(VIDEO WITHIN THE STORY COURTESY OF DWIGHT BRADY & GREEN BAY PACKERS HALL OF FAME)
Marquette, Mich. (WJMN) – The film ‘Linked To Legends: U.P. teams that played the Packers,’ focuses on the early history of the Green Bay Packers franchise. It also shines the light on the strong connection between the Packers and the Upper Peninsula.
“It’s about that history and it’s about firsts. I mean the first team that the Packers ever played was from the U.P. The first road trip was from a team right here in the U.P. Again, just so many unique links to these legends in Green Bay. The other theme that kinds of run through this documentary is the theme of perseverance. There were so many times in the Packers team history that that franchise could have been vanquished. But, they’re still here. What a great history it is and what a great story it is to tell,” said Dwight Brady, an NMU Professor, and creator of the film.
The Packers got their start over a century ago when they played their first game in the year 1919, two years prior to joining the NFL.
Instead of going up against the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, or Detroit Lions, they were playing teams who were apart of a semi-pro U.P. league.
“Of course you got five main communities that interacted with the Packers. They played a total of nine games between 1919 and 1926. Menominee was that first team the Packers ever played and you move on up to Iron Mountain and of course, Iron County had the Stambaugh All-Stars, and then of course on the west end we had a very good team in the Iron Legion Team and Bessemer was a very good team and of course, you had the Ishpeming and Negaunee All-Stars here in Marquette County,” said Brady.
The U.P. town teams the Packers played against had rosters filled with blue collard U.P. residents.
“When you look at the map and see where these better U.P. semi-pro teams hailed from, a lot of them were tied to the mining communities. You look at Stambaugh that was a mining community. Ironwood, Ishpeming and Negaunee, Iron Mountain. So, it was very physical labor that they engaged in. I think that attracted the type of person that I think you would probably want to put on a football field. As for Menominee and Marinette, football roots there go very, very deep. That was a mill town and I think working in a sawmill was no picnic either,” said Brady.
The U.P. town teams held their own against the Packers throughout their run. The defense was a big part of the game during the time which is far different from today’s NFL.
“When the U.P. teams were able to field a full complement of players, it was very, very close. In fact, Stambaugh in their second meeting, in the 1920 season, played the Packers to 3-0. Ironwood, for instance, they played the Duluth Kelleys. Ironwood played them three times and each game was a 0-0 tie. So, they were very competitive against some of these early NFL teams.”
Dwight Brady, the creator of Linked To Legends, said he learned so many fascinating stories while researching for the film. Including the story of former Packers coach and Iron Mountain native Gene Ranzani.
“Of course, Iron Mountain has put out a lot of great coaches over the years including Steve Mariucci and Tom Izzo. But Gene Ranzani had such a major impact on the Packers and really kind of set the stage for the Lombardi era. Even though he was only there for about two and three-quarters of a season before he lost his job as the coach, he changed the colors of the Green Bay Packers to green and gold and also broke the color barrier with the hiring of Bob Mann as the first African American player for the Packers in the modern era. So he had a real significant impact there and he also hired the scout that went out and hired Ray Nitschke and Bart Starr so he definitely had a lasting impact on the Green Bay Packers,” Brady.
‘Linked To Legends: U.P. teams that played the Packers” will debut at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28, on WNMU-TV. It will air again at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3, and 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7.
More information about the film along with the trailer can be found on the official website CLICK HERE.