Dan Currie was the Green Bay Packers’ first selection in what was arguably their best-ever draft. Two of the Packers’ first five choices in that draft were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a third may soon join them.
It’s safe to say Currie won’t be the fourth.
Despite a commendable career, which included being a three-time all-pro, Currie didn’t stay at the top of his game long enough to join Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and possibly Jerry Kramer in Canton. A blindside block in his fifth season damaged his left knee and dimmed his future.
But until that point, Currie was on course to be a Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate. In fact, he certainly had the inside track on Nitschke, who didn’t become the Packers’ starting middle linebacker until late in the 1960 season and really didn’t entrench himself as the starter until shortly before Currie got hurt.
Currie, 82, died Monday in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Currie had worked in security at the city’s Sahara Hotel for more than 25 years following his playing career.
The first four rounds of the 1958 NFL Draft were held Dec. 2, 1957, and the Packers took Currie with the third overall pick. Currie, who played at Michigan State, was that year’s consensus All-America center and doubled as a linebacker during college football’s one-platoon era.
Lisle Blackbourn, the Packers’ head coach at the time, described Currie “as a man among the boys in the Big Ten,” and said he regarded him as the best prospect in the draft.
The Packers selected Taylor in the second round, Nitschke in the third and Kramer in the fourth. They also drafted halfback Dick Christy with their own third-round choice, but traded him to Pittsburgh the day of the final cutdown.
As a rookie, Currie took over as the starting left linebacker when Carlton Massey suffered a broken leg in the third game. He also played some defensive end late in the year and was Jim Ringo’s backup at center.
Currie was the first of the Packers’ 1958 draft class to become a starter. And despite playing on a team that finished 1-10-1 under first-year coach Scooter McLean, Currie must have played well.
At a banquet in Milwaukee that off-season after newly hired coach Vince Lombardi had poured through game films with his staff, he told the crowd there were three untouchables on his roster.
They were perennial all-pros Ringo and Bobby Dillon, and Currie, who at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds fit Lombardi’s prototype at outside linebacker.
“One of the best. No question about it,” tight end Gary Knafelc, who went head-to-head with Currie in practice for four years, said of his teammate. “Very quick. Very smart. He was a big guy. He was an all-around good football player. He was aggressive and Lombardi liked linebackers like that.”
In 1960, Currie was named to the Pro Bowl.
In 1961, he was named first-team all-pro by two of the three news services: United Press International and Newspaper Enterprise Association, a team picked by a vote of the players. In 1962, when the Packers repeated as NFL champions, Currie was a consensus all-pro, chosen by the Associated Press, in addition to UPI and NEA. In 1963, Currie was again named one of the three linebackers on the NEA team.
At that point, Nitschke had yet to make an all-pro team or be selected to a Pro Bowl.
In 1961, the Packers shut out the Chicago Bears for the first time in 26 years as Currie intercepted two passes. In the NFL Championship Game that year, Currie was part of a defense that held the New York Giants to six first downs in a 37-0 victory.
In the 1962 NFL title game, Currie might have played as well, if not better than Nitschke, who was named the game’s MVP, as the Packers beat the Giants again, 16-7. Currie intercepted a pass and caused a fumble in that game.
However, receiver Tommy McDonald had blindsided Currie in the Packers’ 49-0 victory over Philadelphia on Nov. 11, 1962, causing him to miss two regular-season games.
Currie was never the same after his knee injury.
He started all 14 games in 1963 and ’64, but was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for receiver Carroll Dale in April 1965. Dave Robinson, another Packers player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, replaced Currie as the left linebacker that year.
Currie said in a 2003 interview that Lombardi told him he needed speed at wide receiver and that was why he made the deal.
“You could see on film, (Dale) had the speed,” Currie said. “He just dropped the ball all the time in Los Angeles. Vince cured him of that.”
Nicknamed “Dapper Dan,” Currie was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1984. In all, he played in 90 games for the Packers over seven years and intercepted 11 passes and recovered six fumbles.
Currie played two years with the Rams, underwent knee surgery following the 1966 season and was cut in training camp the following year.