THE 1991 DRAFT

Few mem­o­rable selections, but one his­toric trade sets course for fu­ture.

Packer Plus - - Fan Mail | Lineup - By MARTIN HEN­DRICKS

The Green Bay Pack­ers went de­fen­sive in the 1991 NFL draft, and with good rea­son.

In 1990, their de­fense gave up an av­er­age of 128.7 yards per game on the ground, along with 21.7 points per con­test and 347 points in a dis­ap­point­ing 6-10 reg­u­lar sea­son.

Con­versely, the Pack­ers av­er­aged only 85.6 yards rush­ing per game and scored 271 to­tal points, or 16.9 points a game.

Green Bay’s main is­sue was up front. In the trenches, they were over­matched in the run game and put very lit­tle pres­sure on op­pos­ing quar­ter­backs, record­ing 27 sacks while op­po­nents racked up 62.

So it came as no sur­prise when Tom Braatz, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball oper­a­tions, and head coach Lindy In­fante made de­fense a pri­or­ity in the draft — and the Dline in par­tic­u­lar.

Braatz was ac­tive on draft day, trad­ing the No. 8 over­all pick to Philadel­phia for the 19th pick and the Ea­gles’ firstround choice in 1992. Philadel­phia called Braatz with the sur­prise of­fer as Green Bay was “on the clock” with its first-round pick.

Eleven picks later, the Pack­ers chose Vin­nie Clark, an Ohio State stand­out cor­ner­back who pos­sessed the size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds), speed (4.33 in 40-yard dash), and ball-hawking abil­ity (six in­ter­cep­tions as a se­nior) to for­tify their sec­ondary and pro­vide ad­di­tional run sup­port.

In the sec­ond round, Green Bay tabbed Esera Tuaolo, an ag­ile and quick 280-pound nose tackle from Ore­gon State, with the 35th over­all pick to bol­ster the run de­fense and pro­vide pres­sure up the mid­dle on the passer.

In the third round, the Pack­ers had two selections and chose Don Davey, a de­fen­sive end from Wis­con­sin, with the 67th over­all pick and Chuck Webb, a run­ning back from Ten­nessee, with the 81st over­all choice via a trade with San Fran­cisco.

Over­all, Braatz se­lected 14 play­ers over 12 rounds in his last Green Bay draft. It would go down as one of the weaker drafts in team his­tory.

“That draft didn’t help the Pack­ers much in 1991,” Ron Wolf said in a 2015 in­ter­view with Packer Plus. “It is what it is: a 4-12 foot­ball team.”

Clark was a bust, play­ing just two sea­sons in Green Bay and start­ing 15 games. He sim­ply did not de­velop into a starter at cor­ner or safety de­spite his lofty draft sta­tus.

Tuaolo made it four games into the 1992 sea­son be­fore be­ing re­leased.

Davey played four sea­sons, but could not crack the start­ing lineup once Reg­gie White was signed as the Pack­ers be­gan their Su­per Bowl as­cent.

Three oth­ers who made the team from the 1991 draft class — Webb (two games), run­ning back Wal­ter Dean (6th round, nine games) and line­backer Reg­gie Bur­nette (7th round, three games) only played one sea­son.

Tuaolo was ranked among the top three nose tack­les in the country with 14 sacks and 23 tack­les for losses, but thought his draft sta­tus might be im­pacted by play­ing at Ore­gon State.

“I love my col­lege, but we were kind of the door­mats of the Pac-10,” Tuaolo said. “I re­ally didn’t think I’d get taken that high. I just had a few friends over watch­ing the draft on ESPN.

“In fact I was clean­ing and pick­ing up the house when the call came. Re­mem­ber, the draft wasn’t a big deal back then like it is to­day.”

In­fante talked to Tuaolo and wel­comed him to the Pack­ers, who fin­ished in a rare four-way tie for sec­ond place in the NFC Cen­tral Divi- sion along with Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Min­nesota, five games be­hind the cham­pion Chicago Bears.

“To tell you the truth, I did not know where Green Bay was,” Tuaolo said last week from his Min­nesota home. “I’m from Hawaii. I had to ask my friends where Green Bay was. My friend said, ‘Dude, it’s in Wis­con­sin.’ ”

Tuaolo’s first flight to Wis­con­sin — via Chicago — was in­ter­est­ing.

“We had to jump on this lit­tle prop plane in Chicago,” Tuaolo said with a laugh, “And the (flight at­ten­dant) asked me to move out of my seat to the other side of this lit­tle plane to bal­ance it out.

“And then we landed in Green Bay in what seemed like the mid­dle of a corn­field. I thought, ‘Where the heck am I?’ ”

Tuaolo was in a great po­si­tion to earn a start­ing berth as a rookie. He un­seated vet­eran Bob Nel­son and started 15 of 16 games, record­ing 31⁄ sacks

2 and in­ter­cept­ing one pass and re­turn­ing it 23 yards.

“I thought with Nel­son on the ros­ter that the coaches would ease me in there,” Tuaolo said. “But they cut him two weeks be­fore the start of the (reg­u­lar) sea­son and I started all 16 games. I was amazed that they’d have that kind of trust in me as a rookie.

“We ended up 4-12 and Ron Wolf was brought in and ev­ery­one was con­cerned for their jobs. He brought a whole dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude and a lot of changes hap­pened fast.

“Lindy was fired, Holm­gren was hired. The trade for Brett. It was a whole new ball game with Ron Wolf af­ter a very tough 1991 sea­son. That was hard for a fran­chise with such

a great his­tory and win­ning tra­di­tion.”

Tuaolo was re­leased by the Pack­ers early in the 1992 sea­son, four months af­ter a fight in a Mis­sis­sippi bar that landed him, Favre, Favre’s brother, Jeff, and Deanna Tynes (then Favre’s girl­friend) in j ail.

“I’m sure that in­ci­dent was a fac­tor in my (re­lease), Tuaolo said. “But I don’t make ex­cuses. When a door closes, I look for open win­dows. I went on to play nine years in the NFL.”

While Tuaolo grew up in Honolulu and did not have an NFL team in his home state, Davey had the op­po­site ex­pe­ri­ence.

Davey grew up in Man­i­towoc, Wis., and was an avid Pack­ers and Bad­gers fan. He ful­filled half of his dream by play­ing col­lege foot­ball in Madi­son and be­com­ing a four-year starter and earn­ing All-Big Ten first-team hon­ors. He set a then-Bad­gers ca­reer record with 49 tack­les be­hind the line of scrimmage.

Equally im­pres­sive was his se­lec­tion as the NCAA’s first ever four-time Aca­demic All-Amer­i­can and his blue-col­lar work ethic that en­deared him to Wis­con­sin foot­ball fans.

Davey knew he was go­ing to be drafted, but did not have a strong pre-draft in­di­ca­tion by which team.

“The Pack­ers didn’t show much in­ter­est be­fore the draft, to be hon­est,” Davey said from his Florida home last week­end. “Cincin­nati and Buf­falo showed in­ter­est, but passed on me in the draft.”

Then came the phone call that Davey had al­ways hoped for

With his girl­friend, fam­ily and friends gath­ered at his par­ent’s house in Man­i­towoc, the tele­phone rang just be­fore the 67th pick in Round 3.

“It was Tom Braatz,” Davey said. “The Pack­ers were on the clock and he said they were about to pick me. I was so thrilled.”

The cel­e­bra­tion was on in the Davey house­hold and Davey talked to In­fante: “Lindy said they loved me on tape and asked me how quickly I could get to Green Bay.”

Man­i­towoc is less than a twohour drive from Lam­beau Field, and Davey ended up beat- ing Clark and Tuaolo, who were fly­ing into Green Bay, to the news con­fer­ence.

“I drove up with an en­tourage of about 20 peo­ple in eight cars,” Davey said. “The me­dia was there wait­ing and usu­ally they want the No. 1 pick first. But since Vin­nie and Esera weren’t there yet, I got all the me­dia at­ten­tion.”

The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Davey played in ev­ery game his rookie sea­son as he learned the NFL ropes and Green Bay’s de­fen­sive sys­tem. As the losses mounted, Davey knew the pos­si­bil­ity for ma­jor changes ex­isted.

“In my naive way of think­ing, I was hop­ing I’d be with Lindy In­fante and my po­si­tion coaches for a long time,” Davey said. “But then I learned about the busi­ness end of the NFL when you lose. It was quite an eye opener for a NFL rookie like me.

“First Tom Braatz was gone, then they brought Ron Wolf in and he no qualms about mak­ing changes. Lindy In­fante was fired and the Mike Holm­gren era be­gan.”

Davey was the lone mem­ber of the 1991 draft class to con­trib­ute to the 1993-’94 Green Bay teams that chal­lenged the Dal­las Cow­boys and San Fran­cisco 49ers for NFC supremacy.

“I played with so many great play­ers, from Brett Favre to learn­ing from Reg­gie White,” said Davey, who signed a freeagent con­tract with Jack­sonville in 1995 and played through 1997.

“I took No. 92 in Jack­sonville in Reg­gie’s honor. The 1991 sea­son was a tough one, but I ex­pe­ri­enced the changes un­der Ron Wolf as the Pack­ers were build­ing an in­cred­i­ble team. It was fun to see them rise to the Su­per Bowl.”

PACKER PLUS FILES

Gen­eral man­ager Tom Braatz chose to fo­cus on the de­fen­sive line in the 1991 draft. He drafted Wis­con­sin de­fen­sive end Don Davey (right) in the third round. Davey played four sea­sons with the Pack­ers.

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