Before Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, and Bart Starr quarterbacked the Green Bay Packers, Packer fans often forget about Arnie Herber, the first great Packers quarterback. Herber, who played for the Packers from 1930-1940, was the NFL’s first true gun slinger, and the Packers’ first Hall of Fame quarterback.
Born in April 1910 in Green Bay, Herber starred as a prep athlete in basketball and football at nearby Green Bay West High School. Growing up, Herber sold game programs so he could watch the Packers play football. After high school, Herber played at the University of Wisconsin for one season before transferring to Regis College in Denver, Colorado.
After college, Herber returned to Green Bay and worked in the Packers’ clubhouse as a handyman. Fellow Green Bay West High School alumni and Packers’ head coach Curly Lambeau gave Herber a tryout, and the hometown kid ran away with the opportunity, as he made Lambeau’s Packer team as a 20-year old rookie in 1930.
Despite his 5’11, 203-pound frame, Herber was the NFL’s first great modern quarterback. When the NFL started officially recording passing statistics in 1932, Herber led the league in passing yards and touchdown passes in the 1932, 1934, and 1936 seasons, and he was a 3-time All-NFL selection.
In 1935, Herber connected with wide receiver Don Hutson on an 83-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage in Hutson’s second career game. As of that moment, Herber and Hutson, both Hall of Famers, became the NFL’s first great pass-catching duo.
In Herber’s career with the Packers from 1930-1940, Herber a four-time NFL Champion (1930, 1931, 1936, 1939), threw 81 touchdowns and 8,041 passing yards, and was named to the NFL 1930’s All-Decade Team. Herber played 129 games in 13 NFL seasons (11-Green Bay, 2-New York).
Herber retired after the 1940 season after fellow offensive back Cecil Isbell started receiving more playing time. Herber returned to professional football three years later in 1944, throwing for 651 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Giants to the NFL Title game (the Giants lost to the Packers in the championship). After a poor second season in New York, Herber officially retired from professional football following the 1945 season.
In 1966, Herber was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Herber helped pave the way for quarterbacks, and help innovate the importance of the quarterback position in today’s prototypical NFL offense. Herber is remembered by most as the NFL’s first great passing threat, and one of the best of his era.
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