Height: 6-0; Weight: 199
College: Wisconsin, 1928-30
- Selected to an all-pro first team: 1936
- Packers All-Iron Man Era Team: 1976
Although overshadowed by legendary Don Hutson during the latter part of his career, Gantenbein still played a pivotal role on three of the Packers’ NFL championship teams. As a two-way player during pro football’s Iron Man era, Gantenbein was regarded by some insiders as the finest defensive end in the game and maybe the best blocking end, as well.
Because of his contrasting build and talents, Gantenbein was an ideal complement to the 6-foot-1, 183-pound Hutson, who was undersized but stood out as a receiver. “Box-like” was how one sports writer of Gantenbein’s era described his physique. Pro Football Hall of Fame fullback Clarke Hinkle called Gantenbein “the best blocking end who ever lived.”
For three straight years from 1936 to 1938, Gantenbein was named second team on the official NFL all-pro team, while Hutson was a first-team choice in 1936 and ’38 and a second-team pick in ’37.
Gantenbein caught short touchdown passes in both the 1936 and ’39 NFL championship games when the Packers won their fourth and fifth titles under Curly Lambeau, and he also made a healthy contribution when they won it all in 1931 based on their league record. One of the highlights of Gantenbein’s career was wiping out Carl Brumbaugh, the last would-be tackler, on Mike Michalske’s 80-yard interception return for a touchdown in a crucial 6-2 victory over the Chicago Bears on Nov. 1, 1931.
Later that year, after the Packers played three games in a week on an eastern swing where they clinched their third straight title, Lambeau offered high praise of Gantenbein and fellow rookie Hank Bruder. “Every man played great ball, but the fine work of Bruder and Gantenbein throughout the trip is additional proof they’ll be stars for years to come,” Lambeau said during a train stop in Milwaukee en route home.
Over his 10-year career, Gantenbein caught 77 passes for 1,299 yards and a 16.8 average, although statistics weren’t officially kept until his second season. A cool-headed, quick-thinking player, he also served as the Packers’ captain from 1937 to 1940.
“He was kind of a rock,” said fellow end Bernie Scherer. “He was always steady and available. He was only about 5-10, but he was real sturdy. He was hard to handle from a defensive point of view, and he could catch passes pretty good for a short guy.”
The Packers received Gantenbein’s signed contract on July 16, 1931. Four months earlier, it was reported in Madison, home of the University of Wisconsin, that Gantenbein had decided to play for the Packers. While Lambeau made a strong pitch for him, believing he was cut in the same mold as perennial all-pro end Lavvie Dilweg, Gantenbein wasn’t certain he wanted to play pro football and was slow to actually sign.
Although born in a small town in northeast Iowa, Gantenbein was a product of La Crosse Central High School and said he had no desire to play with any team other than the Packers. There was no NFL draft at the time and Gantenbein was free to sign with anyone.
Gantenbein played in 103 games for the Packers and started 70, all at end. He retired before the 1941 season to become end coach at Manhattan College.
Born May 31, 1909, in New Albin, Ia. Given name Milton Edward Gantenbein. Died Dec. 18, 1988, at age 79.
-- By Cliff Christl