2020 took heavy toll on Packers as several legendary players from Lombardi era died

The Green Bay Packers community lost several legendary players and coaches in 2020. Five were members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with four who played for Vince Lombardi's championship teams. 

PAUL HORNUNG, 84, died Nov. 13 in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Hornung, a running back, was the Packers' "Golden Boy," a Vince Lombardi favorite and maybe the most important player on the famed coach’s early championship teams.

Although Hornung never put up big rushing numbers in the NFL — his single-season high was only 681 yards — he filled the key position in Lombardi’s offense as a runner in the famed Lombardi sweep and option passer. He was a big back at 6-feet-2-inches tall and 215 pounds, with a nose for the goal line. For much of his career he also was the Packers’ kicker.

The 176 points he scored in the 12-game 1960 season was an NFL record that stood until 2006, 29 years after the league had moved to a 16-game schedule. He was voted the NFL’s most valuable player that season. 

Lombardi said Hornung might have been the best all-around back ever to play football. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

Packers halfback Paul Hornung was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. (Photo: AP)

DOUG HART, 80, died Jan. 2 in Minneapolis. Hart was a defensive back on Vince Lombardi teams that won three NFL championships and two Super Bowls.

Hart finished his career with 15 interceptions, three for touchdowns, including an 85-yard return in 1969 against the Super Bowl-bound Minnesota Vikings. He also scored touchdowns on a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal. 

“He was a tough kid and had speed,” former defensive line coach Dave Hanner said of Hart.

ALLEN BROWN, 76, died Jan. 27 in Natchez, Mississippi. Brown, a tight end, was one of the lesser-known members of the Lombardi teams, and his three-year career was hampered by injuries.

Brown signed with the Packers in December 1964, but missed the 1965 season with a shoulder injury. He played 19 games for the Packers in 1966 and 1967, but missed Super Bowls I and II with injuries. He was severely injured while diving for a loose ball during the last game of the 1967 season, which led to his early retirement. 

WILLIE WOOD, 83, died Feb. 3 in Washington, D.C. Wood played safety on the Lombardi teams and made an interception in Super Bowl I, in which the Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10. 

Wood was regarded as one of the best defensive backs in NFL history, a player whose vicious hits and plentiful interceptions dominated an entire decade in the 1960s. He played 12 seasons from 1960-71 — all with the Packers — and ranks second in franchise history with 48 career interceptions (trailing only Bobby Dillon's 52). Wood is the Packers' career leader in punt-return yardage with 1,391.

Wood was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

WILLIE DAVIS, 85, died April 15 in Playa del Rey, California. Davis was a defensive end on the Lombardi teams and was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

Davis, playing at a time before sacks became an official stat, likely is the most accomplished pass rusher in Packers history. Clay Matthews is the Packers’ official all-time sacks leader with 83.5 in 10 seasons. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is second with 74.5 in nine seasons, Reggie White third with 68.5 in six seasons.

Davis would have easily topped them all. John Turney, a statistician for the Professional Football Researchers Association, projected Davis had more than 100 sacks in his 10 seasons with the Packers — and perhaps as many as 120.

His 21 recovered fumbles remain the Packers’ career record.

TOOTIE ROBBINS, 62, died Aug. 2 in Chandler, Arizona, of COVID-19. Robbins was the starting right tackle for two years for the Packers. 

Robbins played the final two years of his 12-year career with the Packers after playing for the St. Louis and then Phoenix Cardinals. 

Robbins was one of general manager Ron Wolf’s first free-agent signings when he took over the Packers late in the 1991 season. After new coach Mike Holmgren added former Cardinals offensive line coach Tom Lovat to his first staff in '92, Robbins became an anchor at right tackle. 

In this Oct. 2, 2008, file photo, former NFL player Herb Adderley speaks as he sits in a room full of memorabilia from his playing days at his home in Mantua, N.J. Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley has died. He was 81. (Photo: The Associated Press)

HERB ADDERLEY, 81, died Oct. 30. Adderley was one of the NFL’s all-time great cornerbacks. He was first-team All-Pro five times in his nine seasons with the Packers and was a member of the NFL’s 1960s all-decade team. He played on all five of Lombardi’s championship teams and was a key member of the outstanding defenses that were the strength of the final three of those title-winning teams (1965-67).

Adderley’s most famous play was his 60-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl II that removed all doubt of the outcome in the Packers’ 33-14 win.

He was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 1970 and played in two more Super Bowls, but he always considered himself a Green Bay Packer. Adderley was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.

Contact Richard Ryman at (920) 431-8342 or [email protected]

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