HOF Case for Lavvie Dilweg

Ken Crippen, the executive director of the Pro Football Researchers Association, submitted this to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's veterans committee.

Lavvie Dilweg belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dilweg was considered the best all-around end in pro football prior to Don Hutson, the man who replaced Dilweg on the Green Bay Packers when Dilweg retired. As a result of Hutson's outstanding career, Dilweg's name is all but forgotten. The problem is that Dilweg was not a flashy player.

However, Dilweg's career deserves recognition. He was a consistent player who could clear out blockers for his teammates or tackle any runner near him. To provide you idea of his consistency, Dilweg was named consensus all-pro for six consecutive years, with four of those years being unanimous all-pro. From 1920 through 1950, only one other player at that position was able to match that accomplishment: Don Hutson with 10. Mac Speedie had four consecutive consensus all-pro selections and Bill Hewitt had three. The remainder of ends who played during that timeframe had no more than two consecutive consensus all-pro selections. None of that would make a highlight film, but players, coaches and the media of his day knew that Dilweg was the best. On the offensive side of the ball, Dilweg showed excellent blocking skills, the primary responsibility of ends at the time. He also could catch the ball, however, the passing game back then was not what it is now. Even with his excellent offensive skills, it was his defensive prowess that made him dominant. He could tackle, block and hit. Offenses feared him. His defensive teammates knew they could always count on him. He consistently performed each and every game.

Laverne Ralph Dilweg was born November 1, 1903 (most encyclopedias have his birthdate as January 11, but that is incorrect) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Throughout his football career, he stayed local. He played high school football at Washington High School in Milwaukee. He attended Marquette University for his undergraduate degree and for law school, leading them to a 28-4-1 record during his tenure. He was twice named to Walter Eckersall's All-America team. Eckersall was a well-respected football authority who wrote for the Chicago Tribune. Dilweg also played in the first East-West Shrine Game in 1925.

In 1926, the 6'3", 199-pound Dilweg joined the Milwaukee Badgers of the National Football League. He was an outstanding player on a mediocre team. The Badgers folded after the 1926 season and Dilweg signed with the Green Bay Packers, who won three championships in the eight years on what was considered the greatest team at the time.

Over his nine seasons – an unusually long career at the time – Dilweg made at least one all-pro team every year except for his final season.

Dilweg graduated from Marquette University School of Law in 1927 and practiced law while he played for the Green Bay Packers. After his retirement from pro football in 1934, Dilweg devoted his time to his law practice. In 1942, he was elected to the U.S.

House of Representatives. He served one term, but continued his law career until his death on June 2, 1968 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Dilweg was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-1920s team at end, along with Guy Chamberlin and George Halas. Let's compare Dilweg to the other two selections.

Dilweg was consensus all-pro six times during his career, while Chamberlin was named consensus all-pro three times and Halas was never consensus all-pro. Even if the 1930s all-pro selections were removed from Dilweg's resume, he was still named consensus allpro four times in the 1920s; more than Chamberlin and Halas combined, yet Dilweg only played the last half of the decade (four years for Dilweg, eight years for Chamberlin and nine years for Halas).

Now, let's expand the analysis and compare him to all pre-modern era ends in the Hall of Fame. They include: Red Badgro, Ray Flaherty, Bill Hewitt, Wayne Millner, Guy Chamberlin, George Halas and Don Hutson. Ray Flaherty was inducted more as a coach than end. Halas was inducted as a coach, owner and founder of the league, not for his play at end, however Halas did have a good career at end. Chamberlin was inducted both as a coach and end. That leaves Badgro, Hewitt, Millner and Hutson as the only players inducted strictly for their play at end, but I will still include Chamberlin and Halas in the analysis out of fairness to all sides of the argument. Keep in mind while looking at these statistics, that it was not until the late 1930s when the passing game really took off.

Therefore, all players from the late 1930s and early 1940s would have benefited from increased passing attempts. Dilweg does not fall within that category.

Years in the League:

Don Hutson – 11 (1935-1945)

Lavvie Dilweg – 9 (1926-1934)

George Halas – 9 (1920-1928)

Bill Hewitt – 9 (1932-1943)

Guy Chamberlin – 8 (1920-1927)

Red Badgro – 7 (1927-1936)

Wayne Millner – 7 (1936-1941, 1945)

Receiving Touchdowns:

Don Hutson – 99

Bill Hewitt – 23

Lavvie Dilweg – 12

Wayne Millner – 12

Guy Chamberlin – 8

Red Badgro – 7

George Halas – 6

Total Offensive Touchdowns:

Don Hutson – 102

Bill Hewitt – 24

Lavvie Dilweg – 12

Wayne Millner – 12

Guy Chamberlin – 11

Red Badgro – 7

George Halas 7

Interceptions for Touchdowns:

Guy Chamberlin – 3

Lavvie Dilweg – 2

George Halas – 1

Don Hutson – 1

Red Badgro – 0

Bill Hewitt – 0

Wayne Millner – 0

As one can see, Dilweg ranks in the upper half of all of these statistical categories. All are in the Hall of Fame, except Dilweg. In fact, the entire All-Decade team of the 1920s is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, except for Dilweg and Hunk Anderson.

To further illustrate how he ranks with the predominant ends of his day, Dilweg was a six-time Consensus All-Pro. That's more than Hall of Famers Millner, Badgro and Hewitt combined. Dilweg also won more championships (three) than the others, with two for Hewitt and one each for Millner and Badgro. Plus, of that foursome, Dilweg ranked second in receptions with 123 (Millner had 124), first in yards with 2,069 (Hewitt was second with 1,638) and yards per catch with 16.8 (Badgro was next with 16.4 average). His 27 interceptions easily outdistanced the others, with Badgro posting the only two among the others.

Fellow historians have commented on Dilweg's abilities. Legendary football historian Bob Carroll (my predecessor as executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association and co-founder of the organization) stated, "You could make the case that the stuff he did after football was a little more important in the whole scheme of things than playing end for the Green Bay Packers. And none of that changes the fact that at a particular time and place in the long history of football, nobody played end better than Dilweg."

The editors of "Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League" listed Dilweg as one of the 300 Greatest Players of All-Time, stating, "Lavern Dilweg, by nearly all contemporary accounts, was the best end in pro football almost from his first game in 1926 until his last in 1934."

In "The Hidden Game of Football: The Next Edition," authors Bob Carroll, Pete Palmer, John Thorn and David Pietrusza developed a rating system used to rank early players based on total number of years played, number of championship seasons, and all-pro selections. Dilweg was in the first group of players, which the authors commented, "the first group represents those players who would seem to have all the necessities for Hall of Fame selection." Of the three ends in the first group, Dilweg was ranked below Don Hutson and ahead of Bill Hewitt, both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame ends Guy Chamberlin, Ray Flaherty, Red Badgro, George Halas and Wayne Millner did not make the first group.

If the selectors use Pro Bowls/All-Pro nominations as criteria for induction into the Hall of Fame, Dilweg ranks at or better than other Hall of Fame ends. If championships are the determining factor, Dilweg played on three world championship teams. If selectors use the testimonials of the player's peers, you have the following: Hall of Fame member Red Grange stated: "I have always rated Dilweg as the greatest end who ever brought me down." Hall of Fame member Cal Hubbard named Dilweg as a member of his All-Time All-Star team. Hall of Fame member Bronko Nagurski named Dilweg to his All-Time All-Star team. Harold ‘Brick' Muller: "[Dilweg was] one of the best players I ever faced on the football field."

Dilweg was not a flashy player. He did not make headlines due his antics. However, he was a solid player who would consistently excel game after game. That is why he gained the respect of everyone. Players, coaches and members of the media at the time rated him as the best all-around end of his era. He was a reliable receiver and very strong on defense. If you look at statistics, he ranks with current Hall of Fame ends. If you look at intangibles (blocking, tackling, etc.), Dilweg ranks at or above current Hall of Fame ends.

I will leave you with one last comment from Dan Daly in "The Pro Football Chronicle," "If modern sportswriters can be entrusted to decide whom to allow into the Hall of Fame, then ‘20s sportswriters can, too." Looking at the consensus all-pro selections of Dilweg, the sportswriters of the 1920s and 1930s have spoken.

Lavvie Dilweg belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Ken Crippen is executive director of the Pro Football Researchers Association. E-mail him at ken_crippen@profootballresearchers.org.

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