Recently my wife and I attended the June 10, 2015 Green Bay Packers OTA at Clark Hinkle Field. We arrived with about 90 minutes to spare. Many, if not all Green Bay Packers fans have heard of Ray Nitschke and Don Hutson, who both have practice fields named after them. But who in the heck was this “Clark Hinkle,” who also has a Packers practice field named after him?
What did he do for the Green Bay Packers that would bestow such recognition of achievement? If he was a legendary Green Bay Packers great, why is his jersey number not retired, like Ray Nitschke’s and Don Hutson’s numbers?
To pass the time, I told my wife to save our spots so that I could conduct an “informal survey.” I proceeded to walk down the sidewalk and I asked several random Green Bay Packers fans, “Do you know who Clark Hinkle is?” Only a couple of those surveyed knew that he was a former Green Bay Packers player, but beyond that not much more.
In fact, many of the fans surveyed guessed that he was an investor of sorts in the early years or that he must have been on the coaching staff with Curly Lambeau or was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the team. To be honest, I knew a bit more than this about the legendary Green Bay Packers player, but not much more.
In an effort to be a better Green Bay Packers fan I decided to do some research. What made him “a legend?”
After a college career at Bucknell University, where he was known as the “Bucknell Battering Ram,” Clarke Hinkle arrived in Green Bay in 1932. He played Fullback for the Green Bay Packers until 1941. Combined with the passing attack that featured Don Hutson, Hinkle helped the Packers win NFL titles in 1936 and 1939.
Clarke Hinkle was one of the most versatile players in the NFL. In a nutshell, he was a 5’-11” 202 pound “jack of all trades.” Quick, powerful and versatile, Hinkle could do it all: Punt, pass, kick, catch and tackle.
Hinkle never gained more than 552 yards on the ground in any one season — back when seasons were often as short as 11 games. However, his 3,860 career rushing yards still ranked sixth on the Green Bay Packers’ all-time list until Ahman Green, also #30, moved up the charts to #1 with his record-breaking 2003 season.
In 1937, Hinkle’s best rushing season, he put together six consecutive games in which he scored a touchdown, a feat that has been bettered only by Don Hutson (twice) and Paul Hornung, who accomplished this feat in seven straight games. In 1938, Hinkle led the league in scoring with 58 points. In 1940 and 1941, Hinkle led the NFL in field goals made. He was a two-time consensus All-Pro in 1938 and was selected to play in the all-star game again in 1939 and 1940.
During his Packers career, Hinkle wore jersey numbers 27, 30, 33, 39, 41, 45 and 48; however, he wore number 30 most of the time. This might explain why Hinkle’s jersey number has not been retired by the Green Bay Packers.
Hinkle was not only a powerful running back, but he was also known as a fierce linebacker. When Hinkle played, which was at the time of The Great Depression, the NFL did not keep track of defensive statistics. Nonetheless, he quickly gained a reputation as one of the few players in the NFL tough enough to bring down Chicago Bears great Bronko Nagurski.
According to profootballhof.com, “Hinkle once hit Nagurski so hard that Nagurski suffered two cracked ribs and a broken nose.” Nagurski said of his Green Bay foe, “They said I was hard to tackle, but here was a guy [Hinkle] who didn’t have too much trouble.” Hinkle said, “Nagurski is still more powerful than me.”
The mutual respect for one another was so great that Bronco Nagurski delivered Hinkle’s NFL Hall of Fame induction speech at Canton, Ohio in 1964. Go figure—huh? A long time foe, an arch rival enemy (nonetheless a Chicago Bears player) inducting you into the NFL Hall of Fame…Wow, unheard of today, if you ask me. Can you see Warren Sapp presenting Brett Favre next summer at Canton, Ohio? I can’t. Oh how the times have changed!
William Clarke Hinkle, was born April 10, 1909, in Toronto, Ohio, and died Nov. 9, 1988, at the age of 79. Hinkle, who played with the Packers throughout his entire career, was named to the NFL’s All-Time Two-Way Team in 1994. More importantly, his name and legacy will forever be synonymous with that of Green Bay Packers greats Curly Lambeau, Don Hutson and Ray Nitschke.——————