During his 11-year career with the Green Bay Packers, Donald Hutson revolutionized the NFL. He was one of the first players to use pass routes, throw defenders off guard with fake moves, and catch the football with his hands instead of trapping it between them.
Image Credit: www.Pinterest.com
Donald Montgomery Hutson was born on January 31, 1913, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Roy B. Hutson, a Cotton Belt Railroad conductor, and Mabel Clark Hutson, a homemaker. As a high school athlete, Hutson was involved in numerous sports including baseball, track and field, and football. Though he only played football during his senior year.
In 1931, Hutson graduated from high school and enrolled in the University of Alabama on a partial baseball scholarship. He also competed in the 100 and 220-yard dashes as part of the track and field team. During the fall, he walked on to the football team. His 9.7-second 100 meter dash as part of the track and field team earned him the offensive end (wide receiver) position, but his small size concerned the coaching staff. Hudson was 6’1’’ and weighed only 160 pounds.
As coaching would have it he played very little during his freshman and sophomore years because of his lack of experience. During his junior year, Hutson’s abilities as a receiver earned him more playing time. He made the starting lineup by the end of the 1933 season. In 1934, during his senior year, Hutson caught nineteen passes for 326 yards and made three touchdowns, leading Alabama to an undefeated regular season. On January 1, 1935, the University of Alabama football team ended their season by beating Stanford 29-13 during the Rose Bowl. Hutson caught six passes for 165 yards for touchdowns, including two forty-six and fifty-four yard passes. These feats helped cement Hutson as one of the best college football players in the nation. That year he won both the All-Southern and All-American honors. Hutson also played baseball and ran track throughout his college career.
Hutson graduated from the University of Alabama in 1935, and signed contracts with both the National Football League’s (NFL) Green Bay Packers and the Major League Baseball's (MLB) Brooklyn Dodgers. Joseph Carr, the commissioner of the NFL. received both contracts at the same time. Carr decided that Hutson would play for the Packers since the signing date on that contract came before the one for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
On September 22, 1935, during his first football game with the Packers, Hutson outran Beattie Feathers and caught an 83-yard touchdown against the Chicago Bears. It was the game’s only touchdown. Hutson finished his rookie season with the best playing statistics of any Green Bay Packer’ receiver. He had made eighteen receptions for 420 yards and six touchdowns. On December 14, 1935, Hutson married Julia Richards. They went on to have three daughters.
He led the NFL in receiving touchdowns for nine seasons, from 1935 to 1938 and 1940 to 1944; total receptions for eight seasons, from 1936 to 1939 and 1941 to 1944; yards per game for eight seasons, in 1935, 1936, 1938, 1939, and 1941 to 1944; total receiving yards for seven seasons, from 1940 to 1944, from 1936 to 1939 and 1941 to 1944; yards per reception two times, in 1936 and 1939; yards from scrimmage three times, in 1941, 1942, and 1944; and scoring for five seasons. He also led the league in interceptions in 1940 and finished his career with 30.
Hutson was selected as an All-Pro nine times. In 1941 and 1942, he was voted NFL's Most Valuable Player. During his career, the Green Bay Packers won three NFL Championships in 1936, 1939, and 1944, and four Western Division Championships in 1936, 1938, 1939, and 1944. Hutson held 18 major NFL receiving records when he retired in 1945. His record of ninety-nine touchdowns stood for four decades, until Steve Largent of the Seattle Seahawks caught his 100th in 1989. Hutson caught 488 passes for 7,991 yards and ninety-nine touchdowns during his professional football career. He also played minor league professional baseball with the Pine Bluff Judges from 1940 to 1942.
During the span of his 11-year career with the Packers, Hutson dominated in receiving passes. His playing style revolutionized the wide receiver position forever changing the NFL. He was one of the first players to use pass routes, now standard today. He pioneered incorporating fake moves into his routes in order to throw defenders off guard. He also caught the ball with his hands instead of trapping it between them. Washington Redskins coach George Allen had no doubt that Hutson was “the greatest receiver in the history of the game.”
In 1945, Hutson retired from professional football but remained with the Packers for two more years as an assistant coach. In 1948, he left the Packers and devoted himself full time to operating a bowling alley he had established in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In 1950, Hutson moved to Racine, Wisconsin, where he opened a Cadillac and Chevrolet dealership. In 1984, he retired to Rancho Mirage, California.
He became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1959, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1972. He was named to the NFL 75thAnniversary Team in 1994. The Packers’ indoor practice facility now bears his name.
Hutson died in Rancho Mirage, California on June 26, 1997.
Written by: Ninfa O. Barnard