Oh, to be a Packers quarterback!

By: 

Roger VanHaren

I have been a Packers fan since I was a little kid, and believe me, I was a little kid for a long time! I go back to the days of Packers blue and gold. I idolized the Packers that I read about in the Press-Gazette and listened to on the radio.

I played a lot of imaginary football games, too. I was Tobin Rote at quarterback, and I’d throw the ball as high as I could and run under it; Tony Canadeo or Billy Grimes, very sure-handed, would grab the pass and zig-zag across the yard for a record-setting season for the Pack.

I was Jug Girard, the punter, and my object was to punt it over the house. I was Ted Fritsch, the place kicker, kicking field goals over the clothesline poles. Straight-on toe kicker, no soccer style for me. (What did I know about soccer?)

Yup, I was a legend in my own mind. In reality, I was a less-than-mediocre athlete as a kid, but I loved sports! I loved the Packers, and I loved them through the bad times as well as the good. A number of the Packer greats used to hunt on our farm, so I actually got to meet some them on my own turf! Tobin Rote, Jug Girard, John Martinkovich, Darrell Teteak (he was born in Oconto and grew up in Oshkosh!), Tony Canadeo, Billy Grimes, Ted Fritsch — right in my yard! What a thrill for a scrawny little farm kid.

I got to thinking about my lifelong love affair with the Pack recently when the Packers pulled out an exciting road win against the Jets a couple of weeks ago. Aaron Rodgers played an incredible game at quarterback, and the Green and Gold avoided the ignominy of losing all of their road games for the first time since 1958.

A few weeks ago, when the Pack lost to Da Bears, there was a graphic on the screen showing how many starting QBs the Bears had had during the tenures of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Something like 19 different guys started games for Chicago from 1992 to the present, while we had Brett and Aaron!

I can remember a lot of Packers quarterbacks in my years as a fan. The first one I can remember was Earl “Jug” Girard, a Marinette native and a huge star for the Badgers. (He hunted ducks on our farm on Konitzer Road!) At age 17, Jug was selected as a first team All-American halfback. The Packers took him as the seventh pick in the first round of the draft in 1948. Besides playing some quarterback, he was also the punter, played end and defensive back and returned punts and kickoffs. He played four seasons for the Pack and then was traded to the Lions.

Tobin Rote (another duck hunter) was not only a good passer, he also led the league in rushing by a QB a couple of seasons. He played for Green Bay for six seasons and then he, too, was traded to Detroit. He led the Lions to a league championship.

Tony Canadeo, “The Grey Ghost of Gonzaga,” was primarily a running back, but he started a few games at quarterback during his 12 years with the Pack. He hunted on our farm, too.

Anybody remember Vito “Babe” Parilli? He put in two stints with the Pack. They picked him fourth in the first round of the 1952 draft. He played for two years in Green Bay, then moved to Ottawa and Cleveland, and then back to Green Bay in time to back up the rookie Bart Starr.

Everybody knows about Bart Starr. He came to Green Bay along with another college star quarterback, Paul Hornung of Notre Dame. Starr played 12 seasons with the Pack. Hornung never played QB for the Pack, but he was a big star running back and place kicker.

John Roach and Zeke Bratkowski had some starts for the Packers in the ’60s and ’70s, and then Lynn Dickey had several seasons as the starter, followed by Don Majkowski. Majkowski gave way to Brett Favre in ’92. Sixteen seasons later Aaron Rodgers took over. What an amazing run he’s had!

Along the way, there were a number of other guys who QB’ed for the Green and Gold, but most of them didn’t become regular starters for very long. Anybody remember names like LaMar McHan, Scott Hunter, Jerry Tagge, Don Milan, Randy Johnson, Jack Concannon, Anthony Dilweg, John Hadl, Jim Del Gaizo, Randy Wright, Blair Kiel, Jim McMahon, David Whitehurst, Alan Risher, Mike Tomczak and Brett Hundley? I might have forgotten a few guys, but I remember most of them, I think.

But like I said, I’ve been an avid fan for 70 years. Even when they’ve had a crappy year like this year, I’m still a big fan. But then, I was a Cubs fan for many years, too. Talk about loyalty!

Contact Roger VanHaren at rjmavh@gmail.com.