will always remember Berryhill as the Michael Jordan of county basketball during his time at Horlick from 1983-86. He was really someone to see. As for McIlvaine, let’s not forget that he was the AP Player of the Year in Wisconsin as a senior at St. Catherine’s in 1990 and was a legitimate defensive game-changer who was given a seven-year $33.6 million contract by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996.

RACINE COUNTY GIRLS BASKETBALL: Sonja Henning, Horlick; LaTonya Sims, Park; Samantha Logic, Case; Keisha Anderson, Park

Comment: A strong argument could be made that Henning is the greatest athlete to come out of the county. She was the AP Player of the Year in basketball in Wisconsin as a senior at Horlick in 1987, is the all-time leading scorer among boys or girls in county history and was a first-team All-America for Stanford in 1991 (a year after she started on its national championship team).

STATE COACHES: Vince Lombardi, Al McGuire, Dick Bennett, Bo Ryan

Comment: The legend of Lombardi burns as brightly as ever going on 50 years after he coached his last game for the Packers. Ryan never won a national championship, but he might have done more with less – relatively speaking – than any coach in college basketball history. He wasn’t getting elite one-and-done players. He made a career of masterfully molding role players into dominating teams that exponentially raised the profile of UW basketball.

Story by Peter Jackel, Courtesy of The Journal Times.

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Vince Lombardi-Bart Starr: Greatest Head Coach-Quarterback Tandem in NFL History

Photo: Tony Tomsic/Getty Images

Photo: Tony Tomsic/Getty Images

From 1920-1932, the NFL championship was not decided in a playoff format. Who ever had the best winning percentage at the end of the season was awarded the NFL championship. (Every team did not play the same number of games, and ties didn’t count in the standings).

That changed in 1933. In that season, the National Football League split into two divisions (later called conferences), with the division winners playing in the NFL Championship Game. Ever since then, there has been an ever-evolving postseason, which now ends on Super Bowl Sunday.

Since 1933, only five combinations of head coach/quarterback have won at least three championships together. In 1940, ’41 and ’46 (with time lost due to World War II) Sid Luckman and George Halas won three NFL Championships. In 1974-75 and 1978-79 Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw took home four Super Bowls with the Steelers. In 1981, ’84, and ’88 Bill Walsh and Joe Montana won three Super Bowls in San Francisco. And Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have five Lombardi Trophies and counting with New England.

However, there is one more coach/quarterback tandem in this group. This tandem won the 1961, 1962 and 1965 NFL Championship games as well as Super Bowls I & II. Of course, it is Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr.

Vince Lombardi-Bart Starr: Greatest Head Coach-Quarterback Tandem in NFL History

In nine seasons together they were 96-34-6 in the regular season, won six Western Conference titles and the aforementioned five championships. During that run, they were 9-1 in the playoffs. Their three consecutive world championships (1965 NFL Championship and Super Bowls I & II) are, to date, the only occurrence of three titles in a row since the inception of the NFL Championship Game in 1933. Subsequently, the Packers are the only franchise to win three straight championships from the pre-Championship Game Era as well.

In addition to this, the Packers would compete against two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. They faced Y.A. Tittle in the NFL Championship Game, and in Super Bowl I, they would face the Hall of Fame head coach/quarterback tandem of Hank Stram and Len Dawson. Their record in those game was 3-0.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s Place in NFL History

Winning five Super Bowls is impressive, but the five championship wins are hardly unprecedented. Brady was the second quarterback (after Starr) to win five championships. Belichick is the third coach to win five championships after Lombardi and Halas. Halas won two NFL Championship Games prior to the arrival of Luckman. Additionally, he won the 1921 American Professional Football Association (the league name before NFL) championship.

While Belichick is the first head coach to win five Super Bowls, Brady isn’t the first NFL player to accomplish that feat even though he is the first quarterback. With the Dallas Cowboys win in Super Bowl XXX, Charles Haley became the first player to win five Super Bowls. Additionally, the Patriots are the fourth franchise to win five Super Bowls, with the others being the Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers. Additionally, they are the eighth NFL franchise with five or more world championships.

To date the opponents of the Patriots have featured only four Hall of Fame players. That’s a far cry from the 13 that were on the opponents of the Packers in the 60s.

There’s no doubt that together, Brady and Belichick are great. In the Super Bowl Era, they’re the best. However, when you look at the entire history of the NFL, overlooking the era before the Super Bowl is an injustice to those that played and coached.

As of right now, the two rank as the second-best quarterback/head coach tandem in NFL history. The greatest tandem is Starr and Lombardi. However, another Super Bowl victory will change that narrative.

Story by Michael Pallas, Courtesy of LastWordOnProFootball.com

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Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson ranked among NFL's best linebackers

Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson anchored a Packers defense that dominated the NFL.

Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson were a dynamic duo for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s. And Gil Brandt of NFL.com just made the call as to where they rank with the all-time greats.

Brandt recently released his list of the 45 best linebackers in NFL history and both Robinson and Nitschke were ranked in the top 15. Robinson came in at No. 15 and Nitschke came in at No. 4.

Robinson was named to the 1960s All-Decade Team after leading the Packers to three NFL championships (two Super Bowls) and being named to the Pro Bowl three times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

Nitschke is considered one of the all-time greats as helped the Packers win five NFL championships (two Super Bowls). He was named to he All-Pro team seven times and he was also named to the 1960s All-Decade Team as well as the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

There was another Packer to make the list and that was Ted Hendricks who was ranked No. 5. He played for the Packers for one season (1974), but he had one of his best seasons as he recorded 75 tackles, five interceptions and seven blocked kicks.

As for the three players who were ranked ahead of Nitschke, they were Dick Butkus (No. 3), Derrick Thomas (No. 2), Lawrence Taylor (No. 1).

Story by Brian Jones, Courtesy of http://gnb.247sports.com

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Arnie Herber: The Green Bay Packers First Hall of Fame Quarterback

The most common debate among Packers fans is whether Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers is the greatest Green Bay Packers quarterback. Sure, maybe there is some talk of Bart Starr. People have even talked about this trio as the three Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The mistake is thinking Rodgers is likely the third Packers Hall of Fame quarterback when the fact is that honor belongs to Favre. Arnie Herber was the first Packers quarterback to reach the Hall of Fame. Herber was elected to the fourth class in Pro Football Hall of Fame history.

Arnie Herber: The Green Bay Packers First Hall of Fame Quarterback

Arnie Herber’s Beginnings

Herber was a local Green Bay child. He actually grew up a Packers fan, selling programs at games so as to watch the team play. This must have started at an early age as Herber was just nine years old when the Packers took their current form. He was a high school star at Green Bay. After high school, he spent a freshman year on the University of Wisconsin team. He then spent his sophomore season playing for Regis University in Denver. When Regis dropped football the following year, Herber returned to Green Bay.

Herber’s professional career began with a tryout. While working as a handyman, Herber attracted Curly Lambeau‘s attention. Lambeau gave Herber his chance and Herber earned playing time. Herber played for the Packers from 1930 until 1940. He also played for the Giants from 1944 through 1946. He came out of retirement to play as many young men were serving in World War II.

By The Numbers

The numbers look small now. The changing nature of the NFL does not do justice to Herber’s career. In a nearly unthinkable fact, the NFL did not even keep official statistics during the first two years of his career. In 2016, Drew Brees led the NFL with 673 passing attempts. Also, 39 different quarterbacks completed 133 or more passes. That would include such players as Bryce Petty and Cody Kessler. Herber never attempted 133 passes in any season. It was a new era for football. It was only in 1906 that President Teddy Roosevelt moved to make the forward pass legal in football, in football’s first players’ safety crisis. People did not did the passing game the central role it has today.

In 11 seasons (where the NFL kept stats at least), Herber threw for over 100 passes seven times. In this time, he led the NFL in pass attempts and yards three times (1932, 1934 and 1936). Between 1932 and 1939, Herber finished top four in passing yards seven times. In his full 11-year career, he finished top ten in touchdown passes ten times and top five nine times. Arnie Herber’s 81 career touchdowns were third in NFL history at the time of his final game.

Father of the Game

Herber was there at the beginning. The Packers were instrumental in the development of the passing game of the NFL. He was not just a passer, he was the premier long ball threat of his day. The tandem of Arnie Herber and Don Hutson created one of the greatest passing threats ever. Herber walked onto a great Packers team and helped them finish the first three-peat in NFL history with titles in 1930 and 1931. Herber finished his career with four championships. He led the team through championship seasons in 1936 and 1939.

This puts the current ring count at Bart Starr with five, Arnie Herber with four and then Favre and Rodgers with one each. Titles are not the be all end all. Favre managed to lead the NFL in yards just twice, but did finish top five in 12 of his 16 seasons. Similarly, he had 12 seasons in the top five for touchdowns. Favre led the NFL four times. This means Herber led the league 27.2 percent of his seasons as Favre similarly led in 25 percent of his. Herber was a pioneer. His name should not be forgotten. He is a local fan, who took a tryout and turned it into a Hall of Fame career.

Story by Jonathan Barnett, Courtesy of LastWordOnProFootball.com

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The drawn-out battle over the name Lambeau Field

Public clamor overcame official stonewalling

Original photo taken by Orvelle Peterson, Green Bay Press-Gazette Staff

Original photo taken by Orvelle Peterson, Green Bay Press-Gazette Staff

The decision to change the name of Green Bay City Stadium to Lambeau Field couldn’t appear today to have been more prescient.

But like most ideas, it didn’t come about without a political tug-of-war.

Curly Lambeau died June 1, 1965. The stadium, originally dedicated in 1957, was officially renamed on Sept. 11, 1965. But the more than two-month debate over whether to do so was more protracted than one might think.

The proposal to name the Packers’ home field after Lambeau, the team’s co-founder and driving force behind its improbable survival, was nothing new.

 As early as 1937, Milwaukee Sentinel sports columnist Howard Purser wrote, “Green Bay fans have started a movement to change the name of the city stadium to ‘Lambeau field’ as a tribute to the Packer coach.”

Purser wrote that when the Packers were playing in old City Stadium, their home from 1925 to 1956.

There also were other efforts over the years to honor Lambeau, including a push when the new stadium opened to rename the old one after him. That discussion preceded the decision in October 1959 to rename old City Stadium, East High School Stadium.

Two months later, George Banta Jr. of Menasha wrote a lengthy letter to the Green Bay Press-Gazette urging those in authority to rename the new stadium, Lambeau Stadium. Shortly thereafter, Green Bay alderman Thomas Atkinson urged his fellow City Council members to rename the stadium “in honor of the founder of the Green Bay Packers.”

Atkinson’s proposal resulted in the Green Bay Stadium Commission voting to erect a plaque at the new stadium in Lambeau’s honor instead. In the end, the plaque also included the names of the Packers’ first six presidents and was affixed in November 1960 to the outer wall of the ticket office, then on the west side of the stadium.

It wasn’t until Lambeau died that the suggestions to rename the stadium in his memory gained traction. Then the clamor built until officials had little choice but to stop stonewalling it.

Here is a timeline of events over the summer of 1965.

June 5 – Monsignor John Gehl of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral delivers the eulogy at Lambeau’s funeral and says, “I do think that our stadium or arena should be called by his name. This would be proper.” Team president Dominic Olejniczak and defensive coach Phil Bengtson represented the Packers at the funeral and former Packers coaches, Gene Ronzani and Lisle Blackbourn, were pallbearers. Vince Lombardi didn’t attend.

June 6 – Banta renews his request to rename City Stadium in Lambeau’s honor with another letter to the editor, the first of many on the subject that would appear in the Press-Gazette over the next two months. Banta noted that he thought the name City Stadium “lacked color and interest.”

June 8 – The Greater Green Bay Labor Council unanimously passes a resolution asking that the stadium be renamed “Lambeau Stadium” or “Lambeau Field.” The resolution stated that Lambeau “has contributed more to the recognition of Green Bay, both nationally and internationally, than any other native or adopted son.”

June 9 – The Wisconsin Senate passes a resolution paying tribute to Lambeau, but avoids the topic of renaming the stadium.

June 12 – The Mike & Pen Club of Green Bay, an association of local sportswriters and sportscasters, goes on record favoring a change to “Lambeau Stadium.” “Without the stamina of this man, building and coaching a football team, Green Bay would be just another location in the state of Wisconsin,” the group stated in a letter to the Stadium Commission.

June 14 – Mayor Donald Tilleman tells the Green Bay Rotary Club that he opposes changing the name of City Stadium. “City Stadium already is dedicated, by the vice president of the United States, to the people of Green Bay,” Tilleman said. “Some people are not aware of this and some have forgotten.” However, Tilleman said some form of recognition for Lambeau should be considered and suggested maybe renaming East Stadium in his honor.

June 15 – The City Council passes a resolution paying tribute to Lambeau and notes he had previously rejected the idea of naming the new stadium after him. “Boys, I am glad that you didn’t take any action on naming the new stadium after me,” the council claimed Lambeau had said before his death. “I never played there, had no part in building it, and it is my opinion that the new stadium belongs to the people who built it, the citizens of Green Bay.”

June 16 – The Press-Gazette prints an editorial favoring the name, “Curly Lambeau Field,” and notes its stance reflects the strong public sentiment in Green Bay and throughout Wisconsin to do so.

June 17 – The Press-Gazette’s Len Wagner writes in his sports column that he’s confounded by the wording of the resolution introduced by the mayor and passed by the City Council two days earlier. Wagner called it “a piece of paper with meaningless words.” He also said he conducted an informal poll of 34 Green Bay barber shops and the feedback he received overwhelming favored changing the name to honor Lambeau.

June 21 – Eric Karll, composer of the song, “Go, You Packers, Go,” says he has written a letter to Mayor Tilleman asking that City Stadium be renamed in Lambeau’s honor.

July 6 – The City Council creates a seven-member citizens council to study a Stadium Commission recommendation to build a museum-type memorial next to City Stadium to be dedicated in Lambeau’s honor. City attorney Clarence Nier said a fund drive to build the memorial would show how serious people actually were about honoring Lambeau.

July 8 – The Press-Gazette’s lead editorial again urges renaming the stadium, Lambeau Field. It noted building a memorial would be fine, but it was “not acceptable as a substitute for the proper enshrinement of the Lambeau name.” The same day, Wagner writes another column in the Press-Gazette criticizing the Stadium Commission for stating that changing the stadium’s name to Lambeau Field would be “trite” and “bush league.” Wagner asked the commission members, “Gentlemen, if honoring an individual by naming America’s most beautiful stadium after him is bush league, just what is considered to be major league?”

July 15 – Wagner writes that people calling him about renaming the stadium in Lambeau’s honor should be calling their aldermen instead.

July 20 – Twenty-one aldermen circulate a one-sentence statement before a City Council meeting recommending that City Stadium be renamed in honor of Lambeau. Mayor Tilleman ruled the motion out of order, but said the recommendation should be sent to the Stadium Commission for review.

July 23 – The Press-Gazette polls four members of the Packers’ board of directors asking where they stand on renaming City Stadium in honor of Lambeau. Charles Egan said he favored the idea. Fred Leicht and Carl Mraz refused comment. Hayden Evans said he hadn’t made up his mind.

July 25 – The 1965 Packer Yearbook has hit the newsstands, the Press-Gazette reports. The cover is a 1961 photo of Vince Lombardi shaking hands with Lambeau. Forty-two years later, Art Daley, publisher of the yearbook, told Jeff Ash of the Press-Gazette that Lombardi called and berated him after he was shown a copy. “What do you mean putting me on the cover with him?” Daley remembered Lombardi shouting into his ear. “That was the worst yearbook you ever put out!” Daley said Lombardi slammed the phone down on him and ignored him for months. Former Packers PR man Lee Remmel said Lombardi had worked behind the scenes to prevent the renaming of the stadium. “Twice within my hearing, he inveighed against naming it Lambeau Field,” Remmel told me in a 2003 interview. “(Lombardi) was diametrically opposed to it, no question about that.”

July 26 – The seven-member citizens council named by the City Council 20 days earlier unanimously recommends renaming the stadium in Lambeau’s honor.

July 30 – The Press-Gazette reports in an editorial that nearly 90 percent of the people it had contacted for its six Q&As about renaming the stadium favored the name, Lambeau Field.

Aug. 2 – The seven-man Packers executive committee recommends renaming City Stadium in Lambeau’s honor. That same day, the Stadium Commission recommends naming the stadium, Lambeau Field.

Aug. 3 – Green Bay City Stadium is renamed Lambeau Field by a unanimous vote of the City Council. One alderman, Francis Hessel, said he thought Lambeau Stadium would sound better.

Sept. 11 – In a brief pre-game ceremony before the Packers played the St. Louis Cardinals in a preseason game, Green Bay City Stadium is formally rededicated and renamed Lambeau Field. Mayor Tilleman performed the dedication. Don Lambeau, Curly’s son, spoke on behalf of the family. “It has often been said that my father was without sentiment, but those of you who knew him intimately, either as neighbor or friend or business associate, know that he, too, could not have stood here tonight without having been deeply touched,” Don Lambeau told the crowd of more than 50,000.

Story by Cliff Christl, Courtesy of Green Bay Packers.

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Wisconsin governor makes June 4 Jerry Kramer Day

Jerry Kramer continues to rack up accolades despite not being in Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jerry Kramer is still waiting to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But in the meantime, Kramer continues to earn accolades for what he was able to accomplish with the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s.

On Sunday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker did something special for Kramer as he made June 4 "Jerry Kramer Day." Here's a look at the proclamation signed by Governor Walker.

Kramer, 81, went to the Pro Bowl three-times, was named to the All-Pro team six times and was named to the 1960s All-Decade Team. He is considered by many as the best player not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only way Kramer can get into the Hall of Fame now is by the senior committee and they will decide their Hall of Fame finalists for the Class of 2018 in August.

Story by Brian Jones, courtesy of http://gnb.247sports.com.

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Donald Driver Charity Softball Game Returns One Last Time!

Green Bay Packers All-Time Leading Receiver and Super Bowl Champion Donald Driver is going into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame this year and one of the ways he will say, “thank you” to fans for the memories, is by holding a charity softball game at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium on Sunday, August 13, 2017.  Game time is 1:05pm.

“When I first retired from the Green Bay Packers, I talked about touring the state of Wisconsin saying ‘thank you’ to fans for the incredible love and support during my career. This softball game holds a special place in my heart and I am excited to thank fans for all of their love and support while also raising money for charity,” said Donald Driver.

“As I look back on my 14-year career with the Packers, and the huge part of my life that included marriage to my beautiful wife and birth of 3 amazing children, this game will be a fun time to reflect and celebrate with family, friends and fans that we have connected with over nearly 20 years,” Donald added. The game will raise money for the Donald Driver Foundation.  The mission of the Donald Driver Foundation is to display Strong Hands, Strong Minds, and Loving Hearts to serve as a hand up, not a

The game will raise money for the Donald Driver Foundation.  The mission of the Donald Driver Foundation is to display Strong Hands, Strong Minds, and Loving Hearts to serve as a hand up, not a handout.

Donald and Peta Murgatroyd, who won a Mirror Ball Trophy with Donald as her dance partner on Dancing with the Stars, will each draft a team of All-Stars to compete in the softball game. Green Bay Packers Legends, NFL Legends, celebrities, media personalities, Betina Driver and other surprise guests will participate in the game. Specific players will be confirmed in future media releases.

Tickets for the softball game are $40 for a front row box seat, $30 for a standard box seat, $20 for a reserved bleacher seat, and $10 for a general admission grass seat.  There are also a limited number of patio tables – which seat four – available at $200. The patio tables will include one autographed item signed by Donald Driver.

There are 69 All-You-Can-Eat seats available for this game for $80 per seat.  This ticket includes admission to the game, an all-you-can-eat picnic for 90 minutes, and two beverages (beer, soda, or water).Fans may begin to purchase tickets for the Donald Driver Game at 10am on Wednesday, March 22. If you have already purchased tickets to the Jordy Nelson Charity Softball Game, there is an opportunity to purchase tickets for the Donald Driver Charity Softball Game before the general public starting at 10am on Wednesday, March 15. Online purchasers of tickets to the Jordy Nelson game will be emailed a code to allow access to the presale. If you bought Jordy Nelson tickets in person or over the phone, please contact the Timber Rattlers Ticket Office between March 15 and March 21 to order.

Tickets to the Donald Driver Charity Softball Game are available in one of the following ways:  Over the phone at 800-WI-TIMBER or (920) 733-4152; in person at the Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium Box Office; or through the internet at www.timberrattlers.com.

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