Packers legend Joe Schmidt – great champion who led his team to the top

By Gwen Crabtree , CNN Written by

Hands are a fascinating physical tool, and not just when it comes to nailing a tailgate post-game slant. The Green Bay Packers, to paraphrase, pull up their sleeves whenever the going gets tough, and their Super Bowl-winning hands are at the heart of an ever-evolving argument over who holds the mantle of football’s best team.

1 / 9 The Green Bay Packers pulled off a spotless Super Bowl performance in 2016. But their last World Series win was in 1921. Credit: James Foster

And not just the entire league, either. We’re talking the NFL, the College Football Playoffs, the World Series, Wimbledon, the Oscars — you name it, the Packers are in the running.

1 / 8 It’s pretty rare that in the 34 years the NFL has had its uniform redesign, the entire league hasn’t been overhauled, but the 2015 model is arguably the most important ever – it featured a bold new color scheme, a new logo and the most detailed cleats ever. Credit: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Green Bay Packers via Getty Images

I don’t know about you, but I see green and gold, and I think of Joe Schmidt.

The Packers captain epitomized the late-1980s team. He was steady at the position, a true team leader, quietly gritty and above all, by far the best football player on the team, that’s always led them to win championships.

The Packers are also the only NFL team who have won Super Bowls consecutively since 1999. In addition, the Packers currently hold the title of all-time champions.

Schmidt wasn’t exactly the flashiest of NFL players, but no one could deny his skills. Playing for the Green Bay Badgers for six years in the mid-1960s, Schmidt scored more touchdowns (50) than any other Wisconsin athlete at that time, or for that matter in any other state. He finished third on the Badgers’ career touchdowns list, making him the eighth highest scorer in the history of college football.

Schmidt’s football career came to an end following a car accident in 1967, leaving him unable to play and paving the way for future NFL superstars like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

It was in 1972, eight years after Schmidt made his last professional appearance, that the Packers decided to get back to basics. Team captains had the authority to make any of the difficult roster moves, and they instructed general manager Bob Harlan to pursue the title of World’s Greatest Team.

The biggest decision of the offseason turned out to be to trade star linebacker Dave Robinson to the Rams for the second overall pick, who was to be named by the team itself as the man to put the team back on the map.

It was June 1971 and the world was an unfamiliar place. Eight months later, the Packers would finally claim their coveted crown.

While the rest of the league was redefining their look, the Packers were pulling on their rich history — light years away from today’s uniforms — as they selected the oft-mentioned Joe Schmidt at No. 10 in the 1971 NFL Draft. Schmidt’s name appeared at No. 15 on the next draft.

From that year on, Schmidt and the Packers figured everything out. From dealing with their most dangerous offensive player (Robinson) to the moves they made in free agency to get a piece of quarterback Bart Starr (who was the same age as Schmidt), the team would not relinquish any of their titles, once again leading them to Super Bowl wins in 1986 and 1992.

Since 1970, Schmidt has been one of the most sought-after linebackers in the game. Schmidt led the Packers to the Championship game in 1977, 1977, and 1982. He earned the team Most Valuable Player award in 1972 and 1978, the team Defensive Player of the Year award in 1970, and the All-Pro team four times. He has played in the Pro Bowl a record 17 times.

Schmidt was a natural leader — he could tell when his team was having a bad game — and played a small role in the merger between the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Rams, in 1974, in order to create the NFL’s second largest market (St. Louis has since been the fifth largest, while Los Angeles has supplanted them).

He retired from the game in 1984, after Green Bay’s Super Bowl win, but not before sharing a few words with USA Today on why football was such a great game.

“Football is football is football,” Schmidt said. “It always will be. And that’s the exciting part of it.”

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