Dan Orlich, 94, who was believed to be the oldest living former Green Bay Packers player and the last survivor of the Curly Lambeau era, died last Friday, Jan. 18, in Reno, Nev.
Orlich played for the Packers from 1949 to 1951. Selected in the eighth round of the 1949 NFL Draft, Orlich’s first season was Lambeau’s last as head coach of the Packers. Orlich played his final two seasons under Gene Ronzani.
Orlich, who stood 6-foot-5 and weighed 215 pounds, played defensive end in his final two seasons after the NFL adopted unlimited substitution. As a rookie, he played mostly defensive end, but also offensive end at times.
Although Orlich rented a room in Green Bay from a friend of an aunt, he said some of his fondest memories were hanging around the old Astor Hotel with his teammates.
“That used to be the hangout,” Orlich said in a 2002 interview. “There was a lot of beer drinking and carousing going on. I think that was typical of most teams back in those days. There was a nice room in the back. It was like a meeting room and all the guys would gather back there.
“That’s where all the guys and their gals went. Everybody kind of soothed their wounds and drank a lot of beer. It was just a fun time. Nothing bad went on back there. It was just a fun place to gather after the game, evenings when practice was over.”
Orlich also said he had mostly fond memories of Lambeau.
“I thought he was a neat guy,” said Orlich. “I thought he was a little behind the times. The T-formation was in, modern football was on its way in. He kind of clung to the old, old rough style. But I liked Curly.”
On the other hand, Orlich didn’t have much respect for Ronzani.
“I didn’t think a hell of a lot of him,” said Orlich. “He would get up and talk. He’d look at the floor, look at the ceiling, look at the windows. He wouldn’t look at you. I think he was very self-conscious.”
A native of Chisholm, Minn., and a product of the University of Nevada, Orlich didn’t miss a game in his three seasons with the Packers, playing in 36 in all.
In August 1951, the Packers traded Orlich to Cleveland on a look-see basis for rookie guard Walt Michaels. A month later, the Packers reacquired Orlich from the Browns in a five-player trade. They gave up the rights to defensive tackle Bob Gain, their No. 1 draft pick who had signed in Canada, and received four players in return.
Before the 1952 season, Orlich retired partly because he was unhappy playing for Ronzani.
In 1979, Orlich was inducted into the national Trapshooting Hall of Fame. From 1956 to 1971, he captured 37 major trophies at the Grand American World Trapshooting Championships.