Glance back: Carroll Dale

In a way, the first half of this game mirrored many of Carroll Dale's experiences in his five previous NFL seasons.<p>

It was Oct. 17, 1965. The newly acquired Dale and his Packer teammates were facing a tough, uphill battle at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The Lions seemed unstoppable this day, piling up a 21-3 halftime lead. Just as Dale, a 6-2, 200-pound wide receiver, was seeking to pump new life into his pro career after five losing seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, the Packers were desperately seeking a way to pump new life into their offense and get back into this key Western Conference game.

Green Bay needed a dramatic turnaround – and they got it. Quarterback Bart Starr turned in perhaps his finest 15 minutes of regular season football, guiding the Packers to three third quarter touchdowns. The first came on a beautiful 62-yard strike to Bob Long. As the lanky Long streaked into the Lion secondary, Dale ran ahead of him and delivered a crushing block that sprung Long for the score. Next came a 31-yard pass from Starr to halfback Tom Moore whose gazelle-like strides turned a short gain into a trip to pay dirt.

Poised to take back the lead a short time later, the Packers faced a third-and-one situation at their own 23-yard line. As they broke their huddle and came up to the line of scrimmage, Detroit tackle Alex Karras, middle linebacker Joe Schmidt and the rest of the fierce Lion defense dug in, bunching up toward the middle of the line. Clearly, they were expecting Starr to hand off to his battering ram fullback Jim Taylor. Clearly, they were wrong – and the quiet Alabama signal caller made them pay.

Starr faked to Taylor and then threw a bullet pass over the middle to Dale who sped past the linebackers into a wide-open Lion secondary. 77 yards later, he crossed the goal line and then calmly flipped the ball to an official. The Packers had the comeback victory they needed and Dale was on his way toward reviving his pro career beyond his wildest imagination.

"We made the comeback and on the plane back to Green Bay, Coach Lombardi said, 'You got your job back,'" Dale recalled recently. "For the most part, I think it pretty much stayed that way."

For eight seasons, Dale was a starting wide receiver in Green Bay and he was a standout performer in an offense that was geared more for the run than today's fill-the-air-with-footballs offenses. He caught 275 passes for 5,422 yards and 35 touchdowns and he still holds the Packer team record for average yards per reception, registering 19.7 yards per catch. Six times during the course of his Packer career, Dale led the team in receiving yards and he had a knack for making clutch catches in the biggest games.

? In 1965 against the Baltimore Colts in the famous Sudden Death playoff game, it was Dale's 34-yard circus catch of a Zeke Bratkowski pass at the one-yard line that set up Paul Hornung's touchdown run – Green Bay's only touchdown of the game.

? Later, in the sudden death period of that game, Dale snared an 18-yarder from Bratkowski to set the Packers up at the Colts' 26 and put them into position for Don Chandler's winning field goal.

? In the 1965 NFL Championship Game against Cleveland, Dale got the Packers off to a great start with a 47-yard touchdown catch from Bart Starr, the first score of the game. "It snowed that morning, the field was wet and they were playing me tight," said Dale. "I went back and told Bart to throw the fly pattern. It was under thrown, I came back, a couple people slipped and I was able to score."

? In the 1966 NFL Championship Game at Dallas, Dale hauled in a 51-yard bomb from Starr in the second quarter as Green Bay re-gained the lead, 21-14, in a seesaw battle.

? In the 1967 Western Conference playoff game against his old Ram teammates in Milwaukee, with the scored deadlocked at 7-7 in the second quarter, Dale beat cornerback Irv Cross to the corner of the end zone and made a spectacular catch to put the Packers ahead to stay.

? In the "Ice Bowl" NFL title game a week later, Dale made a clutch third down grab of 15 yards and then a 17-yarder to keep the Packers' opening touchdown drive alive.

Big plays. Big games. Winning. All of these things sum up what Carroll Dale's career was like in Green Bay. A native of Wise, Virginia, a small coal-mining town, Dale earned All-American honors in college as a flanker at Virginia Tech. Los Angeles made him their eighth round choice in the 1960 NFL draft but things went sour quickly. After five long years in desert wasteland that was Ram football in that era, Dale came to the wellspring of sweet championship waters in Green Bay and drank his fill. "Our record (in L.A.) all five years was a losing record," Dale recalled, "but once each year we came to Green Bay. In 1961, the Packers won their first championship of the 60s and in again in '62. We all were very much aware that one year Coach Lombardi gave the players' wives a mink stole and another year he gave them a color TV, when color TV was just coming out. And so, as a player, you could see the results of winning and, of course, the wives always were able to get on our case and say, ‘You guys need to win!' In a piece of good fortune for me, (Rams receiver coach) Tom Fears left and came to Green Bay (as receivers coach). He believed in my ability and I'm sure he persuaded or had a big say in Coach Lombardi trading for me."

The Packers sent veteran linebacker Dan Currie to the Rams for Dale and he gave Green Bay instant speed and receiving savvy to complement big Boyd Dowler at the other wide receiver position. At age 33, Max McGee's career was winding down and Dale's arrival gave Starr a great new weapon to unleash on Packer opponents.

Unfortunately, Dale got off to a slow start in Green Bay, pulling a muscle in the top of his right leg during an exhibition game with the Cowboys. The injury kept him on the bench and then, after it healed, Dale found himself chomping at the bit, waiting for his big chance. It came that memorable day in 1965 against Detroit.

Dale smiles warmly as he remembers his Packer years. "It was just great to be part of the Packers. The first championship we won (1965) against Cleveland was probably the most memorable for me because it's like having your first bicycle, your first championship, or your first car. It was thrilling just to be part of a championship team. That was a good Cleveland team that we beat. It was Jim Brown's last year."

Perhaps the biggest touchdown Dale ever scored for the Packers didn't count. If it hadn't been for a referee's flag, Dale – not McGee - would be forever remembered as the guy who caught the first touchdown pass in Super Bowl history. "I had the first Super Bowl touchdown but it was called back," Dale chuckles. The officials called the Packers for illegal motion, nullifying the play. "We looked at the film and nobody moved," Dale said. "There was not a movement on the line at all."

After being part of three straight NFL champions and winners of the first two Super Bowls, Dale and his teammates began to experience the agony of defeat – a feeling he had known all-too-well. The team struggled to losing seasons in 1968, '69, '70, and '71 before returning to respectability and a Central Division title in 1972 under Coach Dan Devine.

In 1973, Dale played his final season as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. The good news? The Vikings got to the Super Bowl against Miami. The bad news? It was the Vikings in a Super Bowl. The Dolphins crushed Minnesota, 24-7 and Dale decided it was time to move on with his life.

He went back home to Virginia and got into the coal business as a mine operator. Dale became the superintendent of a company and stayed in the business for 17 years. But in the late 1980s, the coal business became tough so he decided to change his focus back to an old love: football. He served on the Feasibility Committee for starting a football program at the University of Virginia at Wise and, for the past 11 years, he has served as the school's athletic director. Clearly, Dale is enjoying himself these days, living with his wife, Pat, in his hometown. "My house is less than a quarter mile from where I was raised. It's also 30 seconds from work. It is like walking from the arena to the stadium in Green Bay. It has been fun being back here contributing to the local community." The Dales have a son (Barry) and two daughters (Vicki and Valerie) and are enjoying watching their family grow (six grandchildren and two step-grandchildren).

Despite all the activity in his life, Dale still keeps a close eye on the Packers. Speaking about the Mike Sherman era, Dale says, "First of all, I think it's a real challenge trying to be a head coach and a general manager in the NFL simply because of the salary cap and free agency. From the fan's standpoint, it's tough to follow the team because you have so many players just blowing through the organization. It makes it a special challenge for the coaches, just trying to get your guys together on the same page and have that singleness of purpose. But I think when you have people like Brett Favre that you know will be in the dirt, trying to get it done, people appreciate that. They seemed to have some unity and singleness of purpose last year. I was a little disappointed in the fact that when they won the big game they didn't respond the next week and play the next game the way they should have. Sometimes you read the paper and you think you're good and the team you're playing next week knows you're good and, as a result they get ready for you and you don't respect your opponent. I'd like to see the team consistently respect their opponent and get ready no matter what the records are because if you're a winning team, a losing team can elevate their season by upsetting you."

When Dale speaks about being a winner, he speaks with the authority of a champion. And being part of a winning team is how he'd like Packer fans to remember him. "I've always said I wanted to be a contributing member of a team and I think we did that," he says. "We all had a job to do. We didn't fuss and moan and groan about not getting passes thrown to you. If the defense had to double cover one side or the other and somebody else got the ball, we just wanted to get the job done. Pro football is a business and winning and playing to your potential is what it's about. You really have to do it as a unit."

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