His teammates called him "Mad Dog" because, at just 210 pounds, even after a big breakfast, undersized linebacker Mike Douglass played like he was protecting his territory.
That wild-eyed approach was necessary. Often to avoid the $50 per-pound fine for being underweight, he'd step on the scale with ankle weights below his sweatpants to reach the mandated 215.
Douglass played in Green Bay from 1978-85 and started 106 games, though he didn't exactly blend in with a linebacker corps full of thumpers. John Anderson was 230 pounds and Rich Wingo was similarly sized. George Cumby was bulkier.
Green Bay's defense was built for the NFC Central, then home of power football. Douglass stood up to the rigors with sinewy strength and tenaciousness instead of bulk. It's how he earned the nickname.
"First it was 'Bull Dog,' then 'Pit Bull' and finally 'Mad Dog' and that one never stopped," Douglass said recently, and the snarl has faded away.
"I was young and wild and aggressive. I had to be. Most linebackers were 230, 240 pounds, and here I was at 6-feet, 210 pounds and from San Diego State. They called it the 'Black and Blue Division' for a reason, and I think me playing that way helped."
The proof is in the production. With 967 tackles, Douglass closed his career as the club's third all-time leading tackler since the team started keeping records in 1975. He was also a playmaker, recovering 16 fumbles and returning two for touchdowns, intercepting 10 passes – including returning one for an 80-yard TD – and recording 19 sacks. With the 116th overall pick in the '78 NFL draft, Green Bay got a bargain in the two-time All-Pro.
"I studied as much as I could, learned down and distances and what to anticipate and played smart," Douglass said. "I learned teams will eventually start to do the same things in certain situations, and I was always in pursuit, so I ended up in position to make some big plays."
A fond memory for Douglass is playing the 49ers in 1981 at Milwaukee County Stadium, with Douglass as the team's only healthy linebacker. The Packers went with a 5-1-5 alignment for the entire contest, with Douglass alone in the middle and five defensive backs scattered behind him. Green Bay lost, 13-3, but it was an inspired effort against quarterback Joe Montana and the eventual Super Bowl champions.
"I had about 16 tackles, but no one knew how to stop that tight end," he said. "I took a bunch of shots right in my ear hole. It was fun playing that team."
Douglass was part of the Packers' era that was always on the verge of becoming a contender, but failed to make the leap. In his rookie season, Green Bay was 8-7-1 after winning six of the first seven. In four of his seasons, the Packers finished 8-8.
"We needed a little something to turn the corner, a few big-time players," Douglass said. "Back then we didn't spend a lot on free agents and it was hard to move. Plus, you didn't get a lot of people who wanted to come to Green Bay. Now players love to come there. But playing there is an experience I will never forget."
Douglass started every game he played for the Packers from 1979-85, before spending his final NFL season with the Chargers. He settled down after his playing career in San Diego and opened Alpine Fitness Club in '96, an 11,000-square-foot facility. Also on the property is "Mike's Place," a full-service restaurant where Douglass, a professional low-fat chef, does the cooking and created the menu. He honed his culinary skills while with the Packers.
"I made more money cooking for players than I did playing," he said. "If players would watch film while I was cooking they could eat for free. I've always been a cook. My mom was a cook and I've adapted her recipes for healthy living. So that's what I do every day, along with personal training."
Douglass is a personal training expert; he has won the "California Natural Bodybuilding Championship" six times and placed first in over 20 competitions.
"I do a lot of lectures in the school systems and to parents, so they understand what steroids are all about and that they don't need them," he said. "The most I ever weighed when I was playing was 205 pounds, and usually I played at 196. There's no reason to cheat, with the right attitude."
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