With 54 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 54 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … today it’s number 54.
Yesterday, we took a look at none other than Hall of Famer Johnny Blood McNally, who is best known for his color and character and as one of the best players to grace Titletown in the early days of the NFL.
But there have been some decent players who have donned the number for the green and gold. Consider that the number has been worn by Brandon Chillar, Ron Cox, Bernardo Harris, Scott Stephen and Nate Wayne.
But with today’s number we pay tribute to a player who wore the number the longest, from 1973 to 1984 – the one and only Larry McCarren.
As one in a long line of centers who have succeeded in Green Bay, McCarren has also long been tied to the organization, not only as a player, but in recent years as a journalist and broadcaster covering the team.
John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” focuses on McCarren in the chapter of his book that he appropriately titled “Broadcasting.”
Let’s take a look at what he has to say about Larry McCarren:
However, Larry McCarren started more games at center for the Packers than anyone else on that illustrious list, more than 150.
In his 12-yer career, he played in 162 consecutive games and that is second only to Hall of Fame tackle Forrest Gregg‘s record for offensive linemen: 187.
McCarren was known as “Rock,” as in “rock steady,” and that sums him up perfectly. In 1980 he had a hernia operation during training camp, but was ready for opening day against the Bears less than four weeks later.
Coach Bart Starr intended that Larry only take the first snap to keep his streak alive, but when he sent out a substitute for the second play McCarren waved him off and played the whole game. In that same year, he broke his hand, but had trainer Dom Gentile rig up a special apparatus so he could keep playing. Then in 1983, Larry spent Sunday morning in the hospital after he and his family suffered carbon monoxide poisoning Saturday night, but again started that afternoon.
He was a 240-pound 12th-round draft pick out of Illinois given little chance to make the squad in 1973, but through hard work and perseverance he fashioned a solid career. He built himself up to 270 pounds in the weight room, and rumors circulated about possible steroid use on his part, but he refuses to comment on that even today.
There is no disagreement about the result, though. He won the starting job in his second year and set his goal on being one of the best centers in the league.
Twice he made All Pro teams, two other times he was a second-team selection, and twice he played in the Pro Bowl.
Quarterback Lynn Dickey called him, “The toughest guy I ever played with. Anybody who’d ever questioned his heart was nuts.”
He was added to the Packer Hall of Fame in 1982.
After his playing career ended, McCarren became a sportscaster in 1988 and again struggled at first. He looked at broadcasting as just another challenge to be overcome by hard work and dedication. By 1995 he was named Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year and began doing Packers radio broadcasts with veteran announcers Jim Irwin and Max McGee. When those two retired in 1998, McCarren was joined by new play-by-play man Wayne Larivee to take Packers broadcasts in a new direction.
Here are McCarren’s career statistics:
Here is a list of all the Packers players who have worn 54 since 1950: