Carroll Dale and Boyd Dowler still communicate regularly and recent telephone conversations between the former standout wide receivers for the Green Bay Packers have included some somber moments.
Eleven men who played alongside Dale and Dowler on the Green Bay squad that won the first Super Bowl have died in the last 25 months. Running back Paul Hornung, a central figure in the Packers dynasty of the 1960s, passed away on Nov. 13 at the age of 84.
Now 82-years-old and still residing in his hometown of Wise, Virginia, Dale took another moment to reflect earlier this week.
“It makes you more aware,” Dale said. “Boyd’s a year older than I am and we kind of tell each other, ‘Well, we’re thankful to still be here and know who we are and where we are.’ We are very thankful and realize that time is passing.”
Hornung was one of Dale’s most renowned teammates, winning the Heisman Trophy at the University of Notre Dame in 1956 when Dale was a freshman at Virginia Tech.
Hornung was already an established professional star when Dale broke into the league in 1960 as a wide receiver with the Los Angeles Rams.
“I was on the other side with the Rams and was very aware of his ability and versatility,” Dale said. “From kicking the ball, to running the ball, to catching the ball and so forth.”
After being traded to the Packers in 1965, Dale got a new perspective.
“When I went to Green Bay I lockered right beside Paul,” Dale said. “I was able to observe him firsthand as a football player and he was very much a student of the game, more so than I thought he would have been. He played quarterback at Notre Dame and was very much aware of the offense.”
Dale and Hornung both played key roles as the Packers posted a 23-12 win over the Cleveland Browns in the 1965 NFL title game at Lambeau Field.
Dale caught a 47-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, while Hornung rushed for 105 yards and a TD.
Dale’s first two seasons in Green Bay – 1966 and 1967 – coincided with the final two years of Hornung’s career.
“What impressed me about him is he was always helping the other running backs,” Dale said. “Even though they were competitors [for the same job].”
A pinched nerve prevented Hornung from playing in the inaugural Super Bowl, a 35-10 beatdown of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Dale had 59 yards on four receptions that day, while Hornung played another role.
“After he injured his shoulder, he was kind of like another assistant coach,” Dale said. “Working with the other backs, watching the game from the sidelines and giving instructions and helpful hints. … Coach [Vince] Lombardi didn’t have pets, but Paul was sort of one of his favorite players I’d say.”
As straight-laced as Carroll Dale was, Paul Hornung was a free-spirited individual who enjoyed a night on the town.
“His other side – the Golden Boy – I’m not familiar with,” Dale said. “I wasn’t out there in the streets [partying], so I know nothing about it.”
Still, all those guys had the same goal in mind when it came time to get down to business on Sunday afternoons.
“At that point, mentally and psychologically, those teams had experience to go along with it and that helped keep focused,” Dale said. “Along with Coach Lombardi’s method of coaching, where he put the team first.”
The team that made history had a tight bond and will forever be linked.
Jim Taylor and Bob Skoronski passed away late in 2018.
Zeke Bratkowski, Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg died last year.
This year, Hornung, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Willie Wood, Doug Hart and Allen Brown have lost their lives.
Dale attended the funerals of Starr, Skoronski and Bratkowski, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hasn’t allowed him to attend the services of some of his other friends and teammates.
“The last year and a half, two years have been really tough,” Dale said.
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