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Sports Then and Now




Fiesty Football Legend Clarke Hinkle

Posted on January 04, 2015 by Dean Hybl

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete is an all-time football great who was the NFL’s career rushing leader at the time of his retirement.

Considering that the NFL career rushing yardage record today stands at 18,355 yards, it might seem strange to know that when Clarke Hinkle retired in 1941 he was top runner in NFL history with 3,860 yards.

When the discrepancy in yardage numbers by Hinkle compared to modern players was pointed out to him more than 40 years after his retirement, the feisty Hall of Famer illustrated the hard-nosed mentality that made him great. He shot back that the modern players (the 1980s at the time of the exchange) had it easy and wouldn’t have anywhere near the statistics they were posting if they still had to play both ways and face tough guys like Bronko Nagurski on a regular basis.

The head-to-head battles between Hinkle and Nagurski, the star fullback and linebacker for the Chicago Bears, were highlights of the NFL of the 1930s.

Though Nagurski was 30 pounds heavier, Hinkle was determined to hold his own and the results were legendary.

Hinkle’s montra was “get to the Bronk before he gets to me,” a tactic best personified by one encounter in 1934. Trapped on the sidelines by Nagurski, Hinkle escaped his tackle by driving directly into and over the larger defender. The Bears’ superstar was helped from the field with a broken nose and a fractured rib.

In 10 seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Hinkle earned first or second team All-Pro recognition every year as he excelled both as a fullback and as a linebacker.

Known for his power running style, Hinkle was an all-around standout. He could catch passes out of the backfield and was a solid blocker. He also was the punter and placekicker for the Packers.

Hinkle finished in the top 10 in rushing yards six times, including second in 1937 with a career-high 552 yards and five touchdowns. In 1938 he led the NFL with 58 points scored.

Led by Hinkle and fellow future Hall of Famers Arnie Herber and Don Hutson, the Packers won the NFL Championship in 1936 and 1939.

Hinkle was the all-time rushing leader for over a decade. He currently ranks 211th all-time in rushing yards.

He was a member of the second class for the Hall of Fame in 1964. Hinkle passed away in November 1988 at the age of 79.


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