Line­man later ran pop­u­lar sports bar


For­mer No. 1 pick Bob Hy­land worked hard for suc­cess

Bob Hy­land had no clue he was go­ing to be se­lected in the first round by the reign­ing NFL cham­pion Green Bay Pack­ers in the 1967 NFL Draft.

Be­fore the draft, the All-Amer­i­can cen­ter/guard from Bos­ton Col­lege was courted mainly by the Dal­las Cow­boys, San Fran­cisco 49ers, and Chicago Bears.

“Those were the main teams in­ter­ested in me, and the Cow­boys and 49ers were send­ing me their home­town news­pa­pers,” Hy­land said. “It was a re­cruit­ing tac­tic back then. Home­town news­pa­pers were the big thing and (team cov­er­age) cre­ated in­ter­est in the team.”

In this case, it was an ef­fec­tive method. Hy­land grew up in White Plains, about 20 miles north of New York City, and he en­joyed read­ing the sports pages.

“My dad would bring home four to five news­pa­pers ev­ery day from New York and I used to read them all: The Post, the Daily News, the Jour­nal-Amer­i­can, the Her­ald-Tri­bune,” Hy­land said. “Plus the lo­cal paper in White Plains. I grew up in Giants ter­ri­tory for both foot­ball and base­ball and I was a big fan and read ev­ery­thing I could on all sports. Later in life I called my sports bars Bob Hy­land’s Sports Page.”

Hy­land was more than a bit sur­prised about his draft sta­tus when he re­turned to his dor­mi­tory af­ter his 9 a.m. class on March 24, 1967.

“I had just got back from class and had three room­mates and ev­ery­one was ex­cited,” Hy­land said. “Coach Lom­bardi was on the phone and he told me, ‘You’re now a Green Bay Packer.’

“It came out of left field. I was thrilled for two rea­sons: be­cause the Pack­ers were the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons and be­cause of Coach Lom­bardi. I was ex­cited to play for him be­cause he was a Ford­ham guy and had a lot of suc­cess with the Giants and in Green Bay.”

While elated to be part of the Pack­ers or­ga­ni­za­tion, Hy­land had an­other im­me­di­ate com­mit­ment.

“It was 11 a.m. in the morn­ing and then I went to 11:30 a.m. class,” he said. “Now the draft is a tremen­dous event pro­moted big time by the NFL. It’s a gi­gan­tic day foot­ball fans fo­cus on. Back in the 1960s, it was very low key. I was thrilled to be drafted, but had to get to my next class.”

Lom­bardi, with to­tal com­mand of the fran­chise as both head coach and gen­eral man­ager, moved up to snare Hy­land, trad­ing Tony Jeter and Lloyd Voss to Pitts­burgh for the ninth-over­all pick.

When Hy­land ar­rived in Green Bay, he was again sur- prised. But he quickly em­braced Wis­con­sin tra­di­tions like Fri­day night fish frys.

“When you come from the New York City area, you can hardly be­lieve that such a small town could sup­port such a suc­cess­ful NFL foot­ball team,” Hy­land said with a chuckle. “At first, I was taken back by such a small town-at­mos­phere. But I have to ad­mit I liked it. Green Bay was sim­i­lar to where I grew up.

“It had ev­ery­thing I needed: a foot­ball team, good restau­rants, and friendly peo­ple. I learned about fish frys, Bob Long’s Pizza Hut, Fuzzy Thurston’s Left Guard, and Bob’s Big Boy.”

Hy­land also learned about Lom­bardi the ne­go­tia­tor when it came time to sign­ing his con­tract.

“With the (im­pend­ing) merger of the NFL an AFL, the sala- ries and bonuses were re­duced —and Lom­bardi did not like agents,” he said with a laugh. “We met in Chicago and he was a tough ne­go­tia­tor and had the lever­age. He called me the Bos­ton Mus­cle Head be­cause I lifted weights — and Coach Lom­bardi never for­got that I brought in an agent.”

Hy­land be­lieved in weightlift­ing be­fore it was pop­u­lar among NFL play­ers.

“It was a dif­fer­ent era,” the 6foot-5 of­fen­sive line­man said. “Only a few of us lifted af­ter prac­tice (line­backer Jim Flani­gan and guard Gale Gillingham). “If you had a lit­tle fat hang­ing over your belt coach Lom­bardi thought you were out of shape. I car­ried the weight well, but he’d see me lift­ing weights af­ter prac­tice and was con­cerned about me, the Bos­ton Mus­cle Head. He didn’t re­al­ize this was the new trend.

“To me, it was like the arms race. I had to keep up with it be­cause the guy across from me was lift­ing and play­ers were get­ting stronger all the time. I was listed at 255 pounds, but I was about 267. We had tough prac­tices at Bos­ton Col­lege, but train­ing camp un­der Lom­bardi was gru­el­ing. We were never go­ing to lose a foot­ball game be­cause we were out of shape.”

Hy­land also quickly learned that Lom­bardi, his team­mates, and Green Bay fan had high ex­pec­ta­tions.

“It was some­thing, com­ing in and play­ing with the first Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons: Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer, For­rest Gregg, Ray Nitschke, Wil­lie Davis, all th­ese fu­ture hall of famers,” Hy­land said. “We had so many great lead­ers on that team. Bart was such a sta­bi­liz­ing force, a quiet leader. We had a lot of tal­ent and it was gut-check time for me. The guys told me, ‘We win cham­pi­onships here, and you’re go­ing to help us to that.’ I def­i­nitely felt the pres­sure as a first-rounder.”

Hy­land was drafted to be Green Bay’s cen­ter of the fu­ture and was one of the larger line­men of his era. Ken Bowman was the in­cum­bent at the po­si­tion, but the promis­ing rookie took over as the starter at mid­sea­son. “Bob was bright, aware, phys­i­cal and had the whole pack­age,” Kramer said.

“We had a pretty tight-knit group in the of­fen­sive line,” Hy­land said. “Kenny Bowman wasn’t happy, but he was sup­port­ive. Bob Sko­ron­ski was our cap­tain and Jerry Kramer was a vo­cal leader. I was sur­rounded by great tal­ent.”

For Hy­land, there was one chal­lenge: his po­si­tion coach, Ray Wi­etecha.

“Ray and I never got along,” Hy­land said. “From Day 1. And he never felt com­fort­able start­ing rook­ies.”

Hy­land started the last six games of the reg­u­lar sea­son and played ex­ten­sively in the Western Con­fer­ence Cham­pi­onship con­test, a 28-7 rout of the Los An­ge­les Rams in Milwaukee, and in the famed Ice Bowl at Lam­beau Field the fol­low­ing week.

“Wi­etecha con­vinced Lom­bardi to start Bowman in the Ice Bowl and the Su­per Bowl,” Hy­land said. “He wanted a vet in there. So I have mixed emo­tions. I was glad we won, but I wish I could have started those games.”

Ev­ery Packer who played in the Ice Bowl has the bru­tal con­di­tions etched in their mem­o­ries, but Hy­land had a unique story to share.

“Re­mem­ber, they didn’t have the ad­vanced weather warn­ings and radar of today,” he said. “I was at the sta­dium when the Cow­boys bus came in for prac-

tice on Satur­day. I was a 22-yearold, still in awe of NFL play­ers like Bob Lilly, so I snuck into Lam­beau to watch the Cow­boys prac­tice. It was 28 de­grees or so and de­cent. The next day, well, was some­thing else.

“When I heard the tem­per­a­ture Sun­day morn­ing in my lit­tle apart­ment, I called the sta­dium and they said, ‘Come out, we’re play­ing.’ I couldn’t be­lieve it. I was used to the cold in New York, but noth­ing like the weather pat­terns that came to­gether that day for the Ice Bowl.”

Green Bay de­feated Dal­las, 21-17, with a Kramer-Bowman com­bi­na­tion block the key to Starr’s dra­matic game-win­ning sneak in the south end zone.

Hy­land was prac­tic­ing with the first-team unit all week lead­ing up to Su­per Bowl II against the Oak­land Raiders in Miami.

Af­ter a bob­bled ex­change near the end of prac­tice on Fri­day/Satur­day, Lom­bardi in­serted Bowman with the starters. “Wi­etecha was in Lom­bardi’s ear I’m sure,” he said. Hy­land was the long snap­per in Su­per Bowl II, which was Lom­bardi’s fi­nal game as head coach in Green Bay.

Un­der Phil Bengt­son, Hy­land could not un­seat Bowman at cen­ter or rookie Bill Lueck at guard. He was traded af­ter the 1969 sea­son and spent 1970 with the Bears be­fore re­turn­ing home to play for the Giants from 1971-’75 as a guard. Iron­i­cally, the Giants hired Wi­etecha in 1972 and Hy­land was again rel­e­gated to a backup role for two sea­sons be­fore earn­ing a start­ing job in 1974-’75.

In 1976, he re­turned to Green Bay for one sea­son un­der Starr.

“I went back to the Pack­ers and en­joyed the 1976 sea­son play­ing for Bart, even though we were not very suc­cess­ful (5-9),” he said.

Hy­land fin­ished his ca­reer with one fi­nal sea­son in New Eng­land.

Hy­land will also be remembered by Green Bay fans for one play against the Pack­ers when he was a Gi­ant. In the 1971 sea­son-opener in Green Bay — a wild 42-40 New York vic­tory— Hy­land as­sisted on a tackle af­ter a Doug Hart in­ter­cep­tion and ended up slid­ing on the sloppy field into the Pack­ers’ side­line. He broke the leg of Dan Devine in his head coach­ing de­but in Green Bay.

“I felt aw­ful, in his first game,” Hy­land said. “I just made the tackle and went on my way. Af­ter the game, re­porters were ask­ing me about Devine and I felt ter­ri­ble.

“When I got back to New York, I got a tele­gram from Devine say­ing it wasn’t my fault. He said that refs have been telling him for years to stand back. Devine came to White Plains a few years later to speak and he asked, ‘Where’s Hy­land? He broke my leg.’ He had a sense of hu­mor about it.”

Af­ter his NFL ca­reer, Hy­land re­turned to his roots. He and his wife, Liz, (mar­ried 41 years) have four chil­dren and set­tled in White Plains. His 44-year run in the bar-res­tau­rant busi­ness comes to an end Fri­day. The Sports Page will close the doors for good af­ter a ban­ner week with the NCAA bas­ket­ball tour­na­ments and farewell cel­e­bra­tions with fam­ily, friends, cus­tomers, and for­mer em­ploy­ees.

“I never ex­pected to be in this busi­ness for the long term,” said the 71-year-old Hy­land, a civic leader who once ran for mayor and also works as an in­sur­ance agent.

“But it’s been a lot of fun with a lot of great peo­ple and mem­o­ries. Coach Lom­bardi was one of the most eth­i­cal men in the world and taught us about the value of hard work and ded­i­ca­tion, which ap­plies to foot­ball and life.

“He in­flu­enced the game and his play­ers and many have gone on to suc­cess af­ter foot­ball.”

Bob Hy­land was the Pack­ers’ first-round pick in the 1967 NFL Draft.


Bob Hy­land is clos­ing his “Sports Page” in White Plains, N.Y., af­ter 44 years in the bar-res­tau­rant busi­ness.

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