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Donny Anderson led Ice Bowl in touches, yardage

Lombardi to Anderson: "You became a man today"


Cliff Christl started gathering oral histories with former Packers and others associated with the team in 2000 and will continue to gather them as Packers historian. Excerpts from those interviews will be periodically posted at

The Packers selected halfback Donny Anderson in the first round of the 1965 NFL Draft. He was the seventh overall pick despite having a year of college eligibility remaining. At the time, Anderson was classified as a future and couldn't sign until after his senior season at Texas Tech. He also had a choice between signing with the Packers or the Houston Oilers of the American Football League. That was pre-merger and the two leagues, NFL and AFL, held separate drafts and usually entered into high-stakes bidding wars for the top players. Anderson signed with the Packers following the 1966 season for what was believed to be the richest contract in pro football history at the time. Fullback Jim Grabowski was the Packers' first pick and ninth overall selection in the 1966 draft, and together they signed for more than $1 million dollars and were dubbed, "The Gold Dust Twins." They also were considered heirs apparent to backfield stars Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor. Anderson played with the Packers from 1966 to 1971, doubling as a halfback and punter, and never missed a game. He rushed for 3,165 yards and caught 125 passes, averaging an impressive 13.8 yards per catch. The highlight of his career might have been the Ice Bowl when he touched the ball 30 times. In 1972, the Packers traded Anderson to the St. Louis Cardinals and he played three more seasons.

On signing with Green Bay, rather than Houston: "I thought the Packers and the NFL would be a better package for me. They were stronger at that time. The Packers were world champions. It was somewhat equivalent to the New York Yankees and I was a big baseball player."

On whether he was good enough in baseball to have that as another option: "The Mets offered me a pretty good contract when I was 21. $35,000 to sign."

On which pro football team offered the better contract: "Houston actually offered me more money. The Packers didn't have much to offer other than cash and some deferred money. If I can remember, I think Houston was like a little over $900,000. That was (owner) Bud Adams' offer. But there was a big house with 21 rooms, a mansion down in Houston, service stations and leases for like 20 years, stuff like that. There were lots of things that weren't cash. But the bonus money and salaries were quite a bit off. I think (Houston) offered me a five-year deal and never really got off that. Two thousand was the most I ever got as a raise. The salary was like $21,000 the first year and went up $2,000 each year. The Packers offered $35,000 and it went up $2,500 the first year and to $42,500 the third year. I signed a three-year contract. It was supposed to be the largest ever, but who knows? The number I've thrown out was $711,000 for a three-year contract. The bonus was $300,000. It just depended on how you looked at the number. Bobby Layne, the old legend who lived in Lubbock, told me, 'It's better to go for the money. Go for the money. Cash.' And it worked out that way."

On whether either team tried to goad him into secretly signing early: "Bud Adams did. The Packers were in the championship run, so (Vince) Lombardi pretty much let (personnel director) Pat Peppler do most of the negotiating. I signed right after the Gator Bowl on Dec. 31, 1965. I signed in the hotel and we had a press conference."

On what he knew about Lombardi: "I had met (Lombardi) before. I met him in Baltimore when (the Packers) played there in the fog (in 1965). I was drafted as a future, and they flew me up to Baltimore. It was when Hornung scored five touchdowns. It was before I signed. I went in the locker room and met a bunch of guys. That was coolest part of it. I was committed to playing in the best you could play in, which was the NFL at that time. And the Packers had that dynasty and Lombardi's history."

On whether Lombardi ever ribbed him or used his contract against him: "No. Never said a thing. He just brought Jim Grabowski and I in and said, 'You boys are on this team. Don't try to prove yourself. Just relax and learn the game.' We didn't know this, but Lombardi wasn't too keen on playing rookies."

On whether he felt pressure because of the contract: "I don't think so. I never thought about that."

On what made Lombardi successful: "He was quite a taskmaster. He was very difficult to please. But he treated everybody the same. As Henry Jordan always said, 'He treated us all the same – like dogs.' He didn't have any tolerance for mental mistakes. He had a little bit of tolerance for physical mistakes. He was into that perfect world theme. He pushed and pushed and pushed, and intimidated and intimidated until you got to where he thought you could be a player. He raised the expectations of every player."

On how he did it:"He just kept the pressure on."

So players just feared his temper? "Well, if he picked (you) – I was one of his chosen people – I had to be good. There was no if about it. He never let up."

On how that translated into team success: "He was great at teaching people discipline. He imposed that on us: You can't make mistakes. (And) I just recall not making mistakes. In today's football, good teams don't make a lot of mistakes. The ones who get in the playoffs execute. We had one penalty in Super Bowl (II)."

What was Lombardi time? Fifteen minutes? Ten minutes? "Five (minutes). If it was getting on a bus to go to Milwaukee, probably 10 minutes early. When he got on that bus or airplane or whatever, if you weren't there, you got left behind. The (players') saying was, 'Lombardi was five minutes ahead of God's time.'"

On Lombardi's rules:"I've told my son and daughter, Lombardi taught me, 'The more rules you have, the more you're going to violate them.' He had very few rules. But you understood what those meant to the team and yourself."

On his own Ice Bowl performance: "I think Lombardi gave me two compliments in 50 some games under his reign. That was one of them. After everybody had kind of gone away, he came over and hugged my neck and told me, I had become a man today. He knew I had played a big game under the conditions and had made some key plays in the drive."

On how the exchange came about: "It took about four seconds. I was standing up taking my uniform off. He just did his normal thing: Pat you on the back of the neck and said, 'You became a man today.' Then he walked off."

On how it made him feel: "I carried that through the next seven years of my football career. I knew I could play. There's something about giving someone a compliment in the time of battle. A lot of old coaches weren't very good at that, especially military people, because it was expected. Vince was at West Point for a long time. He had a lot of General MacArthur in him, that type of attitude that you're just supposed to go out there and do your job."

On his 30 touches in the Ice Bowl, 13 more than any other player except for the quarterbacks: "It was terrible. Punting, I don't know if I averaged 30 yards. (Thirty-five) yards, 18 carries. Pass receptions, I probably averaged more than 10 yards. When I went out to start punting, Lombardi came over and said, 'You're going to have a rough day today.' That was true. It was like kicking a brick. And I was a little bit unfortunate in that it seemed when I did punt, it was against the wind. I think it was six out of eight times. But you don't think about it."

On his game-high 79 yards rushing and receiving:  "When you look back on things, we probably should have had different cleats on. We had those silver-tipped, short cleats. Tennis shoes or what they have today, the rubber-soled ones, probably would have given us a little better traction."

On his three receptions for 27 yards during the game-winning drive: "Bart (Starr) was such a general and unbelievable leader on the field, you didn't question him, you didn't talk in the huddle. I was always on the weak side so I noticed (linebacker) Chuck Howley, when both backs were staying in for max protection, was dropping back in the weak-side zone. So I told Bart outside the huddle, 'There's nobody over here, so if you get in trouble, I'm here.' The problem was Carroll Dale, Boyd (Dowler) and Marv Fleming were trying to run turn-ins and we were in maximum protection. So they were running against man-to-man and it was really difficult to get separation. And Howley was going back in the hook zone on Boyd, and that left me wide open. They did the same thing on Chuck's side. Chuck (Mercein) had Dave Edwards on his side."

On first-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 30 seconds remaining: "I actually scored. I'm not sore about it. (Dallas cornerback) Cornell Green said, 'He scored. He scored.' I was halfway across the goal line. But I'll never forget the official took the ball and put it (less than a yard) from the goal line. He had no clue where my knees were or anything else. But I've always felt: I scored, the Cowboys knew I scored and I think Lombardi said, 'They took one away from you, young man.'"

On second-and-one with 20 seconds left: "The next one I had no traction."

On whether he was a true fit for Lombardi's offense and the power sweep, a play where the halfback was the ball carrier: "The one thing that probably hurt me under Lombardi's system wasn't the sweep. That was an absolutely great play. But I was never in the I-formation. When you're running from the I, you see so much more than when you're running across or straight ahead on a dive. But Lombardi's football was hard-nosed and that's how he won and knew how to win. Great defense and don't make mistakes on offense. That's how simple it was. So did it hurt my career not being in the I or not being in a double wing? Yeah, because that was my biggest threat: Catching the ball. But I also have two Super Bowl rings. So I certainly can't complain."

On whether Lombardi ever told him they were thinking of moving him to wide receiver: "Before he retired, he had made a statement that was in some sport magazine that I could play a number of positions. I could play running back. I could play wide receiver. I was a punter. So he had some thoughts that maybe he'd put me out at wide receiver. I was kind of a mix between a running back and a wide receiver, and just ended up becoming a running back and never got to play wide receiver."

On his first backfield coach, Red Cochran: "I loved Red. He made the great quote before he passed away about how he tried to teach me how to block and wasn't very successful. He said one time to a group of guys at the Packer Hall of Fame golf outing that I should have played golf because I was lot better golfer than football player. I loved that stuff. He was so cool."

On veteran halfbacks Elijah Pitts and Paul Hornung, who were ahead of him on the depth chart his rookie year: "Elijah was very smart. Hornung was very good to me. He knew he wasn't going to play, but he'd tell me, 'This is what you need to do,' and show me how to do it. Elijah was really good about it, too. That's how you keep a dynasty going. Max McGee was good about it. Boyd. That was a big part of the Packers' dynasty. Guys chipped in to make you better."

On the 1968 season when Lombardi stepped down as coach: "He chewed on me when he was general manager. He'd be so lonesome and wanted to coach and couldn't give up. He'd just walk by and chew your (butt) out. Just walking through the locker room, he'd say, 'You ever going to learn to run that play?' That was his nature. He'd ask me, 'You ever going to learn how to run red right 47?'"

On Phil Bengtson, Lombardi's successor as coach: "Phil was much more quiet than Lombardi. Lombardi was a motivator. If somebody had talent, he knew how to get it out of them. Lombardi was unusual in that he was a motivator with a carrot who could get the mule to move and also with the whip. He used both techniques."

On whether Lombardi ever interfered with Bengtson: "He never came down to the practice field. He didn't want Phil to be intimidated by that. But he'd watch the films and get mad because players weren't doing what they were supposed to do. I'm sure he chewed out more people than just me."

On Dan Devine, his coach his last season in Green Bay: "Probably the nicest way to say it is that he was outclassed. He really didn't know a lot of football. He tried to imply that he did and he didn't. So he couldn't fool the players. Players know if a coach knows anything or not, and he didn't. He built a little bit around Bart Starr, but he had a very poor relationship with players and a lack of trust because he broke the cardinal rule. The cardinal rule is pretty simple: Don't talk to the press about your players and how bad they are. If you're going to brag that's one thing, but don't run them down."

On why he thought Devine traded him: "Personal things, I guess. He just didn't like me. I wasn't the kind of player that he liked. He wanted a power runner. That's why he traded for MacArthur Lane. Mac was a power back. As I referenced earlier, I was an in-between running back with speed. And I made a smart (aleck) remark over in the Philippines that didn't help. I was on a USO tour in January, February of '72 and somebody said, 'Who you all going to draft in the first round?' I said, 'I don't know. We don't get involved and they don't ask what we think. But I think they'll be looking for a new coach.' I was traded about a month later. But I didn't care because Devine was such a poor excuse for a human being. He wasn't going to take blame for anything. It was always somebody else's fault. When you start that, you're not going to hang around very long. That's why I say he was probably out of his element."

On never missing a game with the Packers, or in his nine NFL seasons: "Those old trainers had a way of getting you ready. I had a hip-pointer one time coming back from California and I thought no way am I going to play in the next game. I went in and Bud (Jorgensen) said, 'No, I think you're going to play.' I said, 'You gotta be kidding, I can't raise my leg.' He said, 'No, we'll get you ready.' I ended up playing. What they did was roll my stomach muscles as far up as possible and taped them. Never took a shot or anything. Another time I pulled a hamstring. They did the same thing. They just pulled that muscle up into my buttocks. Another time I got hit in Dallas in the ribcage. Cracked some ribs, broke some ribs on both sides. That was when you had those very light flak jackets. So I went in and told Domenic (Gentile), 'I don't know if I can play. I can't get out of bed.' He said, 'Well, let's work on it and see what happens.' So he took some fiberglass and molded it around my ribs, then taped it around my waist. Then he said, 'Let me test it.' We were playing Minnesota the next week. He said, 'Raise your arms up.' Then he took a baseball bat and hit right on top of it. I didn't feel a thing. He says, 'I think you can play.' I was so scared the first time they called my play. I went off tackle, saw the safety coming and he hit me right on that pad. I never felt a thing."**

Anderson, 74, lives in Dallas, Texas. The excerpts above were taken from interviews conducted in 2006, 2009 and this year.

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