In honor of Independence Day, these are the Green Bay Packers who played their collegiate football for the Army, Navy or Air Force.
Defensive tackle J.D. Kimmel (1958): Kimmel played at Houston and Army before being an 11th-round draft pick by Washington in 1952. He served a two-year stint with the Army before embarking on his NFL career. He started all 12 games during his lone season with the Packers.
Fullback/linebacker Bob Summerhays (1949-1951): A fourth-round pick by the Packers in 1949, Summerhays rushed 29 times for 101 yards as a rookie before his focus shifted to defense. He had three career interceptions, including an 88-yard pick-six in 1951.
Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, who played at Notre Dame, is among the Packers who have served in the Army. He was picked for The 33rd Team’s All-Heroes Team. He famously was given weekend passes so he could play for the Packers in 1961.
“I’ll be mighty glad to get out of here,” Hornung said from Fort Riley, Kan., in July 1962.
Guard Mike Wahle (1998-2004): There is no supplemental draft this year. The last time the Packers participated in it, they landed Wahle – who was dismissed from Navy’s football team due to a failed steroids test – with a second-round pick. He played 11 NFL seasons with 138 starts, including 16-start seasons for the Packers from 2001 through 2004. His lone Pro Bowl appearance came with Seattle in 2005.
Defensive tackle Bob Kuberski (1995-1998): Kuberski was a seventh-round pick in 1993. After serving his two-year military assignment, he played in 37 games with Green Bay over the next four seasons. Both career sacks came during his rookie season.
Receiver Phil McConkey (1986): McConkey served five years in the Navy as a helicopter pilot before joining the Giants as a 27-year-old rookie in 1984. He spent two years with the Giants but was released, played four games for the Packers and was released again, then re-joined the Giants. He didn’t record any stats with Green Bay but tallied more than 4,200 all-purpose yards in his six NFL seasons.
Linebacker Chris Gizzi (2000-2001): Gizzi was the WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 1996 and 1997 but went undrafted in 1998. After serving his two-year military obligation, he joined the Packers in 2000. On the field, he didn’t make much of a mark. In two seasons with the team, he started one game and had 28 tackles.
However, he’ll live forever in Packers lore. Before the first game following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Gizzi led the team onto the field, sprinting out of the tunnel while carrying the American flag.
“Moments before the game, Bryan [Nehring, an assistant equipment manager] asked me where my flag was, and I jokingly said, ‘I must have left it in my other uniform. What do you mean?’” Gizzi recalled in a story by The Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Wilde. “So he gets one of the equipment assistants, who was a boy scout troop leader, he lived right by the stadium. He calls his wife, ‘I’m running home, have the flag ready.’ He ran home, got the flag, brought it back, handed it to Bryan, and Bryan runs down the tunnel in the north end zone, hands it to me, and I literally grab the flag, turned around, and stepped out on the field.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it; I was thinking about the game. But I got the flag, I stepped out, and the crowd went nuts. The ground started shaking. And I just took off running. The crowd carried me across that field.”
In 2019, Gizzi was promoted to Green Bay’s strength and conditioning coordinator. He was the team’s 2021 nominee for the NFL’s Salute to Service Award.
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