Lightning Struck the 1935 Bears; His Name Was Don Hutson

In the 1935 pro football home opener at Green Bay’s East Stadium, lightning struck the Chicago Bears. His name was Don Hutson.

Fresh from an All-America career and a Rose Bowl victory with the University of Alabama, rookie Green Bay Packer end Hutson took the first pass of the game more than 80 yards to the end zone. The cannon shot from halfback Arnie Herber to Hutson stunned the Chicago Bears and served notice on the rest of the National Football League. Record books, meet young Don Hutson.


That hard-fought Packers-Bears game on September 22, 1935 ended with a Packers victory, 7-0. Even years later, it pained Bears coach George Halas to recall it. He and his assistants spent countless hours devising schemes to stop the lanky, rambling end. To no avail. 

Don Hutson was the first true receiver in the National Football League.

“No player’s debut was ever more prophetic,” Associated Press sports scribe Tom Siler later wrote. “Hutson has been making the opposition look foolish on passes for six and a half years and he seems none the worse for wear. He has scored more touchdowns than any player in the history of the league and holds many other records.”

The Hutson nightmare was just beginning for the Bears. Nary a month later, Hutson caught two late touchdown passes to help Green Bay snatch victory from the jaws of defeat before 29,389 stunned fans at Wrigley Field.

The Packers played a poor game and seemed a lock to lose with 4 minutes left. Herber fired a 69-yard touchdown strike to Hutson to make the score 14-10. Not two minutes later, the Packers recovered a fumble on the Bears 12 yard line. After the Packers ran it to the 4 yard line, Herber tossed another touchdown pass to Hutson for the 17-14 winning margin. packers_latepasses_1935

The 1935 season was a breakout for Hutson in many ways. Defenses simply could not stop him. In the October 6 game vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hutson caught a 50-yard bomb for a touchdown near the end of the first half, and a 42-yard pass later in the game. The Packers won 27-0. In the Packers 13-9 win over Detroit on October 20, Hutson blocked a Lions punt on the Detroit 41, recovered the ball and raced for a touchdown. The Packers sat atop the NFL’s Western Division as they entered November.

With an aerial show featuring touchdown catches by Hutson, Johnny “Blood” McNally and George Sauer, the Packers walloped the Lions 31-7 on November 10 to improve to a 6-2 mark. Hutson played the game with a 100-degree fever, which he didn’t report until the next day. He was hospitalized within a week for possible appendicitis, but later rejoined the team.

Despite the enthusiasm generated by Hutson’s rookie year, costly Packers losses to Detroit on Nov. 17 and the Chicago Cardinals on November 28 put the Packers in second place in the division. Detroit edged the Packers for first place, since the league at that time didn’t count ties in the standings. The Packers were 8-4 and Detroit finished 7-3-2.

Hutson was one of four Packers named to UPI’s all-America pro football team for 1935. Hutson finished the season with 420 receiving yards; an average of 23.3 yards per catch. Hutson was listed second team All-America, along with Packers guard Mike Michalske. Tackle Ade Schwammel and fullback Clarke Hinkle were named first team by UPI.

©2016 Treasured Lives


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