NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Herbert Allen “Herb” Adderley was born 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He was a first round pick in the 1961 NFL Draft, selected by the Green Bay Packers at #12.
Note that, whereas picking at the number 12 spot would today indicate a rather pedestrian record the previous year – doubtless under .500 – in 1960 there were only 13 NFL teams, so the Packers actually had the penultimate pick at slot #12.
That makes sense, since they had played in the NFL Championship game the previous (1960) season.
Adderley began as a halfback with the Packers, which was his college position. He was switched to cornerback because the Packers already had future Hall of Famers Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor in the offensive backfield.
In his first game at cornerback, in which he was inserted to take the place of an injured teammate (Hank Gremminger), Adderley intercepted a pass against the Lions to set up the game-winning touchdown.
A defensive star was born.
Quintessential coach Vince Lombardi eventually said that Adderley was the best cornerback he had ever seen, and that it scared him to think he had almost “mishandled him” by his reticence to switch Adderley from halfback to cornerback.
Packers quarterback Bart Starr echoed Lombardi’s evaluation, also saying that Adderley was the best cornerback he had ever seen, adding that he was glad Adderley played for the Packers. He was probably happy about that for more reason than one.
Adderley wasn’t just a running back turned defensive back. He also served as a kick returner from 1961 through 1968, during that time averaging 25.7 yards per return, and taking two all the way to the end zone.
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In fact, Adderley first saw the field for the Packers as a kick returner, supplying the Packers with three long returns against the 49ers in his first NFL game in 1961. The Packers won that game.
Adderley also helped win a game against the Vikings in 1963 when he blocked a “gimme” (10-yard) field goal attempt, which a teammate picked up and ran back for a touchdown. At the time of the blocked field goal attempt (prior to the scoop-6), Minnesota had been leading 28-27.
Probably not surprisingly, though, Adderley’s biggest impact, and most consistent contributions, came from his cornerback play.
Wearing jersey number 26, Adderley ended up with 39 interceptions during his nine seasons with the Packers. Of these 39 interceptions, seven were pick-sixes. Three of those came in one season (1965), which still stands as a team record.
Adderley played his first nine seasons (1961 to 1969) for the Green Bay Packers.
He was a key member of the Packers defense that was victorious in the first two Super Bowls.
Super Bowl heroics
For example, in the 33-14 Super Bowl 2 (down with Roman numerals!) victory over the Oakland Raiders, Adderley returned a fourth quarter Daryl Lamonica pass for a 60-yard pick six, the first such play in a Super Bowl.
Assuming he was watching the game somewhere, “Dandy” Don Meredith probably started singing “Turn out the lights, the Party’s Over” at that point.
There wasn’t another Super Bowl pick-six until almost a decade later, in Super Bowl 11.
Adderley was awarded a game ball by Lombardi for his stellar play throughout that game.
Getting back to the 60-yard pick-six, it should be noted that it took a great read and jump on the ball for Adderley to make the play, and he also made a good evasive move on Lamonica during the return, but the absolute de-cleater of a block by DT Ron Kostelnik may be the most impressive thing you notice when you watch that play, which you can find here.
In addition to the two Super Bowl seasons of 1966 and 1967, Adderley was a member of the pre-Super Bowl 1961, 1962, and 1965 NFL Championship teams.
Throughout the course of his career with Green Bay, Adderley was voted to multiple All-Pro selections and Pro Bowl appearances.
It is noteworthy that Adderley was durable, too. So much so that he only missed three games in his entire career. His worst injury, causing him to miss two of those games, was caused by a run-in with a sideline camera.
After his nine seasons with Green Bay, Adderley played another three with some obscure team from Texas (you’ll have to ask Troy Aikman about them), but we’ll leave that part of his career untouched and unmentioned.
Even Adderley himself said, “I’m the only man with a D****s C*****s Super Bowl ring that doesn’t wear it. I’m a Green Bay Packer.”
And when Herb Allen Adderley was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1980, he did so chiefly based on his achievements while a member of the Green Bay Packers.
For more about Herb Adderley, read the book he co-wrote with teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Dave Robinson and Royce Boyles entitled “Lombardi’s Left Side.”