Winters entertains Hall of Fame crowd

The matter-of-fact former center, who reached the playoffs 12 times in 16 seasons, is presented by old friend Brett Favre.

Classic Frankie Bag ‘O Donuts. Blunt, uncensored.

Green Bay was preparing to face Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle John Randle — that deranged maniac covered in eye black.

During a goal-line segment at practice inside the Don Hutson Center, center Frank Winters was supposed to pull right and pick up a charging Santana Dotson (Randle). So, "Bag ‘O Donuts" pulled, but he missed the block. Olay! Dotson shot through the line untouched.

"Would you make that (expletive) block!?" chided a steaming Mike Holmgren.

A pause.

"You make the (expletive) block!" shot back Winters.

As Brett Favre said Saturday night after this story, Winters was a blunt, "matter-of-fact guy."

Presented by Favre, Winters was one of three inductees into the Packers Hall of Fame. Even with the Favre melodrama filling the air with wretched aroma — Favre and Thompson sat at the Hall of Fame dinner two tables apart and backs turned from each other — the accomplishments of Packers legends were relived and all controversy ignored.

Winters was an unheralded rock during the Packers' dominance in the 1990s. He played 11 seasons with the Packers (1992-2002) and earned a Pro Bowl berth in 1996. In his 16-year career, Winters made the postseason 12 times.

Favre and Winters reminisced tales from the road Saturday. With the quarterback's fiasco kept safely under the rug, the roommates for 10 years told the 1,000-plus in attendance a handful of funny stories.

Their friendship was virtually immediate.

1992, Midway Hotel. Favre was the hot-shot newcomer. Winters was a last-rung, Plan B free agent.

The young Favre was a bloated 252 pounds, filling out a plaid, button-down shirt and sporting a "real, real scruffy beard." It was March and minicamp was around the corner. Favre sat down to have some food at the hotel and Winters joined him across the table.

"I think we were eating fried chicken," recalled Favre at the pre-dinner press conference Saturday.

"Cordon bleu," corrected Winters, flanked to Favre's right side.

"Cordon bleu, whatever," said Favre as about 30 media members shot in laughter.

As they ate, the two introduced themselves to each other. Favre asked Winters what position he played. Winters said center and asked Favre, "What do you play … linebacker?"

"From that point on," Favre said, "we were inseparable."

Favre and Winters had an "unlikely friendship," Favre said. Winters was from Union City, N.J., and Favre from Kiln, Miss.

"I guess that old saying that opposites attract is true," the quarterback said. "We just fed off of each other throughout our career. We argued. We fought. We screamed at each other. He was definitely a matter-of-fact player. What I mean by that, he was not afraid to tell you or tell coaches what he felt or how impossible the block may be."

Favre joked that Winters tried bossing him around on the field too, telling Favre to throw the ball to their other close friend.

"He told me Chewy was open," said Favre, referring to Mark Chmura. "(Winters) was supposed to be blocking."

And, yes, Favre said he had to put up with Winters sleeping naked on road trips. A painful split-second visual sent a chorus of laughs through the Lambeau Field Atrium during the induction ceremony.

Winters thanked Brett and Deanna Favre for making the trip to Green Bay under the circumstances. He asked Favre to be his presenter several months before any notion of a Favre comeback.  

"There are a lot of people in the United States probably thinking Brett wouldn't show up today," Winters said. "But I knew deep down inside that he would. ... Our friendship goes back a long time. I've known him for about 17 years."

Blunt personalities drew Favre and Winters together.

"I told it like it was," Winters said. "That's the way I was raised, too. If you did something wrong, people told you. ... I've had squabbles with Holmgren and other coaches, too. That's just the way I was, and it'll probably never change."

Winters and fellow Hall inductee nose tackle Gilbert Brown shared daily practice battles through the 1990s. Winters said the nose-to-nose duo followed the "brother-in-law" rule. They didn't play as dirty against each other as they might in the game.

"You'd never go full speed against your teammates and try to hurt somebody, intentionally" Winters said. "We did have our battles. I'd like to say I won more than I lost, but who knows."

These days, Winters owns Frankies and Johnnys Bar and Grill in Kansas City. He plays golf frequently, and talks to Favre regularly.

Favre put Winters' legacy in perspective.

"When you think of great linemen, and there have been some great names in this organization — Thurston, Ringo, Kramer, Gregg — I think you need to think of Winters, as well."

And shortly after that, Favre evaded any possibility of an undercut question from reporters, rolling out of the pocket away from the podium and giving Winters one hard slap on the rear on his way out a side door.


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