Back/Defensive End: 1939-49
Height: 6-1; Weight: 211
College: South Carolina, 1935-38
- Selected to an all-pro first team: 1939, ’47
- Pro All-Star Game Selection (game played 1938-42): 1941, ’42
- Packers 50th Anniversary Team: 1969
- Packers All-Iron Man Era Team: 1976
Strong and powerfully built, Craig was the ultimate iron man in the Iron Man Era of pro football. Nicknamed “Superman,” he not only didn’t miss a game in 11 seasons, he played both ways and up to a full 60 minutes. “He was one of the most perfectly built human beings I’ve ever seen,” former teammate Clyde Goodnight once said. “He looked like Hercules. He was just tough.”
When he retired, Craig had played in 121 consecutive games, the Packers’ record for durability at the time and one that would stand for 13 years. Craig excelled as a defensive end and vastly improved the Packers at two positions when he joined them as a rookie in 1939. In fact, the Packers won the NFL championship that year and Craig played as important a role as anyone.
Typically, in those days, ends doubled on offense and defense. That meant in Don Hutson’s first four seasons he usually played defensive end at 183 pounds. Once Craig arrived on the scene, it freed Hutson to play in the secondary, a position much better suited to his size and skills, while Craig was a natural lineman on defense. Flip-flopping the two also helped the Packers win the 1944 NFL championship.
Originally a blocking back in the Notre Dame Box offense, Craig played the position through the 1946 season. In 1947, Lambeau switched to a version of the T-formation. Craig, in turn, became what essentially today is a tight end on offense, although he received more playing time and made a bigger contribution as a defensive end.
Officially listed on the lineup card as a quarterback over his first eight seasons, Craig never threw a pass, carried the ball only 10 times and caught a mere 14 passes.
He was strictly a blocker and a devastating one at that. But it cost him dearly when it came to all-pro recognition and other honors back when 11-man teams were selected. While all-pro voters might have viewed Craig strictly as a non-throwing quarterback, plenty of opponents considered him the best defensive end in the game. All the same, Lambeau picked Craig along with Red Dunn as the two quarterbacks on an all-time Packers team he selected in 1946.
“Any time anybody asks me who gave me the most trouble when I was attempting to pass, I always say Larry Craig,” Washington’s legendary quarterback Sammy Baugh said some 20 years after he retired. “We could never handle him consistently. We tried to keep our best blocker on him, but he still rushed me harder than anyone I ever played against.”
The Packers selected Craig in the sixth round of the 1939 NFL draft. Lambeau drafted him on the recommendation of Rex Enright, a fullback with the Packers from 1926 to 1927 and Craig’s head coach his senior year at South Carolina.
In his 121-game career with the Packers, Craig started in 84, including 60 at quarterback. He also was listed as a starter at end in 23 games. Again, the value of his versatility – the ability to play on the line on defense and in the backfield on offense – can’t be overstated. “Don (Hutson) lasted 11 years, but I don’t think he would have survived more than a couple if the Packers had not latched on to Larry Craig,” Cecil Isbell, the prolific Packers passer of the Hutson era, told Arthur Daley of The New York Times in 1961. Daley added that by the time Craig arrived “every team ran Hutson’s end with impunity.”
Craig retired following the 1949 season.
Born June 27, 1916, in Six Mile, S.C. Given name Lawrence Gantt Craig. Died May 31, 1992, at age 75.
- By Cliff Christl