Daily Dose of Crimson Tide: Don Hutson

Christopher Walsh

When most people think of receivers who changed the way football is played, usually Jerry Rice or maybe even Randy Moss come to mind.

Well, more than 50 years before them was Don Hutson, who completely revolutionized receiving during an era football was still almost exclusively considered a running sport.

Tall, skinny and having deceptive speed, Hutson was considered the pioneer of modern pass patterns, the first to perfect the techniques of catching a pass “in traffic,” and made the end-around a potent weapon.

“For every pass I caught in a game, I caught a thousand in practice,” Hutson once said.

Hutson and Millard “Dixie” Howell became football’s most celebrated passing combination in the 1930s, and in 1934 he was named an All-American. Hutson scored the winning touchdown against Tennessee on a 9-yard end-around, caught two touchdown passes against Clemson, and when he had six receptions for 165 yards against Stanford in the Rose Bowl, West Coast writers hailed him “the greatest pass-catching speed merchant end.”

“Don had the most fluid motion you had ever seen when he was running,” said the other end on that team, Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. “It looked like he was going just as fast as possible when all of a sudden he would put on an extra burst of speed and be gone.”

Hutson also played center field for the baseball team and ran track, once competing in both on the same day. He was also once timed at 9.8 seconds in the 100-yard dash.

If it wasn’t for a unique ruling by NFL President Joe Carr, Hutson might have never made such a splash in the professional ranks. After leaving the Capstone, he signed contracts with both the Green Bay Packers and the NFL’s version of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team that rarely passed (but ironically would be turned down by Bryant). Carr ruled that the deal with the earliest postmark would be honored. The Packers’ contract was postmarked 8:30 a.m., 17 minutes earlier than the Dodgers’ deal. Thus Hutson became a Packer.

He played 11 years with Green Bay, 1935-45, was All-Pro nine times, led the league in pass receptions eight times, led the league in scoring five times, and twice named most valuable player (1941-42). He finished his pro career with 488 pass receptions, more than 200 more than the next best player.

His 99 career touchdown receptions stood as a National Football League record for more than four decades, and his 29 points in a game has yet to be broken. When he retired, Hutson held 18 NFL records.

He’s been enshrined into numerous different Halls of Fame, including Alabama, Arkansas, Rose Bowl, College Football, Pro Football, Green Bay Packers, Helms Foundation, and Wisconsin. When the Packers built their indoor practice facility in 1994, it was named in his honor, the Don Hutson Center.

“I don’t know if there is such a thing as royalty in professional football, but this is the closest I’ve ever come to it,” Packers general manager Ron Wolf said at the dedication ceremony.

Some of this post originated from "100 Things Crimson tide Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die," published by Triumph Books

Comments (3)
No. 1-3
Joey Blackwell
Joey Blackwell

Editor

29 points in a game? Good grief that's impressive.

Tyler  Martin
Tyler Martin

Editor

A true pioneer.

Christopher Walsh
Christopher Walsh

Editor

When they talk about who was the greatest Green Bay Packers player, Hutson usually ends up at No. 1 ... and I'll be honest, it's something I didn't get until I covered the Packers for three seasons. He was that good.


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