With 72 days left until the start of the NFL season, our countdown to the big day continues. Thursday, Sept. 4, is the day when the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to take on the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks. Over the course of the next 72 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … today its number 72.
Yesterday, we took a look at Aaron Taylor, the best Packers player to wear #73.
Earl Dotson, who was with the Packers for 10 years in the 1990s and was part of the juggernaut that won one Super Bowl and appeared in another in that decade, was steady, strong and consistent on that offensive line.
But today we take a look a a different player … an unusual player that John Maxymuk highlights in his book – Dick Afflis – who was with the Packers in the early 1950s.
Dick Afflis played guard, tackle and defensive line in his four years with Green Bay and wore a higher uniform number each year. He was a credible performer, but will never be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
However, his chances of being selected for the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame that opened in the spring of 2002 would have to be pretty good since he had a 35-year career within the scripted ring as “Dick the Bruiser.”
Dick wasn’t the greatest lineman the Packers ever had, but he was one of the most interesting characters. In college he moved around a lot. He left Purdue after punching one of the coaches and also attended Miami … as well as lasting only two weeks at Notre Dame and also passed through Alabama before landing in the desert at Nevada-Reno. He was drafted in the 16th round by the Packers and was most noteworthy for his strength. He was an early proponent of bodybuilding and looked odd in his football uniform with his 52-inch barrel chest and 30-inch wasp waist.
Afflis was not someone to make angry. In the early 950s, many Packers fans would take the train to Chicago and back for the Bears game, and sometimes they would run into players in the dining car. Once a fan got in Afllis’s face about the game on the trip home, and Dick broke off a beer bottle on the bar and invited the fan to do something about it. The sight of an angry Dick the Bruiser holding a broken beer bottle was enough to quell the disturbance.
He made an impression when he arrived in Green Bay for his first training camp in 1951, fresh from working as a bouncer in Las Vegas. He was packing two .45s in shoulder holsters and asked to check them at the Northland Hotel front desk. Another time, Hawg Hanner attempted to instigate some trouble when he told Afflis that fellow lineman Jerry Helluin considered himself stronger than Dick. Dick went and found Helluin and they engaged in a series of feats of strength, smashing beer cans with their hands and so forth, until Afflis smashed a beer can on his face, causing the blood to run down his contorted visage.
Afflis left the game after the 1954 season to go into professional wrestling, from which he made a lucrative living for the next 35 years. Reminiscent of his altercation with Jerry Helluin, Dick’s trademark was blood streaming down his face from a hidden patch on his head, and his billing was the “World’s Most Dangerous Wrestler.” H was obviously a difficult man to get along with and was married four times. One time in the ring he slugged the referee, earning himself a suspension. Another time he went to the Indiana restaurant of his rival Cowboy Bob Ellis and turned over tables and broke windows.
He continued to cross paths with football from time to time. He and his new bride were sitting on the Packers bench for a Bears game in Wrigley Field one year. When a Packer broke off a long return, Dick’s wife got so excited that she followed the player into the end zone. A fight ensued with Wrigley ushers about this and both Dick and his wife were thrown out of the park.
In his second career, he was among the wealthiest of wrestlers and also had a construction business and an Indianapolis tavern called the Harem Athletic Club.
He died at the age of 62 lifting weights in his Florida home when a blood vessel in his esophagus burst, causing extensive internal bleeding. Although he died relatively young, he lived as he chose, a full and contentious life.
Afflis was certainly one of the more colorful characters to wear a Packers uniform and one that certainly shouldn’t be forgotten. He epitomized a time in the history of professional football when just about anything went.
How times have changed.
Here are the players since 1950 who have worn #72: