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Packers Draft - A History Lesson

by Paul Heling

We asked Mark Daniels to recall Draft memories. He filed this report...

Long before the 24 hour news cycle, instant messaging, texts, tweets and the live, wire to wire coverage of the NFL draft, a handful of us beat reporters would spend an insufferable day at Lambeau Field. In advance of the National Football Leagues 79th beneath the bright lights of both ESPN and the NFL Network with hundreds of screaming fans at New Yorks Radio City Music Hall, I thought I might give you a little perspective of how the draft has mushroomed into the biggest off-season event of the year.

Its always been important to the success of a franchise. When the league created the draft in 1936, it was designed to insure competitive balance among its members. The worst team got to go first, the best team last. The scouting was primitive and the draft swelled from nine rounds that first year, to 22, then a ridiculous 32 rounds through the 1940s and 50s before trimming down to a 20 round affair by 1960. With the emergence of the American Football League, the draft became a cloak and dagger affair. The established NFL teams worried about losing the top college players to the rival AFL. Some teams locked prospects in a room until the pick was made to prevent a theft. Bidding wars erupted for players chosen by both leagues and ultimately, the two merged and the first common draft was held in 1967.

I joined the party in 1979, covering my first Packers draft. Trivia buffs will know Eddie Lee Ivery of Georgia Tech was the teams number one pick that year. There were only a handful of reporters hanging around the Lambeau Field locker room for that 12 round draft. It began at the crack of dawn, 6:00 AM, and the league plowed through all dozen rounds in a single day. Because there was no television coverage, yup, no Mel Kiper harping on his best available player, we had no idea who was taken number one overall, second third and so on. Standing in the middle of the locker room was a lonely easel, with a plywood sign, painted green, striped with velcro. Heres how the moment of truth arrived. Longtime team equipment man Bob Noel would stroll into the lockeroom with a piece of ankle tape and hed stretch it across the velcro. In magic marker, the name of the number one pick was finally revelaved. The now hilarious scene would be played out for all 12, grueling rounds.

Within a few years, the fledgling Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, with hours of air time to fill after the Australian Rules Football League season ended, decided to staff the draft in New York. It helped the local beat reporters cause, eventually drove more fan interest and turned the draft into what it is today. Prime time for round one on night one, the second and third rounds get their own evening and a Saturday filled with most names even I have never heard of.

We'll do it again starting May 8 and while I'll miss Bob Noel's long, slow walk, I'll be just as anxious to find out who the Packs number one choice will be, and eagerly see what kind of player hell become. annual Selection Meeting next week, covered


PHOTO CREDIT: David Hume Kennerly [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons