Fred Cone, one of the most popular of the Green Bay Packers during the lean seasons of the 1950s, died early Friday morning, Dec. 31, in a hospital not far from the Clemson University campus, where his name is enshrined in the ring of honor at Memorial Stadium.
Cone, 95, was the oldest living former Packer. He doubled as a fullback and kicker for the Packers from 1951-57, and he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1974. Cone died of complications from a broken hip in a hospital in Seneca, S.C., near his home in Pickens.
At 5-foot-11 and 199 pounds, Cone was a stocky, pile-driving fullback and straight-on placekicker who scored 455 points in his seven seasons with the Packers and ranked second to Don Hutson on their all-time scoring list when he retired following the 1957 season.
Cone also holds the distinction of kicking the Packers' first-ever extra point and field goal at what is now Lambeau Field. He kicked the extra point in the dedication game for what was then Green Bay City Stadium, played on Sept. 29, 1957, and which resulted in a 21-17 victory over the Chicago Bears. Cone also kicked the Packers' first field goal there from 39 yards out in the third and final home game of that season.
The Packers selected Cone in the third round of the 1951 NFL Draft. He was 24 years old at the time, having served three years in the Army during World War II before enrolling at Clemson in 1947. In all, Cone played in 82 games with the Packers.
He once said the biggest field goal of his career was his 25-yard game-winner with 24 seconds to play against the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 16, 1955. It gave the Packers a 30-28 victory and also saved them from what would have been a deflating loss after they had blown a 24-7 lead. In 1955, Cone's 16 field goals led the NFL.
During his first three seasons with the Packers, Cone also started at fullback. He lost his starting job to Howie Ferguson in 1954 but played a bigger role again in 1956, when Ferguson was hobbled by injuries and alternated between fullback and halfback late in the year. Cone's most productive game as a fullback came on Dec. 2, 1956, against the Chicago Cardinals when he rushed for 92 yards on 12 attempts in a 24-21 victory.
"He was primarily a kicker," former teammate and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Dillon once said. "He played fullback some, but his most important thing was his kicking. He wasn't speedy and he wasn't that big, but he didn't fumble and was a good pass-protection blocker."
In other words, Cone fit the mold of an old-school fullback.
"He was a straight-ahead runner," former halfback and fellow Packers Hall of Famer Al Carmichael once said. "Howard Ferguson was another one. Once they got in track, they wouldn't deviate. They'd run over you. Pretty strong runners."
Cone married the former Judy Anderson, a graduate of Green Bay East High School, and the two resided in the city during the offseason when few other Packers did. That played a part in Cone becoming a fan favorite.
So did his outgoing personality and how he, in turn, embraced the people of Green Bay.
"It was wonderful. Believe it or not even with the conditions," Cone once said of playing in Green Bay in the 1950s. "The equipment and everything we had was outdated. The jerseys were torn. You bought your own shoes. The team wasn't very good. But there wasn't a guy on the whole squad who wouldn't have played for room and board, which we practically did. In spite of that, we loved it. The people were so nice to all the players. They were great sports fans.
"When we'd come back on the train from Milwaukee there'd be so many cars at the station, you could hardly find your car. They would hardly let you get off the train, whether we won or lost. Later, we started flying and we'd come back to Austin Straubel Field and you could look out the plane and see all the cars lined all the way from downtown to the airport. That was the amazing thing about Green Bay. You felt embarrassed usually because you lost. But the fans were fantastic."
In 1960, Cone came out of retirement and kicked for the first-year Dallas Cowboys. The next year, former Clemson coach Frank Howard hired him as a recruiter, and Cone worked for the university for almost 30 years.
Funeral arrangements are pending. Among his survivors is Cone's wife of 67 years, Judy.