Height: 5-9; Weight: 201
College: Wisconsin, 1934-36
After playing all four backfield positions at the University of Wisconsin, Jankowski concentrated on fullback with the Packers while also backing up the line on defense in the days of one-platoon football.
Built low to the ground, he was a hard-nosed blocker and tackler, well-suited to spell legendary Clarke Hinkle, which was Jankowski’s primary role during his five seasons in Green Bay. “I knew what I was up against,” he once said. “The Packers had Hinkle and there was only one Hinkle. But Curly Lambeau gave me a break, used me a lot when Hinkle was tired or hurt, and I did get in a lot of play.”
Before starring for the Badgers, Jankowski was a legend at Milwaukee East Division High School. Thus, whenever he returned to the city as a Packer, it was hyped as a homecoming game for him.
In fact, his first pro game in Milwaukee was played Oct. 10, 1937, against the Chicago Cardinals, and Jankowski rushed for 96 yards in 13 attempts, including a 46-yard touchdown run.
A month later, he ran head first into the brick wall at Wrigley Field after scoring on a 27-yard interception return in a victory over the Chicago Bears. It was an incident long remembered by those who witnessed it. “There were only two things he could do,” said Dr. W.W. Kelly, the Packers’ team physician and longtime board member. “The choice was between stepping out of bounds on the one- or two-yard line and saving his life or running into a brick wall.” John Walter, sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, added, “Eddie picked the wall and the bricks suffered more than the Packer fullback.”
When Jankowski’s rookie season ended, he was second on the team in rushing to Hinkle with 324 yards and a 5.3 average. But Jankowski suffered a serious head injury against Washington in the final game, one that left him unconscious for nearly two hours and hospitalized for several weeks, and he never again gained as many yards.
Another highlight of Jankowski’s career was scoring one of the Packers’ three touchdowns on a 1-yard plunge when they beat the New York Giants, 27-0, in the 1939 NFL Championship Game. That, too, was played in Milwaukee.
“He was pretty much a straight-ahead runner,” former teammate John Biolo said in 2002. “He couldn’t handle the spin as well as you wanted a fullback to do.”
Drafted by the Packers in the first round in 1937, Jankowski was the ninth overall selection. He played in 51 games, starting 11, all at fullback. He entered the Navy in 1942 and played Armed Forces football that year for Iowa Pre-Flight. In 1947, Jankowski took over as football coach at Whitefish Bay High School.
Born June 23, 1913, in Milwaukee, Wis. Given name Edward Joe Jankowski. Died July 20, 1996, at age 83.
- By Cliff Christl