Friday, February 20, 2015

Donny Anderson newest 1955 All-American custom

I'm surprised to find that it has been more than five months since I've presented an addition to my line-up of college football custom cards in the style of 1955 Topps All-American.

I've had a few ideas rattling around, but non-sports and baseball card projects have taken precedence. 

That changed the other day when I was reading 1964 issues of The Sporting News and found a feature about Texas Tech all-around star Donny Anderson.

Donny Anderson was Paul Hornung after Paul Hornung departed the Green Bay Packers. He was the fair-haired Golden Boy who could do it all on the field, even though he never approached Hornung's reputation off the field.

Donny had been all-state in football and basketball in Texas as well as a legitimate baseball prospect. He'd flunked out of Texas Tech his freshman year, but returned to the Red Raiders as a more mature, disciplined young man.

In the TSN article, his coach couldn't praise Anderson enough, extolling his proficiency as a blocking back, tailback, fullback, punter, pass receiver, kick returner and defensive back.

Anderson was a three-time All-Southwestern Conference halfback and was a consensus All-American in 1965. 

As a junior in 1964 he'd led the SWC in rushing yards and led the nation in total yards from scrimmage. In 1965 he led the conference in yards from scrimmage, pass receptions, and both receiving and rushing touchdowns.

Anderson was fourth in the 1965 Heisman Trophy voting, behind Mike Garrett, Howard Twilley and Illinois running back Jim Grabowski, with whom he'd pair in the Green Bay Packers backfield as the "Gold Dust Twins."

The Green Bay Packers picked Anderson in the first round of the 1965 NFL draft, #7 overall. Because of his academic redshirt season, he returned to Tech for the 1965 season. His bang-up season with the Red Raiders dramatically improved his bargaining position, as did the fact that it was rumored the Houston Oilers of the AFL were pursuing him.

When Anderson signed with Green Bay for 1966, his reported three-year $600,000 contract made him the highest-paid player in pro football history. He later quipped that was only fair because he was doing the work of five players.

With the Packers, Anderson rushed, caught passes, ran back punts and kickoffs, punted and even passed for a couple of touchdowns. 

In his role as Packers punter, Anderson had a lasting impact on that phase of the pro game. He pioneered in the concept of hang time as a way to shut down the punt return. Punting left-footed he put a high, hanging, backwards spiral on his kicks that confounded the receivers. In 1967 he averaged just 36.6 yards per punt, but only 13 of his 63 punts were returned for a total of just 22 yards, a 1.7 yards average. In his career he never gave up a punt-return touchdown. His success with this style of punting eventually forced the NFL to make rules changes to bring back the punt return as a scoring threat.

In Green Bay, halfback Anderson and fullback Grabowski were touted as the replacements for future Hall of Famers Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor, who were traded to the Saints after the 1966 season. 

Anderson was an integral part of the Packers' Super Bowl winning teams of 1966 and 1967. He is best remembered among Packer fans for his hit in Super Bowl I that knocked out Chiefs defensive back Fred Williamson.

Williamson was nicknamed "The Hammer" for his signature move of using karate-type blows to the helmet to disable opposing receivers. In the days leading up to the game he had been talking trash about how he was going to put Green Bay's receivers out of the game.

Ironically, it was Williamson who was carried off the field on a stretcher when he tried to bring down Anderson on a sweep and the running back's knee caught Williamson in the head. After the game, Packers end Max McGee commented that Anderson must have hit The Hammer with his wallet.

Anderson played for Green Bay from 1966-71. In Feb., 1972, he was traded to St. Louis for MacArthur Lane, playing with the Cardinals through 1974. He was traded to the Miami Dolphins prior to the 1975 season, but retired during training camp.

Now in retirement around Dallas, Anderson is a top-notch amateur golfer after spending a number of years on the PGA Celebrity Tour. 

I had considered also working up a 1966 or 1967 Philadelphia Gum-style of Anderson, who didn't make his football card debut until 1968 Topps. There is a surprising dearth, however, of color portrait type photos of Anderson as a young Packers star, suh as were most often used by Philly in those years.

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