GREEN BAY—Two summers ago, the sole inductee into the Packers Hall of Fame was former coach Mike Holmgren.
The two upcoming inductees, Ken Ruettgers and Ahman Green, both have significant, though, very different connections to Holmgren.
Already with the Packers for seven seasons before Holmgren arrived in 1992, Ruettgers became his West Coast offense’s rock at left tackle during the franchise’s renaissance that led up to the Super Bowl XXXI title.
A handful of years later, Green was playing for Holmgren in Seattle when the dual coach/GM traded him to Green Bay, where Green would ultimately become the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
Ruettgers and Green were announced Tuesday as the latest Packers Hall of Fame inductees, with their banquet and ceremony slated for July 19, 2014, in the Lambeau Field Atrium.
In a conference call with media, Ruettgers talked about how special it was to be part of the Packers’ resurgence in the 1990s. With Ruettgers protecting quarterback Brett Favre’s blind side, the Packers reached the playoffs in Holmgren’s second season, 1993, the franchise’s first postseason berth in 11 years.
Two seasons later, the Packers won their first outright division title since 1972, and Ruettgers recalled the thrill of clinching it in front of the home fans in the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh.
“At the two-minute warning, the crowd was electric and going crazy, and we were all excited,” he said, though ultimately it took a dropped fourth-down pass by Steelers receiver Yancey Thigpen in the end zone in the closing seconds to escape victorious. “That was a moment of being able to say, ‘Hey, we’re on our way to bringing back some of the greatness of the Packer tradition back to Lambeau.’”
Unfortunately for Ruettgers, he wasn’t really part of the culmination the following year, in 1996, when the Packers won the Super Bowl. Injuries wrecked his season and he became mostly a spectator during his 12th and final year in the NFL.
“That was probably one of the hardest moments or periods of time I ever experienced, to have worked so hard for a goal to be part of a Super Bowl team,” said Ruettgers, who joined the Packers as a first-round draft pick in 1985 and was the team’s offensive MVP in ’89. “It was very difficult to watch from the sidelines.
“There was such great joy in winning, but there was still some deep sadness in my soul.”
Green was lucky enough to eventually erase his biggest regret, when he left the Packers as a free agent following the 2006 season less than 50 yards shy of breaking Jim Taylor’s all-time franchise rushing record of 8,207 yards, which had stood since 1966.
“It was something in the back of my head from the moment I signed that contract in Houston,” said Green, who met with reporters in the Lambeau Field media auditorium on Tuesday. “It was there, like an annoying sound. I was never a stats guy, but once I left, I had my brothers telling me, ‘Man, you’re like only 48 yards away.’”
After two injury-filled years with the Texans, Green was no longer the four-time Pro Bowl back who had topped 1,000 yards six straight years for the Packers and had broken Taylor’s single-season rushing mark with 1,883 yards in 2003. But in the middle of 2009, the Packers needed help for their injury-ravaged backfield, and Mike McCarthy called Green about bringing him in for a workout.
“Towards the end of that phone call he said, ‘Man, we have to get you that record,’” Green recalled. “When he said that, I was like, it’s going to happen.”
It did, as Green finished his Packers career in 2009 with 8,322 rushing yards, as well as the franchise’s all-time record of 11,048 yards from scrimmage.
Topping Taylor on the rushing list meant a lot to Green on a personal level, too, because Green’s stepfather, Edward Scott, had grown up in Louisiana idolizing Taylor, a collegiate star at LSU. Scott died in 2007, the year Green left the Packers so close to Taylor’s mark.
“Knowing how long that record had been there, and knowing how my dad watched him as a running back, … for him to talk about that, someone that inspired him, that’s another reason it felt real good to get that record,” Green said.
For the official press release and information on tickets to the induction banquet, click here.