With 60 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 60 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … today its number 60.
It turns out that John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” focused on Van Dyke while writing a chapter about some of the reaches teams will take in trading for players who have had good days, but have run their course as stars in the league. Van Dyke was one of those players the Packers went after in the 1970s. That turned out to be one of those trades that could be equivocated with John Hadl.
You might remember Rob Davis, who served well as the team’s long-snapper for 10 years. He remains with the Packers organization as the Director of Player Development.
Here is another jersey number where it’s difficult to find players who excelled with the Packers – with the exception of Lee Roy Caffey, the Packers linebacker who played with Green Bay from 1964 to 1969. He was a member of a unit that dominated the NFL through the franchise’s dynasty under Vince Lombardi.
Maxymuk focuses his chapter about #60 on Caffey.
Here’s what Maxymuk has to say about Caffey:
Lee Roy Caffey grew up in Texas and went to Texas A&M on a basketball scholarship, but made his biggest impact on the football field as a fullback and linebacker.
He was drafted in 1963 by the Eagles and played alongside another future Packer linebacker, Dave Robinson, in the College All Star Game that August. The College All Star Game was dreamed up in 1934 as a charity benefit by Arch Ward, the same Chicago sportswriter and promoter who came up with baseball’s All Star Game.
Caffey went from helping beat the Packers 20-17 in the All Star Game to the Eagles training camp. On their request he had bulked up from 208 to 240 pounds, mostly by eating milkshakes fortified with eggs. He made the team, but spent just one year in Philadelphia before Lombardi traded Jim Ringo and Earl Gros for Caffey and a number one draft choice. Had the deal just been for Caffey, it would still have been a good trade, since Ringo was beginning to fade and Earl Gros would never fulfill his potential, while Lee Roy would give the Packers all-league-caliber play for several years. Adding in the number one pick (who would turn out to be fellow Texan Donny Anderson) made the deal a steal.
As was the Packer custom, Lee Roy spent 1964 learning behind Dan Currie; Dave Robinson became a starter that season, having spent 1963 learning behind Bill Forester who had since retired. Currie would be traded to the Rams in 1965, and Lee Roy slid into the starting lineup.
Of the six linebackers who were regular starters on Lombardi’s teams, only Tom Bettis never made All Pro. Lee Roy Caffey was big, fast, and smart; he played in the Pro Bowl in 1965 and was named All Pro in 1966. Furthermore, like his two fellow linebackers, Robinson and Nitschke, Caffey had been an offensive star as well in college and knew what to do with the ball when he came up with a turnover. He returned interceptions for touchdowns in both 1965 and 1966.
His practice habits were not the best, however, and he served as something of a whipping boy for the coach. It was not unusual in practice for the coach to yell at him, “You should be ashamed of yourself, you big turkey.”
One oft-run piece of game footage shows Lombardi saying forcefully on the sidelines, “I’ll tell you Lee Roy, you’re not going to get your job back unless we get a better performance.”
Despite the constant needling, Vince paid him well. Caffey claimed he was the best paid linebacker in football, partly because he could play both the outside and middle linebacker positions, and partly because he took so much abuse from Lombardi.
Lee Roy’s biggest contribution to the Packers’ three-peat were two crucial plays he made in the third quarter of 1967′s Ice Bowl. For the first play, the Packers were up 14-10 early in the third quarter, but the momentum had shifted fully to the Cowboys. Dallas had driven to the Green Bay 22 and faced a third-and-14. Quarterback Don Meredith started to scramble and got down to the 13 when Caffey hit him just right, causing a fumble that was recovered by Herb Adderley. Later in the same quarter, after a short punt, the Cowboys moved the ball to the Packer 30 and faced a third-and-five. On a rare blitz, Caffey shot in and nailed Meredith for a nine-yard loss and forced a 47-yard field goal attempt that fell short.
Without those two big third down plays, Dallas could very well have kicked two field gals and essentially put the game out of reach when they scored on Dan Reeves‘ halfback option pass in the fourth quarter.
Lee Roy was with the Packers for six years. In 1970, he was traded to the Bears along with Bob Jeter and Elijah Pitts, and he moved on to the Cowboys in 1971 where he won another Super Bowl ring along with fellow former Packers Forrest Gregg and Herb Adderley.
After a year in San Diego with another former Packer, Lionel Aldridge, Lee Roy retired to Texas and became a successful businessman. He started out running a car dealership, then opened a bank and finally shifted into real estate.
Sadly, he died at the young age of 52 of colon cancer.
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