In Green Bay, Wisconsin, that romantic city lying quaintly by the banks of Holzer's Drug Store, the questions seem as poignant as those on daytime television. Can two young, handsome, adventurous millionaires find true happiness in a town where living it up means buying a new mackinaw? Will the happy people in their colorful regional costumes take them to their bosoms? Can Boom Boom beat out Locks on the field and in the gossip columns? Is Grabbo the Pole to end the ethnic jokes? And what of the old man, Coach Lombardi—Sir? Can he handle it all? Can they? Can U Thant? Last week all of pro football was awaiting the answers as breathlessly as Donny Anderson and Jim Grabowski were awaiting the Wall Street closings.
There are always a lot of suspenseful questions during the teasing exhibition season as the pros shove their blocking sleds around from moldy Peekskill to steamy Thousand Oaks. Since training began in early July, however, most of the important ones have been resolved. Jim Brown stayed in London and quit the game. John Brodie came back from Hawaii and signed. Otto Graham claimed he was misquoted again. Ernie Ladd moved his 315-pound appetite from San Diego to Houston, a place with more groceries. And Al Davis finally got another job. Thus the interest now centers on Green Bay and one of the more fascinating situations of any year. Green Bay is where that million-dollar pair of rookies, $711,000 Donny (Boom Boom) Anderson of Texas Tech and $355,000 Jim (Grabbo) Grabowski of Illinois, are merely trying to unemploy two of the game's best players, Paul Hornung (also known as Locks, as in Goldi) and Jim Taylor (see cover), who just happen to have led the Packers to three NFL championships in five years.
It seems preposterous on the surface—like Holzer's trying to beat out the Eiffel Tower as a postcard subject—but if so, why did Vince Lombardi spend all that money? Why are Hornung and Taylor in the best shape of their lives? The real question is not whether the rookies will take over, but when.
That day, barring injuries to Hornung and Taylor, will not come tomorrow, next week or next month. In fact, it may not have come even by the end of the 1966 season—after the Packers have beaten Baltimore in sudden death for the Western Division title, Cleveland in sudden death for the NFL championship, Buffalo in sudden death for the world championship and after Commissioner Pete Rozelle has ignored challenges from the Continental, North American and Canadian leagues.
But the battle is on, a complex entanglement of abilities and personalities. There is the Golden Palomino, Anderson, from the dusty, flat plains of Texas, against the Golden Boy, Hornung—both of them flashy, swinging types noted for their indulgence in women, clothes and rich, rare steak. Then there is the Polish workhorse from Illinois, Grabowski, who had erased Red Grange's records, against the Bayou workhorse from Louisiana, Taylor. Hovering over them is Lombardi. And none of the five will soon find himself out of the spotlight that a fascinated country has turned on Green Bay.
Since the Packers' primary concern is winning another title, everyone naturally would like to pretend that there is nothing unusual in town except the presence of a few new exercising machines. Sure, a couple of new guys are around. What are their names—Granderson and Dabrowski? Good kids. Hope they make the cut. And the early statements went like this:
Lombardi: They're not the highest-paid ballplayers in history, and they won't cause any discussion.
Hornung: Taylor and I have always had good backs behind us.
Taylor: I don't need another man to push me. Whatever drive I have comes from my own pride.
That's swell, except for one thing. Hornung and Taylor, who are now 30 years old, are in the best shape ever. All of the veteran Packers appear to be. They are tanned and feisty and eager, as they demonstrated on Aug. 5 when they demolished the College All Stars 38-0. Taylor, the butchering inside runner, looked quicker than in the past as he took pitchouts and went wide, then cut downfield. Once, on a 13-yard touchdown run, Taylor squirted through a hole and was across the goal before the All-Star deep backs could turn their heads. Hornung, at the same time, ran his sweeps and off-tackle plays as if he'd shed five years. Close as ever behind his guards, Fuzzy Thurston and Jerry Kramer, he practically hurdled them once or twice, and jerked and bulled for extra yardage like a...uh...rookie. So far, it has been the best training camp the Packers have ever had, and clearly the knowledge that the high-priced rookies were coming in has been partly responsible.