Green Bay Packers Worry About UCLA’s Undrafted But Undaunted Kenny Washington

The Chicago Tribune – August 24, 1940


By George Strickler

With only the daily lecture, which comes with their grapefruit, to occupy them before their final scrimmage tonight, the Green Bay Packers had time to attend to their correspondence and take invoice of their assets for the Chicago All-Star game next Thursday. Voluminous correspondence has piled up on the world champions since practice began on Aug. 12, most of it of an anonymous nature from Chicago. The Professional Football Alumni association has weighed in daily with such sagacious observations as “quit fishing : go to work”, “we hope you’ll try to keep the All-Stars from scoring too often” and “we want you to make a respectable showing”.

Today’s bon mot, which could not have possibly come from the Chicago Cardinals because it is too early in the season for them to even be professiona football alumni, read : “Mr. Washington will cut down the Green Bay tree as another Washington cut down the cherry tree. But he will not be spanked, because you will not be able to catch him.”

This is the first time that the vinegar-quill technique has entered into preparations for the All-Star game and the Packers would be left speechless if the answers weren’t so obvious. The answers are that it has been so cold up here for the last week that no fish would allow itself to be lured by anything other than a pair of mittens or an umbrella. And as far as the uncatchable Mr. Washington, no one in the Packers camp ever heard of U.C.L.A. setting any scoring records during Washington’s career, nor is there any documented evidence that it went undefeated for three seasons.

The Washington matter will be left up to the Packers line, which brings us down the champions’ chief asset in next Thursday’s engagement. Before Washington can electrify many people, he will have to pass through a veteran line that averages 221 pounds and 6 feet 1 inch from end to end. This line, and its husky, capable replacements, will be charged with keeping Washington bottled up on running plays and harassing him so consistently on passes that he will not have time to draw a bead on enemy receivers.


It is very thought provoking to note that, among all the celebrated and talented backfield players on the 1940 College All-Stars roster, the professional players on the defending National Football League champion Green Bay Packers were, apparently, most concerned about the threat posed by UCLA Bruins superstar KENNY WASHINGTON, the very same 195-pounder whom legendary Packers head coach Earl “Curley” Lambeau had already labeled as “the epitome of football perfection” less than three weeks earlier prior to the start of training camp.

After all, the Packers could have just as easily been paying attention to others such as Tennessee Volunteers left halfback GEORGE CAFEGO, the 174-pounder who had been honored as a First Team All-America selection by six major accredited organizations (Central Press Association, Irving Dix, Liberty Magazine, Newspaper Enterprise Association, The Detroit Times & Paul Williamson) as a junior in 1938 and again by another six major accredited organizations (Collegiate Writers, International News Service, Life Magazine, Newsweek Magazine, The Sporting News & United Press) as a senior in 1939. The versatile Cafego also just so happened to be the very same player whom the Chicago Cardinals had chosen with the first overall pick in the first round of the 1940 NFL Draft. And the Cardinals, to review, were rivals of the Packers in the NFL’s Western Division.

Green Bay also might have just as well been worried about Iowa left halfback NILE KINNICK, the 167-pound sensation who, as a senior in 1939, had been named First Team All-America by 13 of the 15 major accredited organizations tracked by this blog. The diminutive but dangerous Hawkeyes hero, of course, had also been awarded the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s most outstanding collegiate football player in 1939 by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City. Kinnick was snapped up in the second round (# 14 overall) of the 1940 NFL Draft by the Brooklyn Dodgers.

It is extremely significant to remember that both Cafego and Kinnick beat Washington out for a place on the NCAA’s official Consensus All-America squad for the 1939 season and that none of the ten NFL clubs, not even the Green Bay Packers, themselves, had the common sense / moral courage to select the UCLA phenom at the league’s annual draft of collegiate players.

The Chicago Tribune, for all of its favorable reporting on Washington’s impressive exploits all throughout the College All-Stars’ training camp, did a masterful job of avoiding any and all discussion with respect to the obvious question of why the NCAA’s total offense leader in 1939 would not be not be playing for any National Football League team whatsoever in 1940.


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