One of my favorite: Players

My Packers favorites - this time we look at team Hall of Famer Johnny Holland

This is a continuing series where I look at my favorites – it could be a player, a game, a play, a season …
This time I take a look at one of my favorite players: Johnny Holland.
A second round draft pick of the Packers in 1987, the 41st overall pick by Lindy Infante, Holland came to the Packers as the all-time tackles leader for Texas A&M … Though tackle statistics are a gaping hole in NFL statistics until 2001, Holland was continually at or near the top of that category for the Green Bay Packers between his rookie year through his final season in 1993 when injury forced him to retire. In fact, for six straight seasons, he punched out an opponent 100 times or more.
Like all rookies, he had to work his way into the lineup in 1987. He played in 12 games as a right inside linebacker for the 5-9-1 Packers, recording two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
That would all change in 1988 when the 23-year-old took a major step in becoming a huge contributor on defense.
Playing with what was considered one of the best linebacking crews in the NFL, Holland joined Tim Harris (who had 13.5 sacks that season) Brian Noble and John Anderson across the middle of the Packers defense.
Though formidable, this defensive group was part of a team with an offense that was ranked 26th in the league. The defense ranked 11th in points allowed and seventh in yards allowed.
In 1989, Holland was part of squad that surprised the league with a 10-6 record, due largely to the continued solid play of its defense and the resurgence of the Don Majkowski-led offense.
Though the defense slipped a bit in league rankings that year (18th in points allowed and 16th in yards allowed) the offense helped make up the difference to lead the team to its 10-6 record.
Holland, playing with the same linebacking teammates as the season before, the linebackers were again the core of the defense, many times providing the big hits and timely defensive plays that got the potent offense back on the field.
While Tim Harris got much of the press with his impressive 19.5 sacks that season, it was the behind-the-scenes play of the other linebackers, including Holland, who carried out the game plan, shot the gaps and took on the fullbacks in the hole.
The next two seasons, Holland continued his solid, but quiet play as the Infante-led teams slipped to records of 6-10 in 1990 and a brutal 4-12 record in 1991 – a finish that led to the demise of Lindy Infante and the eventual rise of a Super Bowl champion in 1996 under Mike Holmgren.
Though the makeup of the linebacking corps changed faces during these two years with the additions of Tony Bennett and Bryce Paup, they were still solid. Bennett had 13 sacks and Paup had 7 sacks for the team in 1991.
Holland again played his inside linebacking position solidly, filling the holes and stopping the run. He also had four interceptions that season.
With the hiring of Mike Holmgren in 1992, the rookie coach leaned on the veterans he had on the roster to lead and help guide the younger players as he started to build toward a championship.
Holland and Noble were two of the defensive stalwarts that Holmgren relied on. He saw their dedication and work ethic and pointed to players like them as the types who win titles.
Though the Packers finished with a much-improved 9-7 record, they just missed qualifying for the playoffs.
Holland, again playing the consistent role of a leader played in and started 14 games, missing two because of injury.
He recorded one-half sack, three interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. The linebacking corps that season included Holland, Noble, Bennett and a young George Koonce, who would learn from the best.
In the end, the team defense that year finished just about in the middle at 15th overall.
In 1993, Holland’s final with the Pack, he was a stalwart again on one of the best defenses in the league. With the addition of many key defensive players, including Reggie White, the defense finished with a league ranking of sixth overall. A huge jump from previous years and a tribute to players like the seven-year vet Holland. That season, he had two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries, while playing alongside Koonce, Bennett, Paup and newcomer Wayne Simmons.
After playing all 16 games in his final season of 1993, injuries got the best of the linebacker.
Holland went right from being a player to an NFL coaching career. He began as a defensive quality control coach for the Packers from 1995-97, helping to lead the team to back-to-back NFC Championships following the 1995 and 1996 seasons and a World Championship in Super Bowl XXXI.
He went on to coach special teams in 1998 and linebackers in 1999
He also spent time with the Houston Texans as a linebackers coach.
This is one player who should never be forgotten by Packers faithful … he was the quiet, solid team member who let his actions on the field speak louder than his words.
Though his career glamour statistics pale in comparison to many who have played the game (nine interceptions and only 3.5 sacks), it was his work ethic, his staunch play inside against the run and his contributions week-in and week-out that made him the respected player he was.
And for that, Holland was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame … a final nod to the accomplishments of a fine individual and a stud of a football player.
Thanks for the memories, Johnny.

My Packers favorites - this time we look at team Hall of Famer Johnny Holland

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