Ever since the Draft started back in 1936, the Packers have been pretty successful at getting good players out of the college ranks. And while we know about the most recent hits in Round 1, namely Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, we tend to overlook those guys who were solid, dependable players for a long time in the NFL.
With that, here are 5 Packers first round picks who never got major recognition for their contributions, but were very good players in this league and specifically for this team.
*Denotes Packer Hall of Famer
*1968 (5th Overall) – FRED CARR, LB. UTEP
Fred Carr had a long and distinguished career in Green Bay after being drafted in the first round of 1968, making three Pro Bowls in his ten seasons, all during the early 1970s when the team was struggling to string any success together. We don’t have any stats for tackles because there weren’t any calculated then, but he did have eight career interceptions, six of them coming in his final three seasons. However, the biggest reason that Carr is mostly forgotten is that he wasn’t Ray Nitschke or Dave Robinson. He was a solid, good linebacker for a decade, but had the unfortunate distinction of being drafted the year after the dynasty ended. However, the team didn’t forget him, electing him to the Packer Hall of Fame in 1983.
*1977 (28th Overall) – EZRA JOHNSON, DE. MORRIS BROWN
Ezra Johnson will most likely be best known for the “hot dog incident” where he was caught eating a hot dog during a game while sitting on the bench, but he was a very good player during his Packer career, culminating in a Packer Hall of Fame induction in 1997. Known for his speed as a pass rusher (he ran a 4.5 40 at 240 lbs. in 1977), Johnson was a pass rushing force during his second season in 1978, recording 20.5 sacks (unofficial as sacks weren’t meticulously yet), 14 of which came in the first eight games. After 1982 when sacks were officially kept in the NFL, Johnson had 55.5, but when adding the years before 1982, he has 99, which would be the team record.
1982 (22nd Overall) – RON HALLSTROM, G. IOWA
As dependable as it gets, Hallstrom was a fixture on the Packers offensive line for a decade, spanning from 1982-1992. He would thrive inside during the days of Lynn Dickey and James Lofton, consistently giving his QB a clean pocket. He started 132 career games in the NFL, 124 of them for Green Bay. He hasn’t been inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame yet, but that could be on the horizon.
*1985 (7th Overall) – KEN RUETTGERS, T. USC
Another model of dependability, Ruettgers started 140 of a possible 156 games in his career in Green and Gold, culminating in getting a ring during his final season despite being injured. A standout left tackle for a decade, Ruettgers was at his best protecting Brett Favre during the early 90s before injuries took their toll and he had to retire. Since then, he has continued to be a dependable guy, helping numerous players deal with their post-playing careers. For his career, he was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 2014.
1998 (19th Overall) – VONNIE HOLLIDAY, DE. NORTH CAROLINA
People often forget about Vonnie Holliday during the Mike Sherman years, and that describes his job well. He was the guy who did all the little things. He only played in Green Bay for five years before Sherman decided that Cletidus Hunt was more important to the team. But those five years were the best of Holliday’s career, recording 32 sacks, including 8 as a rookie. He is also known for what is arguably one of the best game by a Packer defender ever. On December 22, 2002 Holliday would sack Drew Bledsoe of the Bills five times and force three fumbles. Those fumbles would be a team record. He would then spend time in Kansas City, Miami, Denver, Washington, and Arizona before retiring following the 2012 season.
Those are five guys who I feel need more recognition for their service in the Green and Gold. Do you guys have any more? Let us know in the comments.——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.