22 days to Packers football: Lavvie Dilweg

With 22 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 22 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … and for today we take a look number 22.

1932program_DilwegAdMost recently, we took a look at numbers 24 and 23 – Willie Wood and Travis Williams – two players with polar opposite endings to their careers. Wood is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, while Williams died penniless and homeless at age 45

Today we move on to #22, worn by one of those players who helped lead the Packers to championships in the late 1920s and early ’30s – Lavvie Dilweg.

 

But there were others: Jon StaggersDe’Mond ParkerPatrick LeeBucky Brooks, and Lenny McGill.

But how about these guys? Marquand ManuelKahlil Bell, and Jerron McMillian.

But then again there was Elijah Pitts and one of my favorite players of the past 30 years, Mark Lee.

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 to the years when Dilweg played …

Here is how he describes the end who played from 1927-34:

LaVern Dilweg was the epitome of the scholar athlete. He graduated from Marquette in his hometown of Milwaukee and then enrolled in the law school there while he took up professional football with the local Milwaukee Badgers in 1926.

The team ran into financial difficulties that year and Dilweg’s rights were nearly sold to George Halas of the Chicago Bears. Dilweg had no problem with the thought of finishing the season in Chicago, but insisted on being a free agent for the next season so he could return closer to home. Halas would not agree to that, so Dilweg stayed put and signed with Green Bay the next season.

In Green Bay, he also began his legal career. He would practice football in the morning and law in the afternoon. He had received some All League consideration in his rookie year in Milwaukee, but in Green Bay he was named All League for his first five years, and then second team for two more years. Only in his final year of 1934 did he not receive any postseason notice. Lavvie had long arms and large hands that he used on defense to ward off blockers. He was a solid wall against the run and was the career league leader in interceptions with 27 when he retired.

On offense, even playing for Curly Lambeau who passed more than most, his highest reception total was 25 in the championship year of 1929. Unofficial counts list him with 126 catches for 2,043 yards, a 16.2 yards per-catch average, and 12 touchdowns. He also scored twice on interceptions and kicked two extra points for a total of 86 points. Overall, he was consistently excellent, but had no sensational games. Dilweg deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the finest end of his era by far.

He retired in 1934. He would be replaced in the lineup in 1935 by the spectacular offensive force of Don Hutson, who would make it seem as if no one had ever played end before. Since Dilweg worked in the law firm of Gerald Clifford, one of the Hungry Five who managed the team, he took part in one last great events in Packers history.

In January 1935 he was the witness of the articles of incorporation for the reorganization of the non-profit Packers signed by Clifford, Lee Joannes, and Dr. Kelly. Dilweg continued to practice law in Green Bay for several years, but kept busy in other ways as well.

He officiated Big Ten football games until 1943. He ran unsuccessful campaigns for state attorney general and U.S. Senator, and then was elected to Congress in 1942. He lost his bid for re-election, but built up a lucrative law practice in Washington, D.C. In 1961 President Kennedy appointed him for a three-year term to the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission and he was reappointed twice by President Johnson. He died just two days after Lombardi’s Packers won their third consecutive NFL title in the Ice Bowl, replicating the achievement of the Packers of Dilweg’s era. Posthumously, Lavvie Dilweg ws a charter inductee into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1970.

Fifty-five years after Lavvie retired and 21 years after he died, another Dilweg wore the green and gold, his grandson, Anthony. Anthony Dilweg was a third-round pick in 1989 who made the team as a backup quarterback. His moment of glory came on opening day of 1990 when he got his first NFL start, replacing holdout Don Majkowski, and completed 20-of-32 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns to upset the Rams 36-24.

Here is the list of Packers players to wear #22 over the course of the past 50 years:

  From To AV
Kahlil Bell 2013 2013 0
Lewis Billups 1992 1992 1
J.R. Boone 1953 1953 0
Bucky Brooks 1996 1997 0
Bill Butler 1959 1959 0
Billy Grimes 1950 1952 0
Darick Holmes 1998 1998 5
Mark Lee 1980 1990 53
Patrick Lee 2008 2011 2
Nick Luchey 2003 2004 0
Marquand Manuel 2006 2006 6
Lenny McGill 1994 1995 3
Jerron McMillian 2012 2013 2
Eric Metcalf 2002 2002 0
Johnny Papit 1953 1953 0
De’Mond Parker 1999 2000 2
Elijah Pitts 1961 1971 28
Bill Roberts 1956 1956 0
Jim Shanley 1958 1958 0
Jon Staggers 1972 1974 14
Keith Thibodeaux 2001 2001 1

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