THE 1991 DRAFT
Few memorable selections, but one historic trade sets course for future.
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.”
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.