Alden Roche, a rugged but unsung defensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers during the 1970s, died earlier this week. Roche, 77, had been living in Marrero, La., which is located in metropolitan New Orleans.
The Packers acquired Roche in a draft-day trade in 1971. Additionally, they swapped first-round picks with Denver, moving up four spots, in exchange for fourth-year quarterback Don Horn. The Packers, in turn, used the ninth overall choice from the Broncos to select fullback John Brockington.
Mostly because of Brockington but also because Roche turned out to be a pillar of strength on defenses that ranked in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed three times in six years, it turned out to be one of the Packers' best trades during the 22-year stretch between the departure of Vince Lombardi and the arrival of Ron Wolf as general managers.
"Lou Saban (head coach and general manager of the Broncos at the time) did us a favor," said then Packers player personnel director Pat Peppler, who negotiated the deal along with recently hired coach and GM Dan Devine. "Saban was an honest guy. He told the truth about Roche. Also, we were afraid the Bears were going to grab (Brockington). (Saban) liked (Roche). He just said he had other people."
The Broncos had drafted Roche in the second round in 1970, but he played sparingly as a backup and his path to more playing time was blocked by defensive end Rich Jackson and defensive tackle Paul Smith, both of whom are in the Broncos' Ring of Fame.
With the Packers, Roche replaced veteran Lionel Aldridge as the starting right defensive end at midseason his first year and held the job through 1976, before playing two more years with Seattle. Roche was both durable and versatile. He missed only one game in his six seasons in Green Bay and could also capably fill in at defensive tackle if needed. Although Roche's strength was playing the run, he was credited with 8½ sacks and shared the team lead in 1976, before sacks were recorded as an official NFL statistic.
In 1972, when the Packers won their only division title between 1967 and 1995, they finished second in the NFL in team defense. They ranked sixth in 1974 and 10th in 1973.
"Roche is the type of guy you'll have to beat," Dave Hanner, defensive coordinator during those years, said of Roche's contribution. "He never beats himself. He gives such a great effort and that's the name of the game."