Skip to main content

Letters To Lee Remmel


Lee, hopefully you can solve a Packers career leader mystery. I know that Reggie White is the team's all-time sack leader with 68.5 sacks, followed by Tim Harris with 55. Ezra Johnson ranks third with 41.5, but he had 20.5 in 1978, before sacks were "officially" recognized by the league in 1982. Is there any way of determining whether Ezra had six or more sacks in the five seasons from 1977 through 1981? Is he the true, albeit unofficial, Packers career sack leader? Thanks for your help. - James (Overland Park, KS)

Ezra Johnson twice was unofficially credited with six or more sacks during the 5-year period you inquired about, six in 1979 and nine in 1980. His "unofficial" totals in the other three years during that span were 3.5 in 1977 and 4.5 in 1981, in addition to the 20.5 in 1978 that you mentioned in your question. Overall, Johnson's career sack total -- combining official and unofficial statistics -- was 85. (The NFL adopted the sack as an official statistical category in 1982).

There are, unfortunately, no definitive statistics available to designate the Packers' all-time sack leader, official or unofficial. But it appears that the honor belongs to Willie Davis, the premier defensive end in team history.

John Turney, a member of the Professional Football Researchers' Association, and a painstaking, highly respected researcher/statistician, reports that his extensive research indicates Davis had in excess of 100 sacks during his 10-year Green Bay career (1960-69), "possibly more than 120," including a minimum of 40 over the 1963-65 seasons alone.

Willie himself, speaking from his Los Angeles office this week, says, "I would think I would have to be the team's all-time leader in sacks. I played 10 years and I averaged in the 'teens' in sacks for those 10 years. I had 25 one season. (Paul) Hornung just reminded me of that the other day."

Growing up in Manitowoc, Wis., I have of course been following the Packers all my life. A new acquaintance, originally from the Chicago area, told me she had three uncles that played for Green Bay, and may have even been on the original team. Their names are Zoll, and I believe two of them were brothers. Do you have any information on them? - Tom (Adrian, MI)

Your acquaintance's information is essentially accurate. There, indeed, were three Zolls who played for the Packers -- Carl, Martin and Richard, who were brothers. Only Carl and Martin, however, played for the original Packers team in 1919. Richard, who was considerably younger than the other two, did not wear a Green Bay uniform until 1939, when he played in one game, joining the Packers after playing for the then Cleveland Rams (now based in St. Louis) in 1937 and 1938 following his graduation from the University of Indiana.

Carl, who also had success as a wrestler, having held the state championship at one point during his grappling period, had the longest football career of the trio, playing in four seasons (1919-22) and Martin in three (1919-21), all with the Packers.

Richard, following his eventual retirement from the work-day world, worked as an assistant in the Packers' equipment department for several years. He also fathered two sons, Rick and Robert, who played varsity football at his alma mater, the University of Indiana.

Lee, Much is made of the Wonderlic Test. What is the highest score you can make? And who would you say has held the highest academic degree of all of the Green Bay Packers? Willie Davis has always impressed me with his business success! Have there ever been any PhDs or other outstanding professionals, off the field, who have played for the Packers? - David (Sheboygan, WI)

The highest possible Wonderlic score is 50. Pat McInally, a wide receiver/punter and a Harvard alumnus who played for the Cincinnati Bengals for nine seasons (1977-85), reportedly is the only player who has ever posted a "perfect" score.

Packers punter Travis Dorsch, signed as a free agent last January, currently shares the highest Wonderlic score in Packers history, 42, a score also recorded by kicker Travis Brawner, a free agent from Southwest Missouri, who was waived after spending one mini-camp in green and gold in 2000.

Center Mike Flanagan holds the highest such score among the team's returning veterans, 35. Free safety Scott Frost, who spent the latter part of the 2001 season on inactive status and the entire 2002 season on injured reserve, and thus did not play in a league game for the Packers, owns the third-highest Wonderlic score in Packers annals, 40.

Quarterback Anthony Dilweg (1989-90) and linebacker Chris Gizzi (2000-01) both posted a 36 score, the highest such reading by anyone who has played in a regular season game for Green Bay.

Unfortunately, the organization has no records concerning the highest academic degree (degrees) in Packers history, but Willie Davis, whom you mentioned, does possess a master's degree in business from the University of Chicago.

Mr. Remmel, what do you think caused a larger turnaround in the Packers organization, Vince Lombardi, or the arrival of Brett Favre, Ron Wolf, Reggie White and Mike Holmgren in the early '90s? - Zach (Phoenix, AZ)

You may feel I'm sidestepping the issue but I believe there are two "answers" to this question. I would say that, beyond doubt, Lombardi had the greater initial impact upon the Packers organization, particularly considering the team's low estate when he took over in 1959, following the worst record in club history (1-10-1) in 1958.

But that impact essentially ended when he stepped down as head coach in 1968, as illustrated by the fact that the Packers had losing seasons in three of the four years immediately following Lombardi's decision to leave the Lambeau Field sideline, so there was no "carryover."

The Ron Wolf legacy, in contrast, continues, even though he departed following the 2001 season. The Packers have been the most successful team in the National Football League over the past 12 years (Wolf arrived upon the Green Bay scene late in the 1991 season) including eleven with winning records and a lone, 8-8 "break even" season under Ray Rhodes in 1999. En route, they have become the standard of excellence for the NFL as a whole.

The key here, of course, is that Mike Sherman, like predecessor Mike Holmgren, a Wolf hire, has continued the pattern of success, leading the Packers to four consecutive winning seasons while becoming the first head coach in team annals to post 40 or more victories in his first four years at the controls, a performance which suggests there is more success to come.

Terrible Packers draft choices have been reviewed and posted by fans, writers and experts alike in the past few months. However, I have not read anything about a No. 1 draft choice out of San Diego State -- quarterback Don Horn. What happened to the first Bart Starr draft replacement? I can not recall Don Horn ever being injured or even playing in a regular season game for the Packers. - Bill (Butler, PA)

Don Horn, the Packers' second selection in the first round of the 1967 NFL draft (the 25th player overall), actually played in 20 games for Green Bay over four seasons (1967-70), including a high of nine in 1969.

Curiously, despite his relatively modest career in green and gold, he holds a major distinction in Packers history. He posted the first 400-yard passing game in team annals (there have only been three), throwing for 410 yards in a 45-28 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Lambeau Field, Dec. 21, 1969.

Horn subsequently was traded to the Denver Broncos on draft day in 1971, the Packers receiving in return defensive end Alden Roche and the right to move up to Denver's position in the first round. GM/Head Coach Dan Devine used the latter to take fullback John Brockington of Ohio State, who became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons and remains the third-ranking rusher in Packers annals (5,024 yards).

Hello Mr. Remmel. I used to live in Green Bay and eagerly read your articles for the Press-Gazette when I was a kid. I first became interested in following Packer games in 1971 and have been a voracious fan ever since. I was just wondering about the Packers QBs of the past. I read Cecil Isbell and Bob Monnett played only five or six seasons in the league. They had stellar careers, albeit short, but then decided to retire. Why so early? I'm sure they could've easily made the Hall of Fame if they stayed another five years. (The Packers maybe could've won at least another championship as well.) Hope you can explain. Thanks. - Jeffrey (San Antonio, TX)

I would agree with your evaluation of Cecil Isbell's potential for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, had he "stayed another five years." He appeared on his way, having been accorded all-pro recognition in each of the five seasons he played (1938-42) and Pro Bowl honors in four of the five while leading the NFL in touchdown passes in both 1941 and 1942, his last two seasons.

I think there is a different situation with Bobby Monnett. Although Bobby had six productive seasons in a Green Bay uniform, he was not accorded either all-pro or Pro Bowl honors during his playing career, so it is doubtful -- on that basis -- that five additional seasons would have taken him to the Hall of Fame.

With reference to their "short" careers, Isbell, then at the top of his game, retired following the 1942 season because his wife reportedly wanted him to coach because she had personal ties at Cecil's alma mater, Purdue, and, accordingly, he called it a career following the '42 season and returned to West Lafayette, Ind., to become head coach of the Boilermakers.

I have no specific information on why Monnett retired after six seasons, but one thing to keep in mind in connection with the length of playing careers at that time in pro football history, salaries were exceedingly modest then compared to the multi-million-dollar contracts of today, so there was considerably less incentive to continue in the game.

Mr. Remmel, I have a question concerning retired jersey numbers. I understand that the NFL discourages any further "numbers" being retired, but that Reggie White's "jersey" has been retired since 1999. Can you comment as to why Paul Hornung's number or jersey has not been retired? It seems doubtful that it will be worn in the future. Do you think Hornung should be considered for this honor? - Dave (Des Moines, IA)

The specific jersey involved in the ceremony honoring Reggie White, conducted at halftime of a game against Tampa Bay in Lambeau Field, Oct. 10, 1999, was indeed retired but -- an important distinction, the number was not. There have been only four Packers jersey numbers officially retired -- those of Don Hutson (14), Tony Canadeo (3), Ray Nitschke (66) and Bart Starr (15) -- and Packers Corporation policy currently prohibits retiring any additional numbers.

With respect to whether or not Hornung should be considered for the honor, I think a valid case could be made for retiring Paul's No. 5, based on the fact that he led the NFL in scoring three consecutive seasons (1959-60-61) and still holds the league single-season scoring record (176 points in 1960, a 14-game season); plus he remains the fourth-ranking scorer in team history, holds the club record for most points scored in a single game, 33, against the Baltimore Colts in 1961, and is the only player in the team's 84-year-old NFL history to have scored five touchdowns in a single game (against the Colts in 1965). But, it should be noted, there are others who also would qualify, notably Forrest Gregg, a nine-time Pro Bowl and eight-time all-pro selection, and Willie Wood, an eight-time Pro Bowler.

At one time there was an erroneous presumption that Hornung's number had been retired, a presumption that may still exist in certain quarters. It stemmed from a comment Vince Lombardi made during the Packers' then annual outing for the state's sports media at Oneida Golf and Riding Club in July of 1967. He announced, during a press conference, that "as long as I am with the Packers, Paul Hornung's number will never be reissued."

Lombardi, however, was to remain in Green Bay only another 20 months before accepting an offer to become vice president, general manager and head coach of the Washington Redskins in February of 1969.

The subject had arisen because, earlier in 1967, Lombardi had placed Hornung's name in the expansion draft for the New Orleans Saints, who were entering the NFL as an expansion team, and Hornung subsequently had decided to retire.

Years ago I visited the Packers Hall of Fame and two artifacts held my attention, and stick in my mind to this day. One was a leather belt with a chain and wrist cuff that was used to hold down the arm of one of our offensive linemen who had a bad shoulder. The other was a large wood splinter that was removed from one of our guys' abdomen. He had been involved in a timber cutting accident when young, and the splinter was lodged inside him for many years, until a hit caused the splinter to do some internal damage. I did not see these two artifacts in the new Hall. Are they there? Who were the players? What are the real stories? - Wayne (Laurel, MS)

The "leather belt with a chain and wrist cuff" you asked about belonged to tailback Cecil Isbell (1938-42) who wore the device as an "anchor" for his left shoulder, which had a strong tendency to pop out of joint if not under restraint. He thus wore the contraption in every game he played.

The other player you inquired about was offensive guard Jerry Kramer, who was stabbed almost completely through his body by a jagged, broken board in an accident on the family acres in Sand Point, Idaho, when he was a teenager. Jerry was pursuing a runaway calf and grabbing for its tail when the animal stepped on a board and snapped it into two pieces, one of which shot into the air and became imbedded in Jerry's groin.

Jerry was able to pull out that splinter, but others remained in his intestine and did not manifest themselves until years later when, while with the Packers, he began having severe pains in his stomach and simultaneously losing weight. Eventually, during the debilitating course of eight operations, three substantial splinters were discovered and removed before Jerry was on the way to recovery and, ultimately, a return to the playing field midway through the 1965 season after missing all but the opening game of the 1964 season and the first half of the '65 campaign.

I know Mr. T (Laurence Tureaud) had a very brief career with the Packers several years ago, but I had heard that Alan Autry of the TV series "In the Heat of the Night" had a very brief stint as a quarterback in the Green and Gold. Is this true? - Paul (Raleigh, NC)

Yes, it is true. Alan Autry, who was going by the name of Carlos Brown when he was drafted by the Packers in 1975, had a two-year career with the Green and Gold. A 12th round selection out of the University of Pacific, he made three starts at quarterback in 1976, stepping in for the injured Lynn Dickey, who had suffered a season-ending shoulder separation in a Week 10 (November 14) game against the Chicago Bears.

Carlos, or Alan (he is listed as Carlos Allen Brown in the NFL "bible," Total Football) left the game following the '76 season and turned to acting as a career.

I've been a life long Green Bay Packers fan having grown up in Green Bay during the 50's and 60's, delivering papers to Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr and attending all the games in Lambeau Field from the first game until I moved away. Way back (30-40 years ago) there was a TV show that showed the history of the Green Bay Packers from the early days until the present. It included scenes of downtown Green Bay from that era. I don't know who produced it, NFL films, ABC or who, but it would sure be great if somehow I could get a copy. Do you remember such a film and if it would be available? Thanks. - Ken (Idyllwild, CA)

The film you have reference to is: "The Grandstand Franchise," produced in 1983 by Wisconsin Public Radio under the direction of Larry Long. A 58-minute production, the film is not for sale commercially. It may be possible, however, to acquire a copy of it. Please contact me for further information.

Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former *Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for as part of his new assignment.

In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here. *

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content