GREEN BAY—Players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame aren’t asked to pick a team to represent. Their busts list each team they played for and the years of service in chronological order. But the Hall lists on its website and in its media guide a primary team for each player.
The Packers’ list includes 20 primary players, seven of whom played only for the Packers. Of the other 13, only Reggie White is listed as a primary player for another team. Even James Lofton, who played on three Super Bowl teams in Buffalo, is listed as a primary player only for the Packers.
In all, the Packers have 23 primary figures in the Hall, but Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi were inducted as coaches, and Ron Wolf will be inducted as a contributor. The Packers also are listed as a secondary team for five other players. Here’s a ranking of their contribution during their stays in Green Bay.
1. Ted Hendricks, OLB, 1974 (pictured) – In his one season, he blocked seven kicks, including three field goal attempts and three punts; intercepted five passes; and scored a safety in a 21-19 victory. It was the finest season by a Packers defender that I’ve witnessed in the 45 years that I’ve written about the team and the 13 before that when I watched nearly every game. That covers a lot of territory – the Lombardi Era and Reggie White’s six seasons in Green Bay – but Hendricks was good enough over his 15-year career to join White and Ray Nitschke on the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. The Packers acquired Hendricks from the Baltimore Colts a month before the start of the 1974 season because he had already signed a future contract with the Jacksonville Sharks of the rival World Football League. The Sharks folded during the ’74 season, but the Packers also underwent change, hiring Bart Starr to replace Dan Devine as general manager and coach. Starr, in turn, declared, “Our team is bigger than just one person,” and showed little more than lukewarm interest in signing Hendricks, then 27. Hendricks signed with Oakland and was the only Raiders defender to start on all three of their Super Bowl champs.
2. Emlen Tunnell, S, 1959-61 – Tunnell was 34 years old and entering his 12th season when Vince Lombardi purchased him from the New York Giants less than a month before the start of his first training camp. Tunnell started for two years, intercepted five passes and still packed a punch as a tackler, but his greatest value was as a team leader. Tunnell commanded such respect from his teammates that he might have had more to do with teaching them how to win than Lombardi. Tunnell also paved the way for more African-American players in Green Bay. In fact, Lombardi was so fond of Tunnell he employed him as a scout during the offseason.
3. Jan Stenerud, K, 1980-83 – Stenerud is the only one of the five inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. He solidified what had been a pitiful kicking game after signing as a free agent a day short of his 38th birthday and with only four games remaining in the 1980 season. He converted 22 of 24 field goals in 1981 and 21 of 26 in ’83, but over his 45 games with the Packers he made only 58 percent of his tries from 40 yards or more.
4. Walt Kiesling, G, 1935-36 – He was 32 years old and had played nine seasons with four teams – the Duluth Eskimos, Pottsville Maroons, and Chicago Cardinals and Bears – when the Packers signed him as a free agent in late August, 1935. Back when players played both offense and defense, Kiesling started a handful of games over two seasons, including two during the Packers 1936 NFL championship run. He later served as an assistant coach with the Packers from 1945-48.
5. Len Ford, DE, 1958 – Ford was a dominating defensive end when he played on three of Paul Brown’s NFL championship teams in Cleveland in the 1950s. During a sequence of plays in the 1950 title game, for example, Ford threw three different Los Angeles Rams backs for 38 yards in losses. But he was 32 years old when Scooter McLean gave up a draft pick for him in May, 1958, and Ford became a poster child for McLean’s lack of discipline during that 1-10-1 season. Teammates said Ford would even come to practice drunk. He was finally booted off the team the day before the Packers’ final game in Los Angeles.