Stokes’ for te was as a pass pro­tec­tor

Left tackle, fam­ily re­main pas­sion­ate Pack­ers fans

Packer Plus - - Flashback - By MARTIN HEN­DRICKS

Like thou­sands of other Pack­ers fan house­holds through­out Wis­con­sin and the na­tion, Tim Stokes and his fam­ily were in shock Sun­day evening after Green Bay’s heart­break­ing, 28-22, loss to Seat­tle in the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game.

The for­mer Pack­ers left tackle from 1978-’82 lives in Eu­gene, Ore., but he and his wife, Jody, and their three chil­dren are pas­sion­ate Green Bay fans.

“Not much you could say,” Stokes said. “I thought the Pack­ers played re­ally well for three quarters. Then in the last five min­utes the wheels came off.

“I sat there in dis­be­lief. The Pack­ers looked like the bet­ter team for most of the game. Some­times you have a game where you think you have it in hand and then you go con­ser­va­tive and it bites you.”

Stokes, who also coached youth and high school foot­ball, has ex­pe­ri­enced the feel­ing.

“I’ve played in games like that and coached in games like that,” he said. “Our house­hold was re­ally up­set and ev­ery­one was frus­trated as the game slipped be­tween our fin­gers. Not much you can do about it. That’s the tough thing about be­ing a spec­ta­tor.” Stokes also sees a sil­ver lin­ing for the fu­ture. “It was a tough end to a great sea­son,” he said. “But Green Bay is a tal­ented team and great or­ga­ni­za­tion so they’ll be back and con­tend­ing next year.”

In Stokes’ five-year ten­ure, the Pack­ers made the play­offs just once in his fi­nal sea­son.

The for­mer Ore­gon Ducks line­man was a thir­dround draft choice (60th over­all) of the Los An­ge­les Rams in 1973. After one sea­son, he was traded to the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins, who dealt him to Green Bay in 1978 for a fourth-round draft choice.

“Com­ing to the Pack­ers was so dif­fer­ent to me,” Stokes said. “I was the youngest starter on the Red­skins line, so I went from be­ing the kid to an old man in Green Bay.”

Head coach and gen­eral man­ager Bart Starr traded for Stokes to bol­ster a young line, an­chored by veteran cen­ter Larry McCar­ren, that was be­set with in­juries. Stokes be­came an in­stant starter at left tackle due to a knee in­jury to for­mer firstround draft pick Mark Kon­car.

The Pack­ers, 8-7-1, bat­tled the Min­nesota Vik­ings for the NFC Cen­tral Di­vi­sion ti­tle and a play­off spot the en­tire sea­son. The teams ended with the same record, but Green Bay went 0-1-1 in head-to-head com­pe­ti­tion with the Vik­ings.

“We were close, but fell short of the play­offs. We had a tough time beat­ing Min­nesota,” Stokes said. “I en­joyed play­ing for Bart — he was class act — and I also played for Chuck Knox and George Allen.”

The 6-foot-5-inch, 252-pound tackle was known as a cere­bral player.

“I went out and tried to do my best and what­ever I had to do to get the job done,” he said. “I wasn’t the most tal­ented of­fen­sive line­man, but I com­pen­sated with men­tal as­pects. Men­tal mis­takes and blown as­sign­ments are not ac­cept­able.”

Two five-win sea­sons en­sued, and then Stokes was re­leased in the 1981 pre­sea­son. He was im­me­di­ately signed by the New York Gi­ants and played in three games. When Kon­car went down early in the sea­son, Starr re-signed him.

Stokes again pro­tected Lynn Dickey’s blind side for sev­eral games be­fore he broke his leg against the Vik­ings in Week 13.

“I played about half the game with it,” he said. “The adren­a­line was flow­ing and I didn’t know it was bro­ken un­til the next day.

“Be­tween Kon­car, my­self, and Karl Swanke, we didn’t have a lot of luck with in­juries dur­ing those years. We all kind of ro­tated in as starters.” Dickey said Stokes’ forte was as a pass pro­tec­tor. “Tim was a re­ally smart player, an in­tel­li­gent per­son,” Dickey said. “He was 6-foot-5 with long arms and quick feet. Un­for­tu­nately he bat­tled some in­juries, but when he was healthy, he was a good pass pro­tec­tor. Ex­actly what you want in a left tackle.”

In his fi­nal sea­son in Green Bay, the Pack­ers fin­ished 5-3-1 and made the play­offs in a strike-short­ened 1982 cam­paign.

“We had a close-knit team with some great play­ers like James Lofton, John An­der­son and Dickey, and a lot of us hung out at St. Nor­bert Col­lege,” he said. “We just lacked game-chang­ing guys on de- fense. That strike year was hairy. The sea­son was almost can­celed.”

Stokes re­tired from the NFL after that sea­son and re­turned to Ore­gon.

“There I was, 33 years old, start­ing a new ca­reer and re­defin­ing my life,” he said. “That’s a big deal.”

At first he worked as a gen­eral man­ager of a ra­dio sta­tion be­fore go­ing into business with two for­mer NFL play­ers on a stamp­ing firm. Be­ing his own boss al­lowed him to coach youth and high school foot­ball as his two boys came up the ranks.

Stokes said his chil­dren en­joyed their first game at Lam­beau Field in De­cem­ber 2005.

“My son John wanted the Frozen Tun­dra ex­pe­ri­ence,” Stokes said with a laugh. “I tried to talk him out of it. My wife and other son, David, were freez­ing, but we beat Detroit in over­time and ev­ery­one had a great time with all the Pack­ers fans around us.”

Stokes was re­minded of the fer­vent Pack­ers fan base on a trip to at­tend the na­tional cham­pi­onship game in Dal­las fea­tur­ing his alma mater against Ohio State two weeks ago.

“I’m a Duck, so I had to go,” Stokes said. “How of­ten do you get a chance to play for the na­tional cham­pi­onship? We flew into Dal­las on that Sun­day and watched the Pack­ers-Cow­boys game from Stub’s Bar­beque. It was pretty unique.”

It was unique be­cause there was also a gospel re­vival be­ing held in the base­ment of the fa­mous restau­rant, and the mu­sic at times over­pow­ered the game audio.

“We were in the mi­nor­ity as Packer fans,” Stokes said. “But this is what al­ways amazes me: ev­ery­where we go or travel, there are Packer fans. And they back their team no mat­ter what. My kids are big-time Packer fans and live and die with them. I wish the Ducks could have fared bet­ter but we had a great ex­pe­ri­ence.” Stokes grew up in the Bay area and at­tended San Le­an­dro High School be­fore start­ing his sopho­more through se­nior sea­sons at Ore­gon.

“I started out as a tight end but I didn’t think I had a great fu­ture there and moved to tackle,” he said. “I was the sec­ond big­gest guy on the team and you do what’s best for your team.”

Many of Stokes’ col­lege team­mates went on to suc­cess­ful NFL ca­reers.

“I played with guys like Dan Fouts and Ahmad Rashad and Russ Fran­cis and Le­land Glass,” he said. “And I got to play with three great fran­chises and had a lot of fun.”

JOUR­NAL SENTINEL FILES

Tim Stokes was a two-year starter at left tackle for the Pack­ers. He was with the team from 1978-’82.

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