Undersized 'Mad Dog' Douglass never short on tenacity

Playmaking linebacker had athleticism to spare

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Former Packers LB Mike Douglass (#53)

Team historian Cliff Christl has been writing the official biographies of the members of the Packers Hall of Fame. Those bios will be posted periodically on packers.com.

Mike Douglass

  • Inducted: 2003
  • Linebacker: 1978-85
  • Height: 6-0; Weight: 220
  • College: San Diego State, 1976-77

Honors:

  • Years selected to an all-pro first team other than AP: 1982, '83

Even at his listed height and weight of 6-foot and 220 pounds, Mike Douglass would have debunked the NFL's size standards for an outside linebacker. But what makes his story all the more notable was that Douglass was even smaller than his program size. He stood closer to 5-10, played at 205 pounds and still flouted conventional wisdom.

That doesn't mean Douglass' lack of size wasn't a drawback at times as a pro, but he worked tirelessly to overcome what was his most obvious shortcoming. "Mike plays every down to the fullest," Herb Paterra, Packers linebackers coach during Douglass' last two seasons in Green Bay, once said. "He gives you 100 percent on every down."

Nicknamed "Mad Dog" for his tenacity on the field, Douglass also was a fitness fanatic at a time when year-round training had only recently become the norm in the NFL. He could bench press more than 400 pounds, run a sub 4.8 40-yard dash, and he even threw a football 73 yards in a team contest as a rookie to see who had the strongest arm on the Packers, excluding quarterbacks. "Mike Douglass was so athletic for his size," Dick Corrick, former Packers director of player personnel, said in 2004. "All he was was a playmaker."

Drafted in the fifth round in 1978, Douglass played extensively on special teams as a rookie, replaced starting left linebacker Gary Weaver on passing downs and then started the final three games after right linebacker John Anderson broke his arm. The next year, Douglass secured the starting job at right linebacker in a 4-3 defense and a year later held it – or the role of weak-side linebacker – in a 3-4 defense for the remainder of his eight-year career with the Packers. In fact, Douglass missed only one start with the Packers due to injury and that was in his final season. In 1983, when he missed his only other game, he was suspended by coach Bart Starr for comments he made to a newspaper reporter.

In 1980 and '81, Douglass was named the Packers' most valuable defensive player. He led them in tackles three times during his career and in sacks in 1984 with nine. His career high was 9½ in 1981. Overall, in 120 games, Douglass registered 38 sacks, intercepted 10 passes and recovered 16 fumbles. He also served as a defensive co-captain with safety Johnnie Gray from late in the 1981 season through 1983. In 1984, Douglass was one of four rotating defensive captains."Everybody says that the guy is too small to play an outside 'backer," Forrest Gregg, head coach of the Packers during Douglass' final two seasons, said. "But what I like to do is look at production, and when you look at Mike Douglass, you see what he does for your football team. He produces – he also makes big plays."

Douglass was at his best when he was blitzing and chasing down runners in the open field. "A tremendous tackler," was how former Packers defensive coordinator John Meyer once described him. More often than not, Douglass was able to use his lack of size to gain leverage and his quickness to avoid blockers; yet, he also was strong enough to take on tight ends at the point of attack. "He makes a lot of things happen," Monte Kiffin said in 1983, his lone season as Packers linebackers coach. "He really plays aggressive. He's really hard to knock off his feet." In pass coverage, Douglass also had the speed to cover man-to-man.

One of Douglass' peers was Denver's Tom Jackson, also an undersized outside linebacker at 5-11, 220 pounds. Jackson played from 1973-86 and was named to three Pro Bowls. Plus, he played on two teams that lost in the Super Bowl and four other playoff teams, whereas Douglass played on only two winning teams in Green Bay. Nevertheless, John Marshall, who was the Packers' linebacker coach from 1980-82 and later an assistant with San Francisco for 10 years when it won two Super Bowls, said, "I've looked at Jackson and I'd take Mike Douglass."

Douglass' most memorable play with the Packers was probably the first touchdown in their dramatic 48-47 victory over Washington on a Monday night in 1983. On the third play of the game, he stripped halfback Joe Washington of the ball after he had caught a screen pass, scooped it up with one hand and ran 22 yards for a touchdown.

Douglass was cut by the Packers on May 27, 1986. He signed with the San Diego Chargers as a free agent on July 27, appeared in seven games and was cut on Oct. 20, ending his career.

Born March 15, 1955. Give name Michael Reese Douglass.

*Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League credited Douglass with playing in 119 games with the Packers based on him being listed under the "Did Not Play" category on the NFL's Game Summary for the Packers-New York Giants game on Sept. 15, 1985. However, Douglass played one play that day based on the Green Bay Press-Gazette's next-day coverage and a tape of that game showing Douglass standing among four other Packers players following a Giants' pass completion for a first down. Thus, Douglass actually played in 120 games for the Packers.

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