Historical - What Legends are made of....


Dec 15, 2004
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Lambeau Midwest
Ringo brings ring of truth to old Lombardi tale
All-pro center says he never had an agent
Last Updated: Jan. 30, 2002

Jim Ringo wants to set the record straight once and for all.

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Jim Ringo was named to
the 1960s All-Decade Team.

Packer years: 1953-'63
Jersey number: 51

Packer highlights: Played in seven Pro Bowls and was named to the all-pro team seven times as a member of the Packers. Started 126 consecutive games in Green Bay and helped the Packers win NFL championships in 1961-'62. Elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1981. Named to the Packer Hall of Fame in 1974 and has his name on Packers' Ring of Fame inside Lambeau Field.
Current occupation: Retired.
Residence: Chesepeake, Va.

No, Ringo didn't want out of Green Bay.
No, Ringo's trade was not premeditated.
And most important, the Packers' all-pro center didn't enter Vince Lombardi's office back in 1964 with an agent as has been widely speculated through the years.

"That's the thing I really want people to know," said Ringo, a Packer from 1953-'63 who was named to Pro Football's Hall of Fame in 1981 and has his name on the Packers' Ring of Fame inside Lambeau Field. "I didn't have an agent. They were only for the elite players back then.

"I really don't know how that story got going. Sometimes people create their own stories and such fallacies are not good things."

Through the years, the tale of Jim Ringo has become almost legendary. Packer mythology tells it as such:

Before the 1964 season, Ringo was unhappy with his annual salary of $17,500 and went to coach and general manager Vince Lombardi to ask for a $7,500 raise. Just one catch. Ringo brought a player agent with him.

While agents are status quo today, they were new to the sporting world 40 years ago. And Lombardi was downright insulted by the mere presence of such creatures.

So after Ringo, who had played in seven Pro Bowls and started 126 consecutive games for Green Bay, issued his demands, Lombardi excused himself. A few minutes later he returned and told Ringo and his agent to talk to the Philadelphia Eagles, the place Lombardi had just shipped Ringo, about a raise.

While Ringo was indeed traded, Lombardi's move wasn't made in haste. According to David Maraniss' book titled "When Pride Still Mattered," Lombardi had determined that Ringo was nearing the end of his career and made for good trade bait.

The Packers and Eagles had quietly been working on a deal for months and when Lombardi decided Ringo's demands were too high, he completed a trade that brought linebacker Lee Roy Caffey and a first-round draft choice that eventually became fullback Donny Anderson to Green Bay for Ringo and fullback Earl Gros.

"Vince had been thinking about this and working on it quietly for a long time," Pat Peppler, Green Bay's personnel director, said in the novel. "Most of the story was not true."

But Lombardi never said so.

As the tale grew through the years, it only added to the Lombardi lore. Bring in an agent, deal with the consequences. Just ask Jim Ringo.

"There's a lot of stories how the trade existed," said Ringo, who's retired today and living in Chesepeake, Va. "But I never had an agent that day."

But despite winning NFL championships in 1961 and 1962, Ringo wasn't crushed to exit Titletown. His four children and wife at the time were all in eastern Pennsylvania, and according to Ringo, his wife wouldn't come to Green Bay.

So if Ringo was going to be traded anywhere, Philadelphia was the ideal spot.

"My life was back in the East Coast," said Ringo, who played four more seasons for the Eagles and would stretch his string of consecutive starts to 182, then an NFL record. "So it was nice to get back there.

"I commuted back and forth every day and never had to move out of the house. It was ideal for me. Who knows, maybe Vince did it for my blessing."

That's doubtful, but make no mistake about it, Ringo was a blessing for the Packers. Green Bay selected him in the seventh round of the 1953 draft out of Syracuse and Ringo started from Day 1.

Ringo played for Gene Ronzani's final team that year, one that struggled to a miserable 2-9-1 record. He then played four years under Lisle Blackbourn in which Green Bay went 17-31, then one season for Scooter McLean in which Green Bay was an abysmal 1-10-1.

But in 1959, Lombardi arrived and things changed in a hurry.

"Everything was completely different," Ringo said. "This man came in a complete unknown and turned everything around.

"The man was just one of the greatest coaches you'll ever find, a great philosopher and a great man. Any phase, he was there."

And the results were enormous. By Lombardi's third year, Green Bay won its first of back-to-back NFL championships and had gone from doormat to dominator.

"That experience was just incredible," said Ringo, a captain on those title teams. "To be a champion in a community that small was something else.

"No matter where you went, somebody knew you. You'd walk down the street and people would say 'Hi' and want to talk about the Packers."

And Ringo's play gave them plenty to talk about.

Ringo's blocking was essential to Green Bay's signature play, the Packer sweep, which helped Jim Taylor compile 4,900 yards between 1960-'63. Ringo did all this despite weighing somewhere between 215-220 pounds, although he was listed in the 230-pound range.

"I'd probably be a safety today," joked Ringo, who was named to the 1960s All-Decade Team. "But only I knew what I could and couldn't do vs. guys. I understood there were certain challenges and only you could make them go right or wrong."

More often than not, Ringo made those go right. He was so respected as an offensive line technician that Chicago, Buffalo, New England and the New York Jets all made him their offensive line coach after he retired as a player. He also had a two-year stint as the Bills' head coach, but didn't find that to his liking.

"There was so much more than just the coaching part of things that went into it," said Ringo, who coached until 1989. "You had to watch over other people. You had to deal with the media all the time and you had to answer to a lot of different things. It just wasn't for me."

The 71-year-old Ringo knows that retirement is just right for him these days.

He and his wife of 13 years, Judy, reside in Chesepeake, Va., and according to Ringo, have about as little stress as one can have.

"It's a very, very nice life," said Ringo, who's in good health. "You don't have to worry about getting fired or where you'll be next week. You don't go to bed at 2 or 3 in the morning. Today, I just enjoy the facts of life."

Which include setting the facts of his infamous trade straight once and for all.

"I know it makes for good copy, but there was no agent," Ringo said. "I promise you that."

If there's a fomer Packer you'd like featured, email Rob Reischel at [email protected].


Alright guys - off the top of your heads... Who else has their names inside Lambeau Field on the Ring?


Apr 16, 2005
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De pere, Wi.
Jim Ringo was the best and we Packer fans were sad to see him go to the Eagles in '64. That is the first time I heard the real story about the trade of Jim Ringo to Eagles. I guess the agent story was told for so many years, we all believed it. I guess he being a 11 year veteran and Eagles willing to give that 1st round draft choice for aging veteran center. I can see how Lombardi would trade him, but Ken Iman was his back up center and was a big drop off. he was soon replaced by Ken Bowman, he was adequate but he was no Jim Ringo. I am glad it worked out for him. Gee, Vince, Jim Ringo and the first agent to deal with Lombardi sure made for a good Vince Lombardi story.