27 days to Green Bay Packers: Hank Bruder

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With 27 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 27 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … and for today we take a look number 27.

Yesterday we took a look at #28,  Willie Buchanonanother Packer Hall of Famer who was probably the most dynamic player the Packers had on the roster during those tough years of the early- and mid-1970s.

Today we move on to #27 – a number that all of Packers nation knows – that being of Eddie Lacy.

The dynamic rookie had a monster year in 2013, becoming the best Packers first-year running back since John Brockington. Both set records and both helped their teams to divisional championships.

We love Eddie as much as the next guy, but he has to keep it going – and if the Packers don’t burn him out and he stays away from injury he could be someone special.

Let’s let that play out how we hope it plays out.

But there have been others who have worn the number.

Consider Will BlackmonHerman FontenotJohn Symank and my favorite, Terrell Buckley. All pretty good players for the Packers.

But once again we turn to John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” to provide insight and background and take us back through the years – this time to an outstanding player of the 1930s – Hank Bruder.

Bruder is one of those Packer Hall of Famers who was a standout during his time with the team, hanging with Curly Lambeau and the gang and helping the franchise dig a foothold into the National Football League.

Let’s let Maxymuk explain:

Hank Bruder was known as “Hard Luck Hank” at Northwestern for a series of unfortunate injuries and accidents that befell him on and off the field. He missed half of one year with a broken leg and half of the next with smallpox.

At a key moment against Notre Dame in 1930, he fumbled on the goal line, giving the Cats the game. Nonetheless, he also was team captain and a highly respected, unselfish, versatile performer and a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity.

That versatility was highlighted throughout his nine-year career in Green Bay from 1931-39, almost that entire decade.

The 1930s were not a time of flashy statistics, and players still played both offense and defense, Bruder was an all-purpose back. He played defensive back and linebacker on defense as well as quarterback, halfback, and fullback on offense.

He was most famous as a blocking back, playing quarterback in Lambeau’s Notre Dame box offense in the 1930s. In that offense the backs started out aligned roughly in a T formation, although the quarterback was not directly under center, and then they shifted right or left before the ball was snapped.

For example, if they shifted right, the quarterback would slide over behind the right tackle and the right halfback would become a wingback by moving up next to the quarterback but behind the right end.

Meanwhile, the fullback would slide to the right behind the quarterback and the left halfback would slide to the right and become the tailback behind the center. The four backs were then set in a box snap or, more accurately, a parallelogram. The center would usually snap the ball to the tailback, or sometimes the other deep back, who had the option to run, hand off, or pass. The quarterback was a lead blocker similar to the fullback in today’s offenses.

In his nine years in Green Bay, Bruder threw only 24 passes and caught just 36. He ran the ball 265 times but only had 21 times in his last four years when he was increasingly used as  blocker. The Packers played in three title gams in those four years, due largely to Herber and Isbell throwing toe Hutson, but effective role players like Bruder kept the way clear for the stars to shine. Hank scored 100 points in his Packer years, which was  good total for the time.

Twenty-two of those came in one game against Cincinnati in 1934 when he scored three touchdowns and kicked four extra points before taking himself out in the fourth quarter. He was traded to the Steelers in 1940, where he played for one last year. In the of-season, he tried professional wrestling, but broke his shoulder blade in 1932. He then opened a tire shop in Green Bay.

During his playing career and beyond he was a strong supporter in the campaign to build a new City Stadium in the mid-1950s. Eventually, he moved back to his native Illinois, where he died in 1970, just two years before being elected to the Packers Hall of Fame.

Here are the 19 players who have worn #27 since 1950:

From To AV
Hise Austin 1973 1973 3
Will Blackmon 2006 2009 4
Michael Blair 1998 1998 0
Terrell Buckley 1992 1994 21
Larry Coutre 1950 1953 0
Tony Elliott 1987 1987 0
Herman Fontenot 1989 1990 6
Michael Hawthorne 2003 2004 5
Gary Hayes 1984 1986 3
Claudis James 1967 1968 2
Calvin Jones 1996 1996 0
Eddie Lacy 2013 2013 10
Red Mack 1966 1966 0
Tod McBride 1999 2002 8
Al Randolph 1971 1971 3
Anthony Smith 2010 2010 0
Veryl Switzer 1954 1955 0
John Symank 1957 1962 11
Cliff Taylor 1976 1976 1
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