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General Category => Author Articles => Topic started by: Bob Fox on September 02, 2018, 12:18:41 PM

Title: Why Gale Gillingham Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Post by: Bob Fox on September 02, 2018, 12:18:41 PM
Why Gale Gillingham Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

By Bob Fox


The Green Bay Packers were very fortunate to have two of the best guards in the NFL from 1959 through 1966 when left guard Fuzzy Thurston and right guard Jerry Kramer were a dominant blocking duo.

Especially on the signature play of the Packers and their head coach Vince Lombardi, the power sweep.

Both Kramer and Thurston were honored due to their outstanding play. Back in the day when No. 64 and No. 63 played, awards were given out by a number of media outlets. This included The Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), The Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) and The New York Daily News (NY).

Kramer was named first-team All-Pro at right guard in 1960 (AP), 1962 (AP, NEA and UPI), 1963 (AP, NEA, UPI and NY), 1966 (AP, UPI, FW and NY) and 1967 (AP, UPI and NY), plus was named second-team All-Pro in 1961 (NY) and 1968 (AP).

Thurston was first-team All-Pro at left guard in both 1961 (AP, UPI, NEA and NY) and 1962 (UPI), plus was named second-team All-Pro in 1963 (UPI), 1964 (NY) and 1966 (NY).

That’s a combined 12 All-Pro honors. Seven for Kramer and five for Thurston.

But even with the award-winning play, Kramer only went to three Pro Bowls, while Thurston never went to a single one. That seems quite odd and perplexing to me.

Kramer was also honored by being put on the 1960s All-Decade team, plus was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team (the only guard on the first team).

That all led to Kramer being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

The Packers were also very fortunate that they had another talented guard available to take Thurston’s place when No. 63 injured a knee in training camp in 1967.

That player was Gale Gillingham, who was a second-year player out of the University of Minnesota. Gillingham, along with fullback Jim Grabowski, were taken in the first round of the 1966 NFL draft.

Those two rookies played a big role in the 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl when the Packers faced the Dallas Cowboys. After the Packers had grabbed a 7-0 lead after scoring on the opening drive, on the ensuing kickoff, Gillingham forced a fumble by Mel Renfro, which was recovered by Grabowski and returned 18 yards for another touchdown.

After Thurston’s knee injury in training camp in 1967, Kramer soon learned that he was not going to be the fastest offensive lineman on the Packers any more.

“After we did some sprints for awhile, I told Forrest Gregg to forget about trying to beat Gilly,” Kramer said. “The kid could really move, plus he was strong as an ox.”

It was soon apparent that Gillingham was not going to relinquish the left guard spot that was held by Thurston for so many years.

Did Thurston sulk about that situation? Hell no.

“Fuzzy sat besides Gilly for the rest of the ’67 season, ” Kramer said. “He coached Gilly. They sat together in every film session. Fuzzy gave him the benefit of everything he had learned about the defensive tackle that Gilly would be facing that given week.

“Fuzzy told Gilly what he liked to do against that tackle and told Gilly that he should think about doing the same thing. Basically, Fuzzy was Gilly’s personal coach.”

Gilly had a nice season in 1967, as the Packers won their third straight NFL championship, plus won their second straight Super Bowl as well.

That team overcame a lot to become champions. The Packers did not have either fullback Jim Taylor or halfback Paul Hornung in in 1967. Add to that, their replacements, Grabowski and Elijah Pitts, were both lost for the year due to injuries midway through the season.

Even with that, the Packers still finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1967. The play of No. 68 certainly helped that situation.

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