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July 07, 2011
Green Bay's success was due in no small part to Dan Currie and Bill Forester, a pair of defenders any team would want in its corners
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July 07, 2011

Toughest Jobs On The Field

Green Bay's success was due in no small part to Dan Currie and Bill Forester, a pair of defenders any team would want in its corners

From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, December 18, 1961

IT IS NO ACCIDENT THAT A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM IS INVARIABLY EQUIPPED with a fine corner linebacker, who must have almost mutually exclusive talents. He must be able to meet a fullback with the size and brute power of Cleveland's Jim Brown at the line of scrimmage and either stop him cold or so impede him that help will arrive before Brown has made an appreciable gain. This, of course, takes size—something on the order of 230 to 240 pounds. But he must also have enough speed to cover a rabbit-fast halfback on a pass pattern. This is something like asking a draft horse to compete in the Kentucky Derby.

The Green Bay Packers are, in a sense, doubly a championship team, for they have two corner linebackers who fit the position's demanding specifications. Dan Currie and Bill Forester tackle fullbacks with enthusiasm and effect, cover ends and halfbacks reasonably well and, upon occasion, barrel in to commit legal mayhem upon a quarterback bent on passing.

"The toughest job is taking a halfback all the way," Currie says. "You have to play loose. You have to drop back off the line so that you've got a good head start in the footrace you'll have with the swing halfback. And even then a guy like the Rams' [halfback] Jon Arnett can scare the hell out of you. I can't run as fast as Arnett. What I've got to do is stay as close to him as I can and hope the passer doesn't have time to throw."

Currie, at 26, is a tall, dark and handsome man. He and Forester are almost precisely the same size—6' 3", 235 or 240 pounds. They are probably the biggest pair of corner linebackers in football and almost certainly the best. Currie was Green Bay's first draft choice in 1958, after making most All-America teams as a center and linebacker at Michigan State. He had also played offensive guard for two years at State and at one time or another filled in at every position in the line. Because he had an older brother who was good, he got an early start in football, being accepted in kid games as a sort of handicap to compensate for his brother. By the time he graduated from St. Anthony High in Detroit, he had made All-Detroit and All-Michigan as a center. Currie lives in Warren, Mich., during the off-season with his wife, Mary, and their three children: Janie, 4; Tom, 2; and Matthew, 6 months.

Off the field he dresses meticulously, a habit that has earned him the nickname Dapper Dan. Even if he were the sloppiest man on the Packers, Currie probably would have won the name anyway for the very neat way he analyzes and reacts to keys, those often mentioned but seldom understood nouns and verbs that are tossed around by football people these days.

IN PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL THE whole defense depends substantially on keys, actions taken by an offensive player that indicate almost irrevocably what type of play is coming. For instance, if the strongside end blocks on the defensive end, the play will almost certainly be a wide run.

This key sets up an instantaneous chain reaction. The corner linebacker reads sweep and fights to the outside in order to force the runner either to turn in to the heavy traffic of the defense or to keep going wide until he hits the sideline and cannot maneuver. The corner halfback comes up to tackle the runner should he cut back, and the safety comes up fast to lend assistance on the tackle.

The Packers, reading this key, play it a little differently from other clubs in the league. In a normal defense, once the running key becomes evident, the linebacker crosses the line of scrimmage, intent on stopping the play there. This sets him up perfectly for a block by the guard who leads the play. Currie and Forester do not cross the line and consequently are harder to block.

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