Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jim Ringo was not only a tiny offensive lineman by today’s NFL standards, but a lesser offensive lineman during his era as well. Ringo, who played at Syracuse University, was listed at 6’2, 211 when he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 1953 NFL Draft in the 7th round (79th overall pick). With his lack of girth, Ringo nearly quit football before he had even began his pro football career.
Ringo played center for the Orange in college, and was drafted by the Packers to play the same position. Before his rookie season, Ringo reportedly left during training camp because he felt he didn’t have a chance to make the final cut while competing against much grander players. When he returned to his home in Orange, New Jersey, Ringo wasn’t welcomed back, as he reportedly said “They (My family) didn’t want a quitter. They wanted me to at least try”.
In Ringo’s first few NFL seasons starting at center in Green Bay, the Packers struggled mightily, winning 20 games in six seasons under the direction of three different head coaches. When Green Bay hired New York Giants assistant coach Vince Lombardi to become Green Bay’s next head coach in 1959, the Packers flourished.
Ringo, who was 6’2, 235 at best, was still undersized, but used it to his advantage. Ringo possessed fantastic technique and had excellent quickness out of his stance, and excellent mobility in space. Lombardi used Ringo’s speed to his advantage, building his famous “Power Sweep” running attack around his future Hall of Fame center.
In his first 11 NFL seasons, all with the Packers, Ringo was selected to seven Pro Bowls, was named to seven All-Pro teams, and was the centerpiece in the Packers’ NFL Championship victories in 1961 and 1962, helping pave the way for Hall of Fame offensive backs Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung.
Before the 1964 season, Lombardi traded Ringo to the Philadelphia Eagles. The legend behind the trade to the Eagles was that Ringo brought an agent with him to Lombardi’s office to negotiate a pay-raise. Lombardi was rumored to be so angry about Ringo’s proposal that he left his office, returned five minutes later, and announced that he had traded Ringo to Philadelphia. (There are numerous sources indicating this story is more fiction than fact, but it is still an interesting story nonetheless).
In his last four NFL seasons playing for the Eagles, Ringo was selected to three more Pro Bowls, and was named to two All-Pro teams. After the 1967 season, Ringo retired as a player from the NFL. Ringo played 187 games in 15 seasons, was selected to ten Pro Bowls, was named to nine All-Pro teams, and won two NFL titles. The NFL named Ringo to the 1960’s All-Decade Team.
Shortly after his playing career had ended, Ringo was an offensive line coach for the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets, and the Buffalo Bills.
With the Bills from 1972-1976, Ringo was given a great deal of credit for helping develop the famed Bills’ offensive line, known as “The Electric Company”. In 1973, The Bills’ offensive line helped pave the way for the NFL’s first single-season 2,000-yard rusher, O.J. Simpson. Buffalo’s line featured Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure and College Football Hall of Famer Reggie McKenzie.
In 1976, Ringo was named Bills’ head coach in relief of Lou Saban during the season. Ringo’s time as an NFL head coach was easily forgettable, as his teams won three out of 23 games from 1976 through 1977.
In 1981, Ringo was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ringo was the sixth center inducted into the Hall, but the first center ever inducted who wasn’t a two-way performer, making him the NFL’s first true Hall of Fame center.
In November 2007, Ringo died at age 75 of an illness in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
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