John Martinkovic was a stout run defender with enough moxie and moves as a pass rusher to have been selected for three straight Pro Bowls during the early 1950s, one of the leanest periods in Packers history. During Martinkovic’s six seasons, the only other Packers named to as many Pro Bowls were end Billy Howton and linebacker Roger Zatkoff. They also were named to three each during a stretch where the Packers never compiled a winning record.
The Packers played mostly a five-man front as their base defense during Martinkovic’s years in Green Bay and he said he played mostly left end, but also some defensive tackle and even some offense when certain players were still being asked to fill in on both sides of the ball.
Martinkovic’s best season might have been 1952 when he scored defensive touchdowns in back-to-back games. On Nov. 2, he scooped up a blocked punt and scored the winning touchdown in a 12-10 victory over Philadelphia, and the next week he chased a loose ball into the end zone after a blocked field goal and fell on it for a touchdown in a 41-28 victory over the Chicago Bears.
“He was a very good defensive end,” said former teammate and four-time Pro Bowl safety Bobby Dillon. “He probably was more of a run guy than a pass rusher. He was a big, strong guy. He didn’t miss assignments. He was just a good player.”
Drafted by Washington in the sixth round in 1951, Martinkovic was acquired by the Packers in a conditional trade. The deal was announced on Sept. 6 of that year, but not recorded in the NFL office until Sept. 17. In return, Washington received offensive end Ted Cook, a four-year veteran who had announced his retirement in late July.
Martinkovic didn’t miss a game in six seasons with the Packers, playing in 72 in all. On Sept. 19, 1957, the Packers announced they had traded him to the defending NFL champion New York Giants in exchange for what turned out to be a third-round draft pick. The Packers used the choice to select future Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke in the 1958 draft.
Having purchased a home in Green Bay and also having worked as a car salesman during the offseason while playing for the Packers, Martinkovic spent one season with the Giants before returning to Green Bay and making it his permanent home.
Born Feb. 4, 1927, in Hamilton, Ohio. Given name John George Martinkovic. Died Feb. 8, 2018, at age 91.
Defensive End: 1951-56
Height: 6-3; Weight: 241
College: Xavier (Ohio), 1948-50
Pro Bowl Selection (game played since 1950): 1953, ’54, ’55