Former Packers Dave Robinson and Willie Davis
To commemorate Black History Month, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame held a panel discussion Thursday night broaching issues surrounding African-American players and their contributions to the league, the community and beyond.
Director of player development Rob Davis, former defensive end Willie Davis, defensive end Cullen Jenkins, former linebacker Dave Robinson, and assistant director of pro personnel Tim Terry participated in the discussion, which included an open dialogue of personal experiences and life lessons.
Throughout the discussion, panelists recalled stories from their formative years to show how they've been so successful. If the panel had one thing in common, it's the belief that perseverance pays off in the end.
"I saw a lot," Willie Davis said. "Sometimes you'd kind of grit your teeth and say, 'One day. One day this thing will probably be different.'"
In 1964, in the middle of Davis' playing career, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, declaring discrimination based on race illegal. It wasn't easy, but Davis and Robinson were firsthand witnesses of the drastic change taking place throughout the nation and, on a smaller scale, the NFL. Rob Davis especially appreciated the contributions of his predecessors.
"You hear about the history of what some of the players that came before us went through," Davis said. "But to hear it firsthand is touching. In 2008, our players don't face these issues. All those guys being flashed on ESPN today owe a great deal of gratitude to these two guys standing beside me."
One of the recurring themes from the Lombardi era players was how the legendary coach didn't care about race. He continually pushed his players to greatness, something that united them perhaps more than any other team in the period.
"It's not if you're from Texas, Alabama, or Kentucky," Robinson said. "It's what's in your heart. And I knew that these guys were truly my teammates. They were like family members."