Hutson Jersey To Preserve Family's Legacy

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When Daniel Flagstad combed through a trunk of old uniforms during Packers training camp in 1946, it became an excavation into football's annals.

Flagstad stopped digging when he unearthed the navy blue jersey with yellow on the shoulders of Packers great Don Hutson.

"I came across [number] 14, and I didn't go any farther," Flagstad said. "I knew 14 was something very, very special."

Flagstad donated that jersey to the Packers Hall of Fame on Friday. The Hall of Fame will prominently display the jersey in honor of his parents, Melvin and Helen Flagstad, former operators of Rockwood Lodge, the Packers' summer training camp from 1946 to 1949.

"This is so emotional to me," Flagstad, 68, said. "Anything in memory of my parents is very, very important."

Because of his family's involvement, Daniel spent a great deal of time with the team. During that summer of 1946, he helped out the equipment staff with various chores, and Packers equipment manager Tim O'Brien invited him to peruse the trunk as a thank you.

"It was a fascinating area for me," he said. "It was a joy to be a kid at that time."

Three or four years ago, Flagstad began discussing with his family what to do with the jersey. He thought the public should be able to view such an artifact. Observing the rich Packers history during an impromptu family trip to the Packers Hall of Fame three weeks ago confirmed the family's beliefs.

"All the things here, the stadium, the practice field, the blocking dummies, the rolls of tape," said Tim, Daniel's oldest son. "Those all belong to Packers fans everywhere. All these things are not owned by an individual. They're owned by the community … It doesn't deserve to be in an office or someone's private home."

Credited with inventing pass patterns, Don Huston led the league in receptions eight times. Nearly 60 years after his retirement, he still holds 10 NFL records. Recognized as the NFL's most outstanding player in 1941 and 1942, his jersey was the first one retired by the Packers.

Packers President and CEO Bob Harlan described his emotion upon hearing of the donation.

"I was like a kid at Christmas," he said. "I was thrilled to death."

Every artifact in the Hall of Fame has been donated. Tom Murphy, the Hall of Fame's archivist, receives several phone calls a day from Packers fans, who believe they have a treasure worth contributing.

"Every once in a while you'll get a call from someone on an item which is extremely special," he said. "That's what this jersey is."

The Hall of Fame has temporarily placed the jersey behind a glass case that sits a top a golden stand in front of a photo mural of Rockwood Lodge near the museum's entrance.

Murphy said he soon will move the jersey to a more permanent place, and a plaque will read: "Donated by Daniel M. Flagstad Sr. in loving memory of his parents Melvin J. and Helen A. Flagstad."

The jersey has shrunk from when Hutson wore it -- probably his last season in 1945. Neither the 6-1, 183 Hutson or Dan could fit into it now. However, even behind the glass, the jersey glistens with a silky sheen.

Flagstad kept it buried in a cedar chest at the food of his bed in his Sheboygan Falls, Wis. home. He never displayed it but occasionally took it out to show family and friends.

As a child, he rarely wore the jersey, but his mother sometimes took photographs of him in it. His sons did wear it to school on a couple of occasions.

"It obviously didn't see much sunlight," Tim said.

Keeping or selling such an item would tempt any individual. Flagstad cited the jersey's appraised worth as $17,500.

"The memory of my mother and my father is more important than the money," Flagstad said.

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