Green Bay Packers in the Hall of Fame: Clarke Hinkle

Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

William Clarke Hinkle was an all-around ballplayer. Back in the days when men were men and football players were tired, Hinkle played not only “both ways” (on offense and defense), but also special teams.

Hinkle played for the Green Bay Packers from 1932-1941.

On offense he was a fullback, and on defense a linebacker (a tackler of his opposite number on the other team). On special teams, he served as both the punter and kicker.

Not only did Hinkle play virtually every down, there were no television commercial breaks during the years he played, as games were not televised (the “€œboob tube”€ not coming into common use until the 1950s).

Another thing that underscores how different the life of an athlete was then compared to now is that after his first season ended, Hinkle spent the offseason back home in Ohio, working for a steel construction company. Players working at a “œregular”€ job in the offseason was common at the time, but rarer than a hen’€™s tooth in the modern era of multi-million dollar contracts and year-round position-specific training programs. 

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Hinkle was an NFL champion twice, in 1936 and 1939, an All-Star thrice, and a first-team All Pro seven times (and second-team All Pro his other three seasons). Additionally, Hinkle was named to the virtual All-decade team for the 1930s and was inducted both into the Packers Hall of Fame (1972) and the NFL Hall of Fame (1964).

Although primarily remembered as a fullback, Hinkle was also considered the best punter in the NFL.

Curly Lambeau, the Packers head coach for most of the team’s first three decades (all but the first year), signed Hinkle to play for the Pack after watching him play in the 1931 Shrine game. At the conclusion of Hinkle’€™s first season with the Packers in 1932, Lambeau referred to him as a second Jim Thorpe (high praise, indeed, as Thorpe was a versatile and indefatigable athlete).

Some critics were already calling Hinkle “€œthe greatest football player in the world”.

Bronko Nagurski, another super-tough fullback of the era, called Hinkle “€œthe toughest man I ever played against”.

The Packers’€™ west practice field (across the street from Lambeau Field) is named “€œClarke Hinkle Field”.

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Although the numbers may not seem overly impressive now, at the time Hinkle retired (by signing up for four years in the Coast Guard in WW 2), he held the NFL record for rushing attempts (1,171) and rushing yards (3,860).

Following his football and military careers, Hinkle worked in Neenah, Wisconsin for a time before returning to his native Ohio, where he died in 1988 at the age of 79.