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Memories Of A Packers Hall Of Famer: Greg Koch

Posted Jul 9, 2010

Former Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Greg Koch is among three 2010 inductees into the team's Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is slated for Saturday, July 17.

A second-round draft choice in 1977 from the University of Arkansas, Koch played nine seasons (1977-85) in Green Bay, appearing in 133 games. A fixture at right tackle almost immediately upon his arrival, he was a second-team All-Pro selection following the 1982 season and was part of one of the greatest offenses in club history when the Packers amassed 6,172 yards in 1983, the second-best output ever in club annals.

Packers.com caught up with Koch to get his recollections on a couple of the more memorable games in his Green Bay career.


The 1982 season is remembered league-wide as one shortened to nine regular-season games by a strike, but for the Green Bay Packers and Greg Koch, it became a historic and memorable season for a completely different reason.

The Packers made the playoffs that year for the first time in a decade, and for the only time in head coach Bart Starr's nine-year tenure. Green Bay posted a 5-3-1 record to finish third in the NFC, and a 41-16 rout of the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round set up a marquee matchup against the powerful Dallas Cowboys in the second round, on the road.

"We really had a solid team," Koch said. "We were young, and the playoffs might have been a little ... I'm not going to say they were intimidating to us, but it was new to us to be in the playoffs and in the bright lights, especially playing a team like the Cowboys."

The Packers held their own, though, actually outgaining the Cowboys, 466-375, in the Jan. 16 contest. Green Bay rallied from a 20-7 halftime deficit, getting a 71-yard touchdown run from receiver James Lofton on a reverse to get within 23-19 early in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys answered with another score, but Mark Lee's 22-yard interception return for a touchdown brought Green Bay within 30-26 with 7:23 left.

But the Cowboys answered again, going 74 yards in seven plays for another touchdown to seal a 37-26 win. The Packers had fought the good fight, but five turnovers and Dallas' playoff experience were just too much to overcome.

"We came up on the short end, but we gave them all they wanted, and in fact the next year we were predicted to be a Super Bowl contender," Koch said. "We had, if not the top offense, one of the top offenses in the NFL. We had Lynn Dickey, James Lofton, John Jefferson, Paul Coffman. We had a great running-back corps in Gerry Ellis and Eddie Lee Ivery. We had all the makings where not many teams could stop us."

Unfortunately, the Packers couldn't do much to stop the opposition that following year. Koch recalled that the '83 campaign started with a dramatic 41-38 overtime victory on the road over the Oilers, but the Packers returned from Koch's hometown of Houston a wounded team.

"We lost both of our nosemen in that game on that horrible Astrodome Astroturf," Koch said. "Terry Jones blew out his Achilles and Rich Turner tore his knee up. That really crippled our defense for the rest of the year. When you're soft up the middle, you can't keep those guys away from your linebackers. It really made it tough on us."

So while the offense went on to set a franchise record at the time by scoring 429 points - a mark that sits fifth in team history today - the defense gave up a franchise-worst 439 points - a mark still at the top (or bottom) of the list.

The see-saw nature of the season was reflected in the NFL-record five overtime games the Packers played that year, and in the unforgettable Monday night encounter with the Washington Redskins at Lambeau Field, another game Koch remembers fondly.

The Packers had played just one Monday night game in Green Bay since Monday Night Football's inception in 1970 (vs. New England, 1979) and on Oct. 17, 1983, the defending Super Bowl-champion Redskins came in for a prime-time visit.

What ensued was offensive mayhem. In what became the highest-scoring Monday Night Football game in history, and the highest-scoring regular-season game in Green Bay history, the Packers prevailed 48-47 when Washington kicker Mark Moseley, who had been 4-for-4 on field goals in the game, missed a 39-yard try wide right on the final snap.

"It was just a tennis match," Koch said. "Lynn was on fire, and our defense was having a hard time stopping (John) Riggins and Joe Theismann. (Washington safety) Curtis Jordan, ... Paul Coffman may have ended his career that night, because he could not cover Paul at all."

Indeed, Dickey threw for 387 yards and three TDs, with Coffman catching six passes for 124 yards and two scores. Meanwhile, Riggins and Joe Washington combined for 178 rushing yards and two TDs for the Redskins, while Theismann threw for 398 yards and two scores. Ironically, the game started with the Packers scoring a defensive touchdown on a fumble return by linebacker Mike Douglass, but there was virtually no defense after that.

The two teams combined for 1,025 yards of offense (Green Bay 473, Washington 552), most in a game in Packers history. But what also made it memorable for Koch was that the Packers produced such a big night offensively with a major adjustment on the offensive line.

"Leotis Harris had gotten hurt, and we didn't feel like we had anybody who could match up with Dave Butz, who at that time was one of the big guys at 6-7, about 320," Koch said. "So they moved me inside to right guard. I think Bart kept it a secret. Nobody knew who was going to play right guard and I think everyone thought I was going to play right tackle."

A right tackle almost exclusively through his tenure with the Packers, Koch was suddenly lined up next to center Larry McCarren, with newly acquired tackle Charlie Getty at right tackle, in a pretty big game. But the offense didn't skip a beat.

"It was just one of those magical times," Koch said. "You knew it was a national audience, all your peers were watching the game, and it was just a fantastic game to be a part of.

"You're playing the reigning Super Bowl champions on Monday Night Football. We needed the win, they needed the win in their division, and I don't think anybody gave us much of a chance except for the 45 guys in that locker room and our coaching staff."

Butz was certainly a formidable matchup that night, as he was credited with two sacks. But neither those, nor the other five sacks the teams combined for on the night, had much impact on a game with so many offensive fireworks.

Koch faced his share of premier defensive linemen in the league, most of them ends of course, unlike Butz, an interior force. The playoff game in Dallas following the '82 season was one of roughly eight or nine times Koch recalled going head-to-head with Ed "Too Tall" Jones, though Koch said whenever he played the Cowboys he was always more verbally engaged with defensive lineman Randy White.

"Randy White still thinks I'm the craziest guy who ever played because I was always yelling at him, I don't know why," Koch said. "(Packers guard) Derrel Gofourth used to say, 'Would you shut up? I'm the one who has to block him.'

"But 'Too Tall' and I never said a word to each other. I don't know if we ever even said hello to each other. He went about his business and I went about mine, and I kind of respect that about him to this day."

Koch also had a lot of respect for the Rams' Jack Youngblood, whom he faced often early in his career, and for the Raiders' Howie Long, an up-and-coming defensive star as Koch's career wound down.

But Koch earned respect over time in Green Bay as well, playing under both Starr and his successor, Forrest Gregg.

"They always wanted a taller tackle," Koch said. "I was only about 6-4½, and they always liked their tackles to be 6-6, 6-7. So for the nine years I was there in Green Bay, they kept running tackles at me but nobody ever took my position."

Koch played his final two seasons (1986-87) in Miami and then Minnesota, where he did play right guard regularly. His only playoff appearance with the Packers came following that '82 season, but the memories go well beyond that, and more are sure to flood back upon his induction on July 17.

"I hate being referred to as playing for the Packers in the down years," Koch said. "I cherished the amount of time I had in Green Bay, and I would have loved to finish my career there. That was my team and it's still my favorite team to this day. The friendships I made can never be taken away and will last a lifetime.

"It's just an honor to be included in a fraternity of guys with names the likes of Jimmy Taylor, Bart Starr, ... you just go down the line and it's like an NFL who's who. To be included in that fraternity, I'm very honored."

***
Tickets for the July 17 induction banquet, which begins with the doors opening at 4:30 p.m. with a cash bar, and dinner and program to follow at 7 p.m., are $125 each. To purchase tickets, call Gwen Borga at 920/965-6984, or e-mail her at gborga@packerhalloffame.org.

 
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