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Looking back on it, he's still quite proud of the accomplishment – being selected the number one draft choice of the Green Bay Packers. The year was 1958 and Daniel George Currie, a two-way All-American at Michigan State, was ready to make his mark in the NFL.<p>

Sure, being the top pick was a thrill, Currie volunteers, but "It was nowhere near the magnitude of what is today. It was still headlines, but it was just that you were the number one draft choice, that's all."

Currie, a strapping 6-foot-3, 240-pounder, came to Green Bay with a solid football reputation. By the time he graduated from St. Anthony High in Detroit, Currie had made All-Detroit and All-Michigan as a center. Then, as a starter at both center and linebacker, Currie led Coach Duffy Daugherty's Spartans to a 17-14 Rose Bowl victory over UCLA in 1955. Two years later, in 1957, Currie finished among the top 10 vote-getters for the Heisman Trophy. But ask him to talk about his strengths and his own style of play and you might be surprised at the response. You see, players in his day just didn't talk about themselves.

"Oh, hell, I don't know," Currie says with a laugh. "Guys today talk like that but we never talked like that. If you tooted your own horn you went and sat on the end of the bench! You didn't get interviewed and talk for a half-hour about yourself."

The fact that Currie was made the Packers' number one selection that particular year speaks volumes, however. In that same draft, Green Bay picked bruising fullback Jim Taylor of LSU at number 2. With the second of their two third-round picks, the Packers took a fullback/linebacker out of Illinois, a guy who would become the greatest linebacker in team history – Ray Nitschke. Then, one round later at number 4, they nabbed the player who would be named as the best guard in the first 50 years of the NFL – Jerry Kramer of Idaho. 1958 was, arguably, one of the very best college player drafts the Packers have ever had.

By his own admission, Currie enjoyed a bit of an advantage over some of the other rookies in his first Packer training camp. Hank Bullough, who had played guard and linebacker for Green Bay in 1955, had joined the Michigan State coaching staff for spring training in Currie's senior year. Bullough shared stories with young Dan about Green Bay and some of the characters on the team. Guys like Dave Hanner, Tom Bettis and many others.

"So, when I went to Green Bay," Currie says, "I had heard a lot about these guys and almost knew them personally." Plus he was very familiar with Taylor, Kramer and Nitschke, having played against all of them in college. "Ray was a quarterback in high school," Currie recalls. "But (Illinois Coach) Ray Elliott said to Ray, ‘You're a fullback if you want to play at Illinois.' Ray played fullback on offense and linebacker on defense. So I played against him when they had the ball and then I had to block him when we had the ball. Ray was a rough character. You knew you were in a game."

It was Nitschke, the barroom brawler, who would later give Currie the nickname "Dapper Dan", a tribute to Currie's habit of dressing meticulously.

Once they got together with the Packers, Currie and Nitschke joined veteran Bill Forester to form an outstanding linebacker corps. Perhaps the fact that Currie and Nitschke's styles were so different helped them mesh on the field. Nitschke, whose father died when he was three and who lost his mother at age 14, saw the violence of football as the perfect outlet for venting his frustrations.

"That's what I like about this game – the contact, the man-to-man, and you can get it out of your system," Nitschke was quoted in Vince Lombardi's book, Run To Daylight!

"I'm not that way at all," Currie is quoted in the same book. "I like the scientific, the artistic side. I mean, I like the feeling you get when you make the good, clean, perfect tackle. With me, it's the tackle instead of just belting the other guy."

Lombardi arrives

After suffering through a miserable 1-10-1 rookie season under Coach Scooter McLean, Currie and his teammates would enjoy the sweet taste of success under Lombardi. A Western Conference Championship in 1960 was followed by back-to-back World Championships in 1961 and '62. When the gun sounded to end the Packers' 37-0 demolition of the New York Giants in '61, Currie and Hanner scooped up Lombardi and carried him off the field on their shoulders. "That's what he wanted. He was our leader," Currie says, adding with a laugh, "But, if you didn't pick him up the right way he'd probably chew your ass out for not knowing how to pick the coach up. I'm serious! There was one guy in training camp where you had to get up and sing. He forgot some of the words and Lombardi got up from his meal and started chewing his ass because he couldn't remember the words to the song."

It's clear that Currie's respect for Lombardi hasn't dwindled after all of these years. "I'll never forget the day (in the early 60s) that Dwight Eisenhower paid us a visit during practice," Currie recalls. "He was in town to give a speech at the Brown County Arena. It was a rainy, misty day and you really couldn't see things very well. This motorcade pulls up and a figure gets out of a car and starts walking towards us through the rain and mist. He walked right up to Lombardi and said, ‘Vinnie, how could I stop in Green Bay and not say hello to the great Green Bay Packers?"

Lombardi pointed to us and said, 'Mr. President, the Green Bay Packers!' "Then," says Currie, "Eisenhower proceeded to give us a talk about how important Green Bay was to the country. He talked about the importance of striving for excellence and about Lombardi's dynamic leadership. When he was finished, he said good-bye, turned around and walked away, disappearing into the mist. It was really inspirational, something I'll never forget."

Key interception

Currie was named All-Pro three times and piled up 11 career interceptions, including one for a touchdown in 1961. But it was his interception in the 1962 NFL title game with the Giants that many fans will remember because it looked like he would score a huge touchdown. Late in the first quarter, with the Giants driving deep in Packer territory, quarterback Y.A. Tittle faded back to pass. But as he lofted his throw, Nitschke deflected the ball into Currie's waiting arms and Dapper Dan started toward the Giants goal with a bevy of blockers and not a Giant within shouting distance. Suddenly, near the Packer 40, Currie began to stumble and fell. He had suffered a knee injury earlier in the season but that wasn't the sole reason he crashed to the frozen turf.

"I take a size 14 shoe," Currie said. "I was wearing size 12 ripple sole shoes. Try running in shoes like that. First of all, you're not used to the heel. Secondly, the shoes were too small. After I took my shoes off and got into the hot shower, my two big toes thawed out and they were purple. The doctor used a scalpel to alleviate the blood."

The Packers failed to win the championship in Currie's final two years in Green Bay, 1963 and '64, before he was traded to the Rams. He played two more seasons and then retired. Currie was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1984. Tongue-in-cheek, he delivered his acceptance speech and dead-panned, "I want to impress upon you how important I was to the Green Bay Packer organization. After I left, you won three straight championships and two Super Bowls!"

For the past 19 years, Currie has been working in security at the Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. His first wife, Mary, died of cancer several years ago but these days, he and his lady friend, Pat Peterson, truly enjoy their growing family which includes six children and 12 grandchildren. Currie says he has nothing but fond memories of his time in Green Bay. "I played in three championship games. I wasn't denied anything. I had more rewards than the law allows!"

Packer fans who were fortunate enough to see Dan Currie play can count their blessings, too.


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