Don Hutson (January 31, 1913 – June 26, 1997), nicknamed the "Alabama Antelope", was a legendary player for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL), who played from 1935 to 1945. He is considered by many to have been the first modern wide receiver. He was inducted to the inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
In an era when successful passing attacks were virtually unheard of, Don Hutson and the Green Bay Packers flourished via the air. Hutson is credited with creating many of the modern pass routes used in the NFL today. He was the dominant receiver of his day and is widely considered to be one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, holding almost all-important receiving records at the time of his retirement, several of which stood for decades.
In addition to his receiving achievements, Hutson also played defense and special teams as the team's kicker.
In his senior season at the University of Alabama in 1934, Hutson was a first team All-American for six different organizations and a second team selection by one other. In his final game at the 1935 Rose Bowl, Hutson led Alabama to a 29-13 victory over Stanford where he scored two touchdowns, one for 54 yards and the second for 59. It is said that Hutson gained his sure hands while handling rattlesnakes as a young boy. He also possessed world-class speed, running a 9.7 in the 100-yard dash.
When he graduated from Alabama, Hutson was not highly regarded by several NFL teams because of his thin stature. Many coaches felt that he would not be able to handle the rigors of football, but Curly Lambeau of the Green Bay Packers saw Hutson as the perfect receiver for his passing attack, which at the time was headed by quarterback Arnie Herber and end Johnny "Blood" McNally.
Before the draft existed, college players could sign with any team they wanted, and while Hutson did sign a contract with Green Bay, he was dangerously close to spending his career away from the pass-happy Packers since he had also signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, who featured a run-oriented offense. Both contracts came to the National Football League (NFL) office at the same time. NFL president Joseph Carr declared that Hutson would go to Green Bay because the contract had an earlier date of signing by 17 minutes.
Green Bay PackersEdit
As a rookie, Hutson received a weekly game check of $300. Green Bay had only two banks at the time, and with the nation hit hard by the Great Depression, both banks had to write him a weekly check of $150 to cover the salary.
On September 22, 1935, fans of the Packers received a preview of things to come in Hutson's first start in his career. Hutson's first career reception went for an 83-yard touchdown pass from Arnie Herber on the first play of the game in a 7-0 win over the Chicago Bears. It was the first of 99 receiving touchdowns, an NFL record that would stand for 44 years after his retirement. Steve Largent would break the record with 100 TD’s and Jerry Rice eventually surpassed the receiving touchdown record with 197 TD's.
Hutson became the key component to the Packers lethal offensive attack, as the Packers won the NFL championship in Hutson's second year, 1936, beating the Boston Redskins 21-6. The Packers went on to win two more titles during Hutson's career, shutting out the New York Giants 27-0 to win the title 1939 and again defeated the Giants in 1944 by a score of 14-7.
Within his first five seasons, Hutson owned every major receiving NFL record. Twice, in 1941 and 1942, he was named the league's MVP. In 1941 Hutson became the first receiver to catch more than 50 passes in a season, and the next year he became the first with over 1,000 receiving yards in a season. In all, Hutson caught 488 passes for 7,991 yards. He rushed for three touchdowns and returned three interceptions for touchdowns for a career total of 105. Hutson led the NFL in receptions eight times in his 11 seasons, including five consecutive times (1941–1945). He led the NFL in receiving yards seven times, including four straight times from 1941-44. He led the NFL in scoring five times (1941–45). Hutson still holds the highest career average TDs per game (0.85) for a wide receiver.
Defense and special teamsEdit
For many of his 11 seasons, Hutson was also the Packers' kicker. He added 172 extra points and 7 field goals for another league record, 823 points. He led the league in extra points made and attempted in 1941, 1942 and 1945 and in field goals made in 1943.
As did almost all players in his day, Hutson played both offense and defense. On defense, Hutson was a very good safety who intercepted 30 passes over the final six years of his career. Hutson's highest season total was in 1943, when he intercepted eight passes in only 10 games. In 1940, he led the NFL with 6 interceptions.
Hutson shocked the fans of Green Bay in 1945 when he announced his retirement after playing 11 seasons. He stayed with the Packers as an assistant coach in 1946, but then left the organization.
After retirement he was active in Green Bay's civic affairs and became wealthy as the owner of an auto dealership and bowling lanes in Racine, Wisconsin.
In 1951, Hutson's uniform number 14 became the first to be officially retired by the Packers.
Currently, Hutson still holds the following National Football League records:
- Most seasons leading league in pass receptions (8)
- Most consecutive seasons leading league in pass receptions (5)
- Most seasons leading league in pass receiving yards gained (7)
- Most consecutive seasons leading league in pass receiving yards gained (4)
- Most seasons leading league in pass receiving touchdowns (9)
- Most consecutive seasons leading league in pass receiving touchdowns (5)
- Most seasons leading league in scoring (5)
- Most consecutive seasons leading league in scoring (5)
- Career statistics and player information from NFL.com