- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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From the 1977 draft Starr got his quarterback, Whitehurst; his runner, Middleton; one of his offensive guards, Gofourth; an offensive tackle, Greg Koch; and his two sensational defensive ends, Ezra Johnson and Mike Butler. And this season Starr picked up James Lofton, the speedy and dangerous wide receiver who scares defenses simply by lining up, and his two rookie linebackers, John Anderson and Mike Hunt.
Overall, Green Bay starts nine players from the past two drafts. Thus, Starr's draft record has received the highest compliment from the high priest of drafts, Gil Brandt of the Cowboys. "We would have taken all of them," says Brandt. This is almost like Rommel saying, "Nice tank maneuver, Bart."
In Whitehurst, Starr has a bit of himself at quarterback. Like Starr, a 17th-round pick from Alabama in 1956, Whitehurst came to the Packers in a low draft round—the eighth. He was thought to be a player of limited ability, but one with potential and a determination to work hard—like Starr.
Whitehurst had two things to overcome. One, he went to Furman. Two, at Furman he ran the Veer. But Whitehurst is a tireless worker and a harsh critic of himself. "Even when we win," he says, "I can't sleep all night for thinking about the mistakes I made."
Starr believes that one of his functions as coach is to help Whitehurst put his feelings in perspective. Before the Tampa Bay game, Starr remembered a critical moment involving himself and Lombardi, a moment which has not been lost on him in dealing with Whitehurst.
"Vince was a hollerer and I'm not," Starr said. "One day in practice in about our second year together, I threw a stupid interception. He read me out but good, and right there in front of everybody. I was really upset. I went to his office later and said that if he expected me to lead this team, he'd better not humiliate me like that in front of them. He never did it again."
Actually, what has helped Whitehurst as much as anything is having Middleton in the backfield with him. A 1977 third-round pick from Memphis State, Middleton carried the ball just 35 times and gained only 97 yards as a rookie. This year, though, he has rushed for 755 yards in the Packers' nine games, second best in the NFC. With Lee Roy Selmon hanging on to him, Middleton didn't get much of a chance to dazzle the Green Bay crowd Sunday, but he can get the tough short yardage as well as break a long one. Besides, almost any time a runner comes along with a first name unlike any you have ever heard of, he tends to become a hero. Doak, Gale, Franco, Orenthal and Terdell, O.K.?