39 days to Packers football: Jug Earp

With 39 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 39 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … and for today that number is 39.

Our most recent look was at number 41 and 40, Eugene Robinson and Eddie Lee Ivery.

Today we focus in on number 39.

OK, so you might remember the likes of Mike Prior,  Jim Hill and Darrell Thompson, but most likely have no idea that Freddie ParkerErrol Mann and Therrian Fontenot even played for the Packers.

But once again we go back several decades to a guy by the name of Francis Louis “Jug” Earp

I know you’ve never heard of him, but John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” has … and he dedicated an entire chapter to him in his book.

As one of the first tough centers to play with the Packers, Earp helped lead the Packers to consecutive championships in the late 1920s and early ’30s.

We’ll let Maxymuk explain.

Once he dug in, Francis Louis Earp, was tough to move. He grew up in Monmouth, Ill., a town of under 10,0oo residents at the time. After graduation, he continued on to Monmouth College. From there, he branched out to begin his pro football career with the Rock Island Independents, 39 miles away. After two games of his second season in Rock Island, Earp was involved in a salary dispute with management. When Curly Lambeau made him an offer, he couldn’t refuse; he jumped to Green Bay and spent the rest of his life there.

Earp was often spelled “Erpe,” and he was known as “Jug” or sometimes “Jugger.”

Both were short for “Juggernaut” because at 235 pounds he was a large and powerful force in the middle of the line. For 11 years he was the bedrock starting center for the Packers and helped them develop from a good club into three-time champions from 1929 to 1931.

He is sometimes credited with originating the one-handed center snap. His one-on-one duels with Bear center George Trafton were such annual battles of scrappy intensity that unfounded stories were repeated that he and Trafton would begin every game by spitting tobacco juice in each other’s eye.

The Jugger retired after the 1932 season. At first he sold cars. Eventually he joined the Office of Price Administration and was head of operations for all of Wisconsin by 1946. In 1950, he came back to the Packers as their publicity director, even though he had never written a press release in his life.

He served in that capacity for four years while Gene Ronzani was coach before leaving to go back into sales, employing his natural gift for gab. He once recalled, “People still like to talk about the Packers, and I like to talk about them, too.”

Always popular with the fans, he died in 1969, just a year before he was inducted as a charter member of the Packers Hall of Fame.

Here are the Packers players since 1950 who have worn #39:

From To AV
Ronnie Burgess 1985 1985 0
Tony Carter 2002 2002 0
Therrian Fontenot 2005 2005 0
Trevor Ford 2009 2009 0
Jim Hill 1972 1974 21
Kenneth Johnson 1987 1987 1
Sammy Johnson 1979 1979 0
Errol Mann 1968 1968 -0
John Martinkovic 1951 1951 0
Mike Meade 1982 1983 3
Freddie Parker 1987 1987 0
Mike Prior 1994 1998 6
Brandian Ross 2011 2012 0
Darrell Thompson 1990 1993 16

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