Best Packer not in the Hall of Fame? It's Gillingham

Gale Gillingham went to the first of his five Pro Bowls in 1969 and was a two-time first-team all-pro. The 25-year window of his modern-era candidacy came and went without Gillingham ever becoming a Hall of Fame finalist. His wait is now at 37 years and counting.

The Hall of Fame ended Jerry Kramer’s 45-year wait for a bust with his enshrinement last summer in the Class of 2018.

It’s time the Hall ended another lengthy wait for a Green Bay guard, according to last week’s Talk of Fame Network poll.

We asked our listeners and readers to select the best Packer not in the Hall of Fame and guard Gale Gillingham won by a comfortable margin. Gillingham received 56.4 percent of the vote to outdistance wide receiver Boyd Dowler at 30.5 percent.

Gillingham seemingly has been punished by Hall voters for playing the bulk of his career post-Lombardi and post-Packer dynasty. He made the team as a first-round pick out of Minnesota in 1966 and became a starter in his second season, replacing Fuzzy Thurston at left guard. That 1967 season marked the end of the Lombardi dynasty – the final NFL championship, the final Super Bowl. In 1969, after Jerry Kramer retired, Gillingham slid over to the right side of the line.

Gillingham went to the first of his five Pro Bowls in 1969 and was a two-time first-team all-pro. The 25-year window of his modern-era candidacy came and went without Gillingham ever becoming a Hall of Fame finalist. His wait is now at 37 years and counting.

The three Talk of Fame Network hosts were, predictably split, with Rick Gosselin voting safety Bobby Dillon, Clark Judge Dowler and Ron Borges going completely off the ballot to select Sterling Sharpe.

“I know many voters are tilting toward Gale Gillingham,” Borges said, “but my vote is for Sterling Sharpe. For seven years, with mostly lousy QBs, he ran neck-and-neck with Jerry Rice for best receiver in football. Then his neck literally gave out. Seven years like that, which included one in which he won the receiving Triple Crown (catches, yards, TDs), makes him second in Packer history only to Don Hutson. Which makes him my choice for best Packer not in the Hall.”

Dowler and tight Ron Kramer were voted to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team but neither has been a finalist for the Hall of Fame. There were 45 players selected o the 50th anniversary team and all are enshrined in Canton except Dowler and Kramer.

Dillon, who received single digit support in the poll, was the star of the pre-Lombardi Packers of the 1950s. Dillon played eight seasons and intercepted 52 passes. He was a four-time first-team all-pro selection and a four-time Pro Bowler despite the fact the Packers did not have a winning season until the final year of his career in 1959 after Lombardi took over as coach.

Dillon was going to retire after the 1958 season but Lombardi talked him into returning. He played that 1959 season and then retired at the age of 29. Dillon had three nine-interception seasons. He played with only one eye, having lost the other in a childhood accident. Dillon has never been a Hall finalist.

“If you played defense and you didn’t win a championship, you become a long shot for Canton,” Gosselin said. “Bobby Dillon certainly deserves better from the Hall.”

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