Don Hutson
Don Hutson, the “Alabama Antelope,” was born on January 31, 1913 and was the very first great wide receiver in the history of the National Football League. Hutson, from the University of Alabama, joined the Green Bay Packers in 1935 and retired 11 seasons later following the 1945 season. 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 and for decades that followed.
   

Don Hutson #14

Player Info

Height 6' 1"
Weight 185 lbs
DOB: 1/31/1913
Wide Receiver/End

Statistics

NFL.com

NFL Draft

Pre NFL Draft

Don Hutson Shop

Career Highlights

All-Pro

1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945

Awards

NFL Awards
1941 NFL MVP
1942 NFL MVP

Honors

NFL 1930's All-Decade Team
75th Anniversary All-Time Team
Pro Football Hall of Fame
Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame
#14 Jersey Retired by Packers

Team(s) As A Player

Green Bay Packers 1935-1945


Don Hutson Signs with Packers

After Don Hutson caught six passes for 164 yards to help Alabama upset Stanford in the Rose Bowl 29-13, Don Hutson was a hot commodity. At the time, there was no NFL Draft which meant Hutson was free to negotiate with whatever team he wanted. “The Bears offered me $75 a game. I remember that George Halas wrote me a two-page letter about what a privilege it was to play for the Bears.” Eventually, the bidding narrowed down to the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Packers. Hutson signed contracts with both but the Green Bay contract arrived in league headquarters first. “They gave me $300 a game,” says Hutson, “so for 11 games that means I got $3,300. Nobody in Green Bay had ever been paid that much. Finally, at the end, when I had been all-pro for nine years in a row, I was up to $15,000 a year.” (6) 


Don Hutson Baffles Bears

During the 1935 season, the Green Bay Packers hosted the Chicago Bears, their long time rival. The Bears had recently dominated the series and many of their players were cocky coming in, but Curley Lambeau had a surprise play that he had told the media about earlier in the week. The Bears kicked off and the Packers started at their own 17-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Arnie Herber dropped back to pass; he kept dropping back until he reached his own end zone. With one foot on the line of the end zone, Herber heaved a pass down the field to the streaking Don Hutson. The ball passed the 30, the 50, and Hutson snatched it out of the air at the 40-yard line and ran the ball into the end zone from there. Hutson went 83 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game and of his career, and the Packers won 7-0. (1)

Later that season, the Packers traveled to Wrigley Field to play the Chicago Bears again. This time the Bears were well aware of Hutson’s speed. The Packers trailed 14-3 and had the ball at their own 35-yard line. The Bears were expecting another long bomb and were playing way off Hutson. Herber hit Hutson on a short pass and after he made a defender miss, he ran another 55 yards into the end zone for a 65-yard touchdown catch closing the gap to 14-10. The Packers had the ball again late in the fourth quarter. They had driven down to the four-yard line with not much time left. The Packers had been running the ball successfully, and the Bears were geared up to stop it. Herber hit Hutson again for the game winner and the Packers won 17-14. (2)

Don Hutson Defines the Receiver Position

So what made Don Hutson so good? “I don't think it was my speed alone,” says Don, “although I ran 9.7 hundred, which was good speed for those days. I'd say it was my moves. I was running slant patterns when most other receivers were running in circles. I would experiment with new patterns every day in practice.” (6) Don Hutson practically invented and perfected the wide receiver position all in one short 11-year career. He created pass patterns that are routine in today’s game. Not only that, he was a marked man, normally receiving double and triple coverage. “I always had two or three men covering me on every play,” remembered Hutson. (6)

Paul Hornung and Jesse Whittendon sat in awe as they watched old films of Don Hutson. They saw Hutson work his way free from triple coverage to catch a pass against the Bears. "Run that again," exclaimed Whittendon. "I want to see it again. No one football player could ever cover that man." Paul Hornung exclaimed, "I'm a believer, Lord, am I a believer. You know what he would do to this league today? The same things he did when he played." (6)

Hutson and Touchdowns

Don Hutson set passing records that were not broken for generations. His 99 career-receiving touchdowns stood until Steve Largent came along in the 1980s. Currently, Jerry Rice has the record with 197 career-receiving touchdowns, but he played many more seasons, and a lot more games per season. Over Don Hutson’s brilliant career, he averaged a touchdown every 4.9 catches. To put this in perspective, the great Jerry Rice averaged a touchdown every 7.9 receptions and the big play Randy Moss has averaged a touchdown for about every 6.5 catches in his career. When Don Hutson got the ball, he had a nose for the end zone like nobody else who has played the game before him or since.


29-Point Quarter for Hutson

On October 7, 1945, Don Hutson had perhaps his finest game during the last season of the year. In the second quarter, Hutson scored 4 touchdowns and kicked 5 extra points for a total of 29 points. The Green Bay Packers scored 41 points during the quarter.  After the second quarter and a huge lead, Hutson was only used to kick extra points for the rest of the game as the Packers won 57-21 over the Detroit Lions. (3)


Don Hutson’s 1942 Season

In 1942, Don Hutson had what may still be the best season for a wide receiver in the history of the National Football League. During that season he played 11 games and caught 74 passes for 1211 yards and 17 touchdowns. During that same season, three different players came up with the second best numbers in each of these categories. 27 receptions, 420 yards, and 8 touchdowns were the second most in each category all by different players. He either doubled or tripled the next best player that season. If you were to give Don Hutson 16 games that season with his pace, he would have caught 108 passes for 1761 yards and 25 touchdowns. Jerry Rice’s best season came in 1995 when he caught 122 passes for 1848 yards and 15 touchdowns. That season Rice did not lead the league in catches or touchdowns where Hutson had 2-3 times more than the next player in all 3 categories.

October 18, 1942 the Packers hosted the Rams. The Packers who trailed 21-17 to the Rams at halftime rallied back thanks in large part to Cecil Isbell and Don Hutson. When the game was over, Hutson had set new NFL records for a single game with 13 catches for 209 yards receiving and scored two touchdowns.To make Hutson’s season even more impressive, offensive players were not protected the way they are today. Defenders had more than 5 yards to check receivers and were able to get away with a lot of plays that would be considered pass interference or defensive holding today. Also, Hutson was so good that he was normally double and triple covered. Hutson was named NFL MVP for the second consecutive season.

Don Hutson Hall of Fame and other Honors

Hutson has been honored in a variety of ways. Don Hutson Street in Green Bay is named for him; his number, 14, was the first number retired by the Packers; he is a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, and in 1994 the Packers named their new state-of-the-art indoor practice facility across the street from Lambeau Field the "Don Hutson Center." Hutson was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Current and former Packer executives, such as Bob Harlan and Ron Wolf, have traditionally referred to Hutson as the greatest player the game has known.

In 1999, he was ranked sixth on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, the highest-ranking Packer and the highest-ranking pre-World War II player.

In 2005, the Flagstad family of Green Bay, donated to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame an authentic Packers #14 jersey worn by Hutson. The jersey was found in a trunk of old uniforms in 1946 at the Rockwood Lodge, the Packers’ summer training camp from 1946 to 1949, owned by Melvin and Helen Flagstad. The jersey, a rare NFL artifact valued at $17,000+, was donated by son Daniel Flagstad in memory of his parents. (4)

Don Hutson’s Career

Don Hutson played 11 seasons in the NFL and was truly ahead of his time. During those 11 seasons, Hutson led in receptions eight times, receiving yards seven times and receiving touchdowns nine times. He finished his career with 488 catches for 7991 yards and 99 touchdowns. He also ran the ball 62 times for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns, was 7-17 on field goals, 172-183 on extra points and had 30 interceptions for 389 yards and a touchdown as a safety on defense. Don Hutson has to be considered one of the very best, if not the best wide receiver to ever lace them up. At the time of his retirement, he held 18 NFL Records.

By A. Goodin, 20Yardline.com
November 10, 2007

Don Hutson Biography Sources:

(1)  Lambeau Tells How Packers Surprised Bears (1936, September 8) The Wisconsin State Journal
(2)  How Packers Gave Bears Jitters (1936, September 9) The Wisconsin State Journal
(3)  Don Hutson Ace in 57-21Packer Win (1945, October 8) The Wisconsin State Journal
(4)  Don Hutson’s Wikipedia Page
(5) 
Packers Crush Rams 45-28 (1942, October 19) Daily Globe, pg. 9
(6)  THE MAN WITH ALL THE MOVES (1975, October 24) Ogden Standard-Examiner, pg. 43

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