Albert “Pat” Peppler, a graduate of Shorewood High School (Wis.), who served as Vince Lombardi’s director of player personnel for six years, died this morning.
Peppler was named to the post Jan. 28, 1963. He ran Lombardi’s drafts from 1964 through ’69, and remained with the Packers until March, 1972, when he tired of working for Dan Devine and accepted Don Shula’s offer as director of pro scouting with the Miami Dolphins.
Peppler was 93. He died in Stuart, Fla., where he had been living for about the last eight years.
“I thought he was superb,” said Chuck Lane, who headed the Packers’ public relations department from 1966-80 except for a year off in 1974 when he worked for Bart Starr. “(Pat) tried to do a lot of things and unfortunately didn’t get a lot of cooperation after Lombardi left. Pat struggled then, but he had a keen eye for talent. He also tried to hold the thing together at the end, but I think got frustrated and had an opportunity from Don Shula, and away he went.”
An old-school scout, Peppler could spin yarns with the best of them. He was blunt, colorful and loved to sprinkle his stories with the colloquial expressions of his profession.
“He was a throwback,” said Lane. “He and Red Cochran and Dave Hanner were three of my favorite guys over there on the football side. Colorful was his middle name.”
Among the Packers’ No. 1 draft picks during Peppler’s years of overseeing the draft were guard Gale Gillingham, running backs Donny Anderson and Jim Grabowski, linebacker Fred Carr, fullback John Brockington and cornerback Willie Buchanon.
When Lombardi left to become coach and general manager in Washington in February, 1969, he recommended to the executive committee that Peppler replace him as general manager. Instead, the committee gave Coach Phil Bengtson the dual responsibilities.
“Vince told me, ‘I told (Bengtson) the job is too big for one man anymore,’” Peppler said in a 2006 interview. “What he meant was that it was too big for Phil… Vince told me, ‘I recommended they hire you. You’re the smartest football man here.’ I was astounded that he said that. He also said, ‘If there was any way I could take you to Washington I would, but I had to promise I wouldn’t take anybody off the staff.’”
Peppler was a three-time letterman in basketball (1943, 1946-47) and baseball (1946-48) at Michigan State before coaching football at North Carolina State and Wake Forest. In Green Bay, he was promoted to assistant to the general manager by Devine in 1971. After spending three years in Miami, Peppler was named general manager in Atlanta. In 1976, he was interim head coach of the Falcons for nine games. He also worked in the front office for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans under Bum Phillips.
During his more than 20 years in the NFL, Peppler won four Super Bowl rings – two in Green Bay and two in Miami – along with a 1965 NFL championship ring.
Six children and 17 grandchildren survive him. His health started to deteriorate in January after he was hospitalized with pneumonia.
“He lived a great life until January, February,” said his youngest son Jim. “Larger than life. Strong, capable.” Up until then, Jim said his father was still lifting weights and running short distances.
"Pat Peppler drafted me in '71 and brought me back into the NFL in '76 with the Falcons...I owe him a lot for his guidance and oversight of my NFL career. I always told him our home built in '77 in the Lake Forest part of the Eastern Shore of Alabama was 'The Home that Pat Peppler Built.' He will always have my deepest affection and love."
- Scott Hunter (Green Bay Packers QB, 1971-73)