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Super Bowl champion, Packer Bob Long made his mark

April 17, 2020 by Brett LaBore

During the late 1960s, the Packers had a number of great teams and many iconic players. One player who you might not think of right away is wide receiver Bob Long.

In his seven-year career, Bob Long caught 98 passes for 1,539 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 15.7 yards per catch. He played four seasons with Green Bay, one with Atlanta, one with Washington and one with Los Angeles. 

He played from 1964-1970 and was the only player to play for Vince Lombardi in both Green Bay and Washington.

Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, Long handled the tough coaching Lombardi did to make sure his teams were ready.

“When Lombardi would bark at me, I was kind of used to that from my dad,” Long said. “It was constructive criticism, our team was awful good. Lombardi was the leader, he demanded excellence.”

Long was privileged to play with numerous of Hall of Famers such as Ray Nitschke, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor and more.

“I had 11 teammates who are in the NFL Hall of Fame, half my starting team,” Long said. “People often say to me, ‘you’re pretty good, you’re pretty fast, why don’t you play more?’ You see the talent on our team, how talented it is? All those guys were Hall of Famers.”

But with all that superstar power, there were no egos on the team, thanks to the direction of Lombardi.

“He always would tell us even though we had lots of talent in Green Bay, this is a team,” Long said. “One of his sayings were ‘there’ll be no egos in this team.’ Guys like Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, for sure Willie Wood — none of those guys had egos and then (Lombardi) always stressed that team, this is a team.”

Lombardi had other requirements as well. According to Long, Lombardi always preached mental toughness and did not tolerate mistakes.

“Lombardi would demand things from the team,” Long said. “For example he would demand mental toughness. He didn’t like penalties, missed plays.”

When Long entered the league, one of his favorite moments came in 1965 as a rookie when he scored an 80-yard touchdown against the Bears in Milwaukee. He recalls being on the bubble in terms of making the roster, but was certain he’d make it after his catch.

“I remember crossing the goal line and players had told me there’s no way you can make the team,” he said. “The second I went across the goal line I said to myself, ‘this is so great, it doesn’t get better than this, he can’t cut me now.’”

Another eye-popping moment for Long came in a huddle when he saw some legendary faces.

“I was starting then in 1965 and looked around the huddle — I’m here with three Hall of Famers — Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jimmy Taylor and me. It was such a great experience.”

Drafted by the Packers, Long joined an already championship-caliber Packers team and was a part of the first two Super Bowl victories in 1966 and 1967. 

“Winning Super Bowl I, then we won Super Bowl II, winning the first Super Bowl is pretty neat,” he said. “It was called the AFL-NFL World Championship.” 

Prior to that, the Packers were champions in 1961 and 1962. Long got to be a part of something special right away.

“First of all, I couldn’t believe I was so lucky to be drafted by the Green Bay Packers,” he said.

Long considered retirement after a car wreck, but Lombardi, who was now coaching Washington, needed someone to catch the ball for him in 1969.

“I was young and fast and after my car wreck I lost some speed that was quite frankly as wide receiver one of my biggest assets,” he said. “That’s all (Lombardi) wanted was someone to catch the ball. He wanted talent of course. I replaced the great Bobby Mitchell and started at flanker. I caught 48 passes, which I’m proud I did that. It was fun.”

Long could catch, but what about speed? Long said his speed wasn’t what it used to be.

“Lombardi told me, ‘I have all the speed I need with Charley Taylor,’” he said.

That ended up being one of his statistically best years. In 1969, Long caught 48 passes for 533 yards and one touchdown.

“In those days, they don’t pass around the ball like they do now,” he said. “And now they throw 50 passes a game.”

Long was a natural athlete. He went to Wichita State on a basketball scholarship, before ultimately deciding to play football.

“I was there on a basketball scholarship and got drafted by the Packers in the fourth,” he said. “I just liked playing sports.”

Long loved playing for Lombardi, the Hall of Fame coach the trophy is now named after. Someday the Packers will bring home the Vince Lombardi Trophy once again.

“Lot of great coaches, there’s not a lot of motivators, guys that can really motivate you,” he said. “Lombardi could motivate you. Great coach, probably the greatest of all time, very honored to play for him.” 

Wisconsin takes great pride in their love for the Packers. And Long could feel that love.

“I got to enjoy all the Packer fans, all over the world, especially here in Wisconsin,” he said. “(It was) quite an achievement to play for the Packers.”

Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]

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