With 71 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 71 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … today its number 71.
Did you know that Gilbert Brown actually wore #71 for one season in 1993? But can you name any other players who have worn the number?
And most of you know that Josh Sitton has been wearing #71 since 2008. Sitton has been consistently the Packers best lineman over the past few years and helped anchor the line that cruised through the playoffs to the Super Bowl in 2010. He’s been getting better with each passing year and didn’t even seem to bat an eye when he was switched from the right side to the left last season.
We know how good Sitton has become and how important he is to the current team, but for today’s look back, we’re going to focus on another #71 – Santana Dotson.
When Dotson came to Green Bay in the mid-1990s, he helped solidify the Packers’ defensive line that also included Reggie White, Gilbert Brown and Sean Jones. That was a Super Bowl- and Hall-of-Fame-caliber line – one of the best ever in Green Bay.
Dotson played his first four years in Tampa Bay before coming to Green Bay as a free agent. What’s interesting is that Dotson’s father, Alphonse, had a history with the Green Bay Packers – well, almost. He was selected by Vince Lombardi with the second pick of the 1965 draft. However, Alphonse elected to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs.
At 6-5, 278 pounds, Santana Dotson was a “tall and rangy” player, according to John Maxymuk in his book, “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore Them.” But he also had talent that didn’t shine through until he arrived in Green Bay.
Here’s how Maxymuk describes Dotson in his book:
“… [Dotson] had the ability to stop the run and rush the passer, and he fit into defensive coach Fritz Shurmer’s scheme immediately. He … was an intelligent man and player and [was] a leader on the field. In 2000, he suffered a serious leg injury on the field and missed the entire year, but worked hard to come back and contribute to the playoff run in 2001, his last year in Green Bay.
For the most part, Dotson was reliable, athletic and durable. While in Green Bay he played in 83 of the 88 games in which he was eligible, recording 26 sacks, 158 tackles and 107 assists. He also had six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
When Wolf signed Dotson as a free agent in 1996, he described him as the missing piece of the puzzle that would help propel the Packers to a championship level. In a story on Packers.com, Dotson had this to say about coming to Green Bay:
“You realize what pressure really is when the expectations are that high. When your employer says that, I took it as if I was responsible for what happened that season. It was one of those things where you either sink or swim.”
“They had been in the NFC Championship the year before, and here I was coming from the Buccaneers. I was in awe at first. I remember wanting to be an asset instead of a liability. I hate to be corny, but after holding that Lombardi Trophy, knowing my wife and mother were crying in the stands because they knew how special it was for me, that’s what stories and movies are written about.”
“The name on the trophy is Vince Lombardi,” said Dotson. “The guys who played in the first two Super Bowls would show up in the locker room from time to time, guys like Bart Starr and Willie Davis. I remember when they’d walk in, they were very gracious, but you knew when they were there. It was something greater. There was some silence. We saw Ray Nitschke before the Super Bowl in New Orleans, and it was like your grandpa saying he was proud of you. When you have Hall of Famers coming out of the woodwork, there’s some added pressure.”
Dotson helped write a chapter of Packers history that none of us will soon forget – nor should we forget what Dotson brought to the team to make that happen.
Here is a list of all the players since 1950 who have worn #71 for the Green Bay Packers:
Super Bowl XXXI highlights