Credited with inventing pass patterns, Don Hutson wasn't just the best receiver of his era, he's on the short list for greatest receiver of all time and is arguably the most outstanding player in Green Bay Packers history.
After a collegiate career at Alabama, Hutson came to the Packers in 1935 and began what would be an 11-season career. In that span, Hutson caught 99 touchdown passes, which was an NFL record until Steve Largent caught his 100th TD in 1989.
But if many of the 18 NFL records Hutson held at the time of his retirement have been rewritten since, over 60 years after he hung up his cleats and more than 40 years following his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, several of his NFL-leading standards remain intact.
Hutson led the league in receptions eight times, including five consecutive seasons (1936-37, 1939, 1941-45). He led the league in receiving yards seven times, including four consecutive seasons (1936, 1938-39, 1941-44). He led the league in touchdown receptions nine times, including five consecutive seasons (1935-38, 1940-44). All of those achievements remain NFL records.
Meanwhile, Hutson's four 200-yard receiving games are second only to Lance Alworth's five. And Hutson's two 200-yard games in one season, accomplished in 1942, is an achievement bettered by only Charley Hennigan (three in 1961).
In terms of the Packers' record book, Hutson not only holds the standard for receptions in a game (14, against the New York Giants, Nov. 22, 1942), he's also runner-up on that list (13, against the Cleveland Rams, Oct. 18, 1942).
And Hutson's four-touchdown receiving effort against the Detroit Lions, Oct. 7, 1945, is a feat twice matched by Sterling Sharpe, but never bettered. Nor is any Packers player close to Hutson's collection of six three-touchdown receiving games.
Hutson, who also kicked seven career field goals and 172 extra points, even remained the Packers' all-time leader with 823 points until Ryan Longwell surpassed him in 2003.
Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 183 pounds, Hutson twice earned the NFL's Joe F. Carr Trophy as its most outstanding player, doing so in 1941 and 1942 (the Associated Press MVP award didn't come into existence until 1957). Hutson was a consensus All-Pro five times (1939, 1941-44).
But he wasn't just an offensive player. In addition to his receiving and kicking duties, like most players of that era Hutson also played defense.
A member of three NFL title teams (1936, 1939, 1944), in the first half of his career Hutson was a favorite target of Arnie Herber, who was taking Curly Lambeau's passing game to new heights. Cecil Isbell and Irv Comp also enjoyed seasons throwing to Hutson.
But Hutson was dangerously close to spending his career away from the pass-happy Packers. Coming out of Alabama, Hutson actually agreed to contracts both with the Packers and the Brooklyn Dodgers, a run-oriented club. Both teams claimed Hutson as their own, but NFL President Joe Carr awarded Hutson to the Packers on the grounds that their contract with the speedy receiver was postmarked 17 minutes earlier.
As a rookie, Hutson received a weekly game check of $300. Green Bay had only two banks at the time, and with the nation hit hard by the Great Depression, both banks had to write him a weekly check of $150 to cover the salary.
It didn't take long for Hutson to make an impact. Making his first start in the second game of his career, Hutson's first career reception went for an 83-yard touchdown from Herber on the first play of the game in a 7-0 win over the Chicago Bears (Sept. 22, 1935).
Hutson's legacy was preserved over a series of events. First, in 1951, Hutson's uniform number 14 became the first to be officially retired by the Packers. In 1970, Hutson was named to the NFL's All-50-Year Team. And in 1994, he was named to the NFL's All-Time Two-Way team and 75th Anniversary team.
Also in 1994, the Packers dedicated their state-of-the-art indoor practice facility in Hutson's name (July 18, 1994). Hutson was on hand for the dedication of the $4.7 million facility that includes 70- and 60-yard fields with 10-yard end zones.
Donald Montgomery Hutson, born Jan. 31, 1913, in Pine Bluff, Ark., died June 26, 1997, at the age of 84.
|NFL Totals (11 years)||116||488||7,991||16.4||92t||99||62||284||4.6||3||105|