Green Bay Packers: Titletown's Top 10 Defensive Backs of All Time
The Green Bay Packers had a deep and complete team last season that carried them to the franchise's first championship in over decade.
Yes, the Pack were led by an elite quarterback with one of the best receiving corps in the league and a long-haired play maker on defense, but it was the secondary that closed out crucial games in the final weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs.
The undrafted Sam Shields stepped up and had a solid season as a nickelback. Tramon Williams, who had never been a star player, performed on a Pro Bowl level and yearly Pro Bowlers Nick Collins and Charles Woodson simply kept up the good work.
A lot of great things could be said about the Packers' crew of defensive backs last season and there have been many greats to play at safety and cornerback in Titletown throughout the years.
I've saved defensive backs for last in my series of top ten player rankings, but by no means were they the least significant players last season or in the history of the Packers.
Sources: Packers and Pro Football Hall of Fame, ProFootballReference.com, Wikipedia.org
Special thanks again to Dennis Venhuis for contributing ideas and research to these rankings.
Whittenton led the Packers in interceptions in 1960 and started on the championship teams the following two seasons. In seven years with the team, he made two Pro Bowls, recording 20 INTs and 10 fumble recoveries.
Gremminger was a tough tackler in Titletown for ten seasons, played in four championships, and picked off 28 passes as well.
In seven years with the Packers, the dreadlocked Alshinard Harris intercepted 14 balls, however, he was most loved by fans for his physical play and coverage skills.
Best known for his incomparable receiving prowess, Hutson also grabbed 30 interceptions as a safety in the final six years of his career in Titletown.
Also a multiple position player, Irv Comp picked off 34 passes for the Pack in the 1940s despite having sight in only one eye. He still holds the record for most interceptions in a season with ten in ten games during his rookie year.
Even More Honorable Mentions
Lee was drafted by the Pack in 1980 and played the entire decade with the team, racking up 31 INTs along the way.
Cecil played five seasons in Green Bay and in 1992, his last season with the team, he was selected to his only Pro Bowl. He only recorded 13 interceptions, but he quickly became a fan favorite for his vicious, hit or miss approach to tackling. Cecil received multiple fines for helmet-first hits as well as a few bloody noses.
Not to be confused with the Pack's current CEO, Murphy was a consistent safety throughout the 1980s and now resides in the team's Hall of Fame with 20 INTs and 11 sacks.
Lewis picked off 16 pass in four seasons with the Packers and set the team record with a 99-yard INT return in 1984.
Ellis was a speedy star at cornerback for six seasons in Titletown. He made the Pro Bowl twice and is a member of the Packers Hall of Fame.
10. Johnnie Gray
Johnnie Gray had an equal number of 22 interceptions and fumble recoveries during his nine-year tenure in Titletown.
He was a dedicated player and recorded over one hundred tackles in three straight seasons. Gray was also an exceptional punt and kick returner.
The hard-hitting safety was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1993.
9. Nick Collins
Nick Collins has been the starter at free safety in Green Bay since being drafted in 2005 and has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons.
Collins' hard hitting and play making have made him one of the league's best at the position. He has recorded 21 interceptions thus far and returned four of them for touchdowns, not including his 37 yard scamper for a score in Super Bowl XLV against the Steelers last season.
If Collins continues to make LeRoy Butler's No. 36 proud, he has the potential to rise in this ranking.
8. Willie Buchanon
Willie Buchanon was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1972 and made Pro Bowl the following two seasons.
In 1978, he tied an NFL record by picking off four passes in a single game and was once again selected to the Pro Bowl.
Buchanon broke his leg twice during his seven year stay in Titletown, but he still managed to intercept 21 passes and recover 8 fumbles.
7. Bob Jeter
Bob Jeter played eight seasons in Green Bay and contributed as a speedy corner on the dominant defenses that won the first two Super Bowls.
In 1966, he returned two of his 23 career interceptions for touchdowns.
Jeter was selected to the Pro Bowl twice and is a proud member of the Packers Hall of Fame. Perhaps if he hadn't finished his career with the rival Bears he might be ranked higher on this list...
6. Darren Sharper
Drafted by Green Bay in 1997, Darren Sharper had his breakout season in 2000 as he lead the league in picks and made his first of two Pro Bowls as a Packer.
After eight seasons, Sharper secured the fifth spot in the team's record books with 36 interceptions and is currently tied for second with five interceptions returned for touchdowns.
While he has yet to be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame, an honor sure to follow his retirement, Sharper is already a member of the 2000s All Decade Team.
5. Charles Woodson
Woodson has been in Titletown for only five seasons, but he has already made the Pro Bowl three times and holds the team record for most defensive touchdowns with eight.
Woodson was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 as returned three of his nine picks for a score.
Like Sharper, he is also a surefire future member of the Packers Hall of Fame and a part of the 2000s All Decade Team. He currently has 30 interceptions with the team and has developed into an effective pass rusher as well.
Woodson's numbers and status in this ranking are sure to rise as he's signed through 2014 and, after being unsure of the small market team, he hopes to retire with Green Bay.
4. Bobby Dillon
With 52 picks in eight seasons as a Packer throughout the 1950s, Bobby Dillon is the team's all time leader in interceptions and one of Titletown's most talented safeties in the Packers Hall of Fame.
He made the Pro Bowl in four consecutive seasons and led the team in picks for seven straight.
Dillon scored five defensive touchdowns in his career despite being blind in one eye and remains one of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's biggest rejects.
3. LeRoy Butler
LeRoy Butler played his entire 12 year career with the Packers and may best be known for inventing the legendary Lambeau Leap. More importantly, he was a four-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 1990s All Decade Team.
In 2007, Butler was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame and he's currently fourth in team history with 38 interceptions.
He is often recognized as the NFL's most durable defensive back as he set a record for the position by playing in 181 games. Not to mention he was also a proficient pass rusher for a safety with 20.5 career sacks.
Butler should be considered for Canton and he certainly deserves to be in the top three of Titletown's most talented defensive backs.
2. Herb Adderley
Drafted by the Packers as a running back out of Michigan State in 1961, Herbert Adderley converted to cornerback early in his rookie season rather than compete with the likes of Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung for offensive touches. His football instincts and speed soon transformed him into a natural on defense and he became an immediate play maker.
In nine seasons, Adderley was selected to five consecutive Pro Bowls, scored seven touchdowns, recovered 13 fumbles, and recorded 39 picks, making him third in team history.
Although Adderley also assisted the Cowboys to two Super Bowl appearances, his biggest play clinched Super Bowl II for the Packers when he returned an interception 60 yards for a score.
He is a member of the 1960s All Decade Team, the Packers Hall of Fame, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1. Willie Wood
Willie Wood was selected to eight Pro Bowls in his 12 year career, all of which he spent in Green Bay becoming Titletown's top defensive back of all time.
Originally a running quarterback, Wood's athleticism allowed him to become a premier free safety in the league and an effective punt returner. His 48 career picks—two returned for TDs—are second only to Bobby Dillon's 52 in Packers history and he added 16 fumble recoveries to his impressive stat line as well.
Like Adderley, he is also a member of the 1960s All Decade Team, the Packers Hall of Fame, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.