Green Bay Packers in the Hall of Fame: Johnny “Blood” McNally

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

“Johnny Blood” was born John Victor McNally in New Richmond, Wisconsin, in the west-central portion of the State near the Mississippi River, late in 1903.

McNally lettered in four sports in college (the usual three of basketball, football, and baseball, plus track and field), but he played no sports in high school.

In the NFL, McNally played halfback for six different teams over a 17-year career from 1925-1941, including two stints each with the Green Bay Packers (1929-1933, and 1935-1936) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (yes, the Pirates, sharing the same name with the baseball team, not yet known as the Steelers), and lesser time with four other teams.

So seven of McNally’s 17 seasons were spent with the Packers, more than any of the other teams for which he played.

McNally was an NFL champion four times, every time as a member of the Packers. He was also chosen as a virtual member of the 1930s all-decade team, a 10-year span during which McNally spent seven seasons with the Packers.

Taking all those factors into consideration, it is safe to say that McNally is mainly considered to have been a Packer, and doubtless viewed himself primarily as a member of his homestate team.

Now as to how McNally came by his nickname “Johnny Blood”.

One might surmise that he was given that name due to visibly obvious injuries received while playing hard-nosed, rough-and-tumble football without a helmet.

That is not the case, however. In actuality, it was an attempt on McNally’s part to hide his identity while he was playing semi-pro football, so that he would not lose his eligibility to play college ball in the event Notre Dame decided to accept him back (they had kicked him off the team).

Rather than the name “Blood” referencing leaking body fluids, it was inspired by a movie then playing called “Blood and Sand.” McNally took the first noun in the title as his new surname, and his partner in subterfuge (a fellow member of the semi-pro team) took the name “Sand.”

A “colorful character” to say the least, McNally was given the nickname “The Vagabond Halfback” after “riding the blinds”, hobo fashion, on the way to training camp once.

After Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, McNally took a hiatus from football and joined the military, serving as a cryptographer in India.

Following the war’s conclusion in 1945, McNally attempted a comeback with the Packers at the tender age of 41, but was injured in a preseason game and subsequently retired.

At 50, McNally returned to college, earning a Master’s degree in economics.

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McNally was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in its first class in 1963, along with Curly Lambeau. When the Packers Hall of Fame began in 1970, he was among the first members inducted into that august body.