So, speaking of the upcoming NFL draft, here’s a curious story about my brief interaction with the legendary Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers nearly a half century ago.
Lombardi exchanged communications with a business colleague of my father just three weeks before the 1969 NFL/AFL draft, which took place Jan. 28-29 in New York of that year, and saw O.J. Simpson go first overall to the Buffalo Bills.
Lombardi had just won Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II before stepping aside to become the Packers GM, while Phil Bengtson took over as head coach.
Most young prospects did not have agents back then, so a steel company executive in Milwaukee named John W. Hendricks, who apparently knew Lombardi personally, decided on his own to write a letter on my behalf. He also sent along an article about me to Lombardi and Packers player personnel director Pat Peppler.
The Packers would decide instead to draft kicker/punter Kenny Vinyard, a first-team major college All-American from Texas Tech, in the sixth round. Ultimately, Vinyard was cut and the Packers decided to stick with veteran kicker/punter Mike Mercer. And Vinyard kicked one year (1970) with the Atlanta Falcons.
They encouraged me to play semi-pro ball, which I did, until an NFL opportunity might present itself.
Lombardi would leave Green Bay to become head coach/general manager of the Washington Redskins a few months later. Then he died Sept. 3, 1970. Bengtson was fired by the Packers after the 1970 season. Peppler was dismissed on March 24, 1972. And on July 15, 1974, thus began my 41 1/2-year sportswriting career with the Chicago Tribune.