The Green Bay Packers have a rich history of great players who have made even greater contributions to the franchise. Fans consistently remember and talk about names like Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Reggie White, and Charles Woodson. These players are well-deserving of the fame and recognition they receive. However, there are great Packers players who are often forgotten, or whose contributions are not recognized as often as they should be. Here, we present five underrated players in Packers’ history. The following players are not presented in any particular order. Some players are underrated due to the lack of national recognition they receive or received during their playing days. Others are underrated because they are often forgotten, even by Packers’ fans.
Underrated Fullback: William Henderson
In an era where the fullback position has all but vanished, it is easy to see why William Henderson is often forgotten as one of the Packers’ greats. Henderson was oftentimes underrated, even during his playing days. He only made one Pro Bowl (2004) and never scored more than four touchdowns in a single season.
However, only four players in Packers’ history played more games in a Packer uniform than William Henderson. His 188 games rank only behind Brett Favre (255), Donald Driver (205), Bart Starr (196), and Ray Nitschke (190). He played 12 years for the Packers, which is an astounding length of a career for any position in the NFL, let alone full back, which is a position meant to block and block hard. In addition, he cleared running paths for Packers’ running backs Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens, and Ahman Green. While he does not have the highlight reel stats or plays of many popular players, his contributions to the Packers cannot be forgotten. Perhaps most importantly, Henderson was responsible for opening the lanes for Levens and Bennett on the way to a victory in Superbowl XXXI.
Underrated Wide Receiver (Part One): Sterling Sharpe
Sterling Sharpe, by the admittance of his brother in his own Hall of Fame speech, was the better of the two Sharpe’s when it came to playing football. Yet, Sterling remains outside the Hall of Fame due to a neck injury that ended his career after just seven seasons.
However, Sterling Sharpe was one of the best wide receivers in the game while he was playing, if not the absolute best. In seven seasons, Sharpe led the league in receptions three times, receiving touchdowns twice, and receiving yards once. He made three All Pro teams and five Pro Bowls. Oh, and he never missed a single game in seven seasons. The fact that he is not in the Hall of Fame is a travesty, especially since Terrell Davis was elected after playing just seasons and played in far fewer games than Sharpe.
Sterling Sharpe also is starting to be forgotten by many current younger Packers’ fans. The Packers’ have been fortunate to have a plethora of great wide receivers in recent history. Players like Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and Donald Driver have made their mark on the franchise and have provided Packers’ fans with many great memories (and a Superbowl win). However, if Sharpe had not gotten injured, he would have been greater than all of them. Perhaps he would have been the greatest of all time. He deserves more recognition than he gets.
Underrated Wide Receiver (Part Two): Don Hutson
I know what you are thinking: “How can a hall of fame player who has a training facility named after him be underrated?” Also, “How can he be underrated if the Packers retired his number?”
Well, I’m glad you asked. It is not that Don Hutson is underrated by Packers’ fans, though I do not think he gets as much recognition as he deserves in terms of his all-time greatness. It is that he is never brought up in the conversation in terms of greatest receivers of all time. Jerry Rice and Randy Moss are typically the names brought up when the discussion of greatest receiver takes place. However, without Hutson pioneering the modern receiver position, their careers may have been much different.
Don Hutson still holds a number of NFL receiving records. For example, he led the NFL in receptions eight times. No other receiver has led the league in receptions more than five times. In addition, he led the NFL in receiving yards seven times, which is another record. He set the league record for receiving yards in a season five times. This includes 1942 when he became the first player with over 1,000 yards in a season. Oh, and if that were not enough, as a defensive back, he led the NFL in interceptions in 1940. He also had eight interceptions in 1943 and led the NFL in interception return yards.
Let’s see Rice or Moss do that.
Underrated Left Tackle: Ken Ruettgers
Ken Ruettgers played his entire 12-year career with the Green Bay Packers. As an offensive lineman, he was as reliable as they come. He even was named the team’s offensive MVP in 1989.
Unfortunately for the Packers and Ruettgers, he was forced to retire during the 1996 season due to injuries. However, in an act of class that embodies the organization, they awarded Ruettgers with a Superbowl ring following the team’s victory in Superbowl XXXI.
Along with wide receivers, offensive line has been another position in which the Packers have been fortunate to have a plethora of great players recently. It is fairly easy for us to forget the unsung heroes on the offensive line from 25 years ago with all of the success that the offensive line has had recently. However, if Ruettgers was important enough for the Packers to award him a ring even after he had to retire during their championship season, we should not forget him either. He is definitely one of the most underrated linemen in team history.
Underrated Quarterback: Arnie Herber
Much is said today of the number of championships won by various quarterbacks. Montana and Bradshaw each won four. Tom Brady has won six so far. However, before any of these guys were even born, Arnie Herber was racking up championships as the quarterback of the Packers.
Herber won four championships for the Packers in the pre-Superbowl era. Of course, Herber played during the Iron Age of football. This means his stats do not really compare to those of modern NFL quarterbacks. However, his play during his time was among the best. His greatness, in fact, earned him a place in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Why is he underrated? When the best Packers quarterbacks are discussed, most fans mention Bart Starr, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers. This is definitely proper as the first two are in the Hall of Fame and Rodgers will be someday. However, not mentioning the Packers’ first Hall of Fame quarterback is not right. He deserves to be in the conversation.