John Anderson being introduced to the fans at Lambeau Field at halftime of the 2012 home opener. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

59 days to Packers football: John Anderson

With 59 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 59 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … today its number 59.

Yesterday, we took a look at  Lee Roy Caffey, the Packers linebacker who was well known for the two huge plays he made in the third quarter of the Ice Bowl to help keep the Dallas Cowboys in check and allowed the Packers to come back and win.

It turns out that John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” focused on Caffey not just because he was an essential member of the Packers great linebacking unit of the 60s, but because of those two crucial plays he made in that famous frigid game so long ago

John Anderson (far left, #59), joins his 1982 teammates for a group photograph during halftime of the Packers' 2012 home opener. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

John Anderson (far left, #59), joins his 1982 teammates for a group photograph during halftime of the Packers’ 2012 home opener.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Today we look at #59, a number that has been worn by a scant eight players in Packers history.

There have been some pretty good ones, too, including Brad Jones who is the current owner of the number.

Do you remember Na’il Diggs? And how about Wayne Simmons? – God rest his soul.

But today, we look at another linebacker, a man who grew up in Wisconsin, went off to college and came back to play 12 years with the Packers … most of them with some pretty crappy teams.

John Anderson.

However, he was a star in his own right, as Maxymuk writes in his book.

Maxymuk focuses his chapter about #59 on Anderson … and for good reason.

Here’s what Maxymuk has to say about Anderson:

John Anderson grew up in Wisconsin, went to the University of Michigan, then came home as a first-round draft choice of the Packers in 1978. He started as a rookie for a team that went 8-7-1 and was still staring 12 years later during another winning season, 10-6.

In between, he was a manstay as a starter, bu the team had only one other winning season, strike-shortened 1982 when the Packers made the playoffs for the only time in the 1980s.

Anderson was good, not great, a quietly effective strong-side linebaker who was a sure tackler, able to stop the run as well as cover te tight end. In 1979 he even kicked a field goa and an extra point as the team bounced from failing Chester Marcol to faltering Tom Birney. He was steady, but never made an All Pro or Pro Bowl team in his lengthy tenure.

At first there were questions regarding Anderson’s durability. John broke his arm three times in his firs couple of years as a pro and had bone graft surgery in 1980 to strengthen the bone in his arm.

The graft proved to be a success, and Anderson served as a dependable player for three losing coaches in his dozen years in the green and gold. Only Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Forrest Gregg, Brett Favre, Donald Driver, Buckets Goldenberg, and Dave Hanner had longer Packer playing careers – though Leroy Butler equaled Andy in 2001.

Among linebackers, only Nitschke had as many interceptions, 25, in a Packer uniform. After retiring, Anderson spent several years as a local sportscaster and was elected to the Packer Hall of Fame in 1996. From the teams in the 80s, Anderson joined Jan Stenerud, Paul Coffman, Lynn Dickey, Gerry Ellis, Johnny Gray, Johnny Holland, Ezra Johnson, James Lofton, Chester Marcol, Larry McCarren, Mark Murphy, Sterling Sharpe and Mike Douglass in the Packers Hall.


Here are the Packers players since 1950 who have worn #59:

From To AV
John Anderson 1979 1989 58
Na’il Diggs 2000 2005 36
Brad Jones 2009 2013 18
Rudy Kuechenberg 1970 1970 3
Kurt Larson 1991 1991 1
Wayne Simmons 1993 1997 24
Tom Toner 1973 1977 17
Tracy White 2006 2008 2


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