Stokes’ for te was as a pass protector
Left tackle, family remain passionate Packers fans
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.”
Tim Stokes was a two-year starter at left tackle for the Packers. He was with the team from 1978-’82.