With 57 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 57 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … today it’s number 57.
Yesterday, we took a look at Ed Neal, the Packers defensive lineman whose legends not only bring a smile to one’s face, but also paint a picture of a game where tough guys ruled the playing field..
Today we take a look at #57, a number that’s been worn by a total of 17 different players since 1950. In addition to current Packer Jamari Lattimore, the number has also been worn by the likes of Chris Gizzi and Rich Moran.
But once again, we have to reach back in time to focus on one of those players who may have been forgotten by many but have been pivotal players in the history of the franchise.
Ken Bowman, who was the center who snapped the ball to Bart Starr on that fourth down game-winning play in the Ice Bowl, also combined with Jerry Kramer to block Jethro Pugh and open the hole for Starr’s plunge into the end zone.
But his legacy is more than that one play, he played 10 years for the Packers, from 1964 through 1973, coming into the league with a perennial powerhouse and leaving as the Packers were headed into their gory years.
Over the course of those 10 years, he played in 123 games for Green Bay, anchoring the Packers offensive line for a good many of those seasons.
John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” focuses on Bowman in his book not only because he was a University of Wisconsin graduate, but because he was one of those players who stood out during his era. He also wore #57 longer than any Packer player over the course of the past 50 years.
Here is how Maxymuk helps bring to life his playing days:
Kenny Bowman was the quintessential offensive lineman: tough, battered, reliable, and invisible. To take it even a step further, he teamed up to mae perhaps the most famous block in NFL history and received almost no credit at the time.
His teammates knew about Ken Bowman, though. He was an eighth round draft pick as a center out of the University of Wisconsin in 1964, the year that All Pro Packer center Jim Ringo was traded to Philadelphia. He would play for 10 years in Green Bay, most of them as the starter.
However, he was a solid player and respected warrior. Running back John Brockington thought highly of Ken: “He wasn’t the biggest guy, but he was very sound, very aggressive, and always fired up. He had those pale blue yes and he was a bleeder … his face would become red, and you could see those cold blue eyes staring up from behind that red. He was all fired up and breathing hard. He loved it, man. He was a great competitor.”
Both his shoulders had been separated and were a constant threat to go out again at any time, so Bowman wore a shoulder harness that sounds similar to what Cecil Isbell wore 30 hers before. Defensive tackle Mike McCoy described Bowman in his get: “They called Ken Bowman Frankenstein. Big solid forehead, long hair, and this brace with chains from his arm to his shoulder. His shoulder was really bad, so he hd a chin attached to a piece of material wrapped around his bicep, and it was hooked onto his shoulder pad so his arm wouldn’t go above 90 degrees.”
Bowmn ws going to law school while he played for the Packers and eventually got his degree after six hers, setting up a legl practice aftr retirement. He especially resented Lombardi calling him “stupid” and questioning why he was “wasting his time going to law school.”
” though that was sour grapes on his part. I think he really wanted to be a lawyer, but he only went to law school for one year,” Bowman said years later.
At the culmination of the Ice Bowl, it was Bowman and Jerry Kramer delivering the block on Cowboy defensive tackle Jethro Pugh … There are two funny things about that block. The first is that Pugh for years asserted that Kramer was offside on the play and that Pugh was looking around for a penalty flag after the play. Checking the film of the game years later we find what Pugh claimed is true, but it can only be seen with the aid of the slow motion replay camera. Lombardi’s Packers were a well-oiled machine that had practiced tougher for many years. Kramer even said in his boo, “Instant Replay,” that “I wouldn’t swear that I didn’t beat the center’s snap by a fraction of a second.” Jerry was right in his intuition. He knew when the ball should e snapped and he beat Bowman by a fraction of a fraction of aa second, undectecable in real time. Pugh never had a chance.
The second strange thing is that Bowman never really had a chance, either, a chance for the fame that Jerry Kramer found after delivering that block. Kramer did not share the credit during post-game locker room interviews. At the same time, though, why didn’t the broadcasters give Ken his due? Why did CBS interviewer Tom Brookshier not talk to Bowman, too? They could see the double-team block on the replay. Television broadcasts often go for the simplest approach, and this is what they took by sticking solely with Kramer. Kramer told Bowman that he was young and would have another 10 years for fame, but Bowman only had six years left for a team whose glory years were about to end.
And he was an anonymous offensive lineman.
The Ice Bowl and “the block.”
Here are the Packers players who have worn #57 over the past 50 years: