In marked contrast to all the hoopla surrounding the modern NFL draft, Herb Adderley signed his first NFL contract on the hood of a car in an unfamiliar parking lot.
The Packers’ No. 1 pick in the 1961 draft, Adderley, then 21-years old, negotiated his contract alone. Though the draft took place in Philadelphia, Adderley’s hometown, he signed his contract at St. Mary’s College in Santa Clara, California, where he’d been staying during the East West Shrine game, the third college all-star game the talented halfback participated in that year.
“Most of the guys were meeting with NFL representatives in the parking lot outside of the building we were staying in,” he said. “I was talking with Bill Austin and, when we agreed on a bonus, along with a one-year, no cut contract, he reached in his pocket and pulled out a blank contract, filled in the info, including my name and amount of money. I signed the contract on the hood of a car.”
Adderley’s parents didn’t learn he’d signed with an NFL team until he called them from his dorm room at Michigan State University the following day.
“They were happy and excited about me getting a chance to play in the NFL,” he said.
“I was shocked when I received the telegram from Lombardi notifying me that I was the Packers’ No. 1 choice,” he said. “I thought that I would be going to the Lions, because they watched me play for three years at MSU, or the Eagles, my home town team. It turned out great for me and I spent the best nine years of my life in Green Bay.”
Drafted as a halfback, Adderley ended up a Hall of Fame cornerback, one of the best to ever play the game. The shift happened during one of the more dramatic halftimes in Packer history.
“The cornerback got hurt in the first half against the Lions in Detroit Thanksgiving Day in 1961,” he said. “Lombardi told me in the locker room that I had to replace him at halftime. Yes, I was shocked and very nervous starting the second half at a position I had never played. Yes, I was lucky to intercept a pass that helped set up the winning points. The following week I continued practicing with the offense and never played on defense ’til the championship game against the Giants when I was put in the game with two minutes on the clock. I was lucky again to intercept a pass. I wasn’t switched to defense until my second year in 1962. I felt good about the switch because it extended my years playing in the NFL.”
In addition to those two interceptions, Adderley picked off 46 more during a 12-year career that included five All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowl appearances,. He was a member of six world championship teams and the only player to appear in four of the first six Super Bowls.
One of Adderley’s most famous interceptions, the one he returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl II, involved a pretty impressive, if I do say so myself, block by none other than my dad, Ron Kostelnik, a defensive tackle known for his heart more than his speed.
“The historic interception in Super Bowl II was the biggest play of my career because of the history of being the first defensive player to score a TD in Super Bowl history,” Adderley said. “I saw #77 your dad running as fast as he could to help me score with a key block on #63 Gene Upshaw. I slowed up to set Upshaw up for Ron to knock him on his butt! Great block and hustle!”
In addition to his accolades on the field, Adderley holds the distinction of being the first black player drafted by the Packers, which, at the time, did not sit well with everyone.
“An executive on the Packers Board of Directors asked Lombardi why he drafted a black player No. 1, when he could have picked me in the fourth of fifth round,” Adderley said. “Lombardi told him he wasn’t drafting color and to get the hell out of his office. One of the great things about the coach was that he had zero tolerance for racism, and any type of discrimination and most of us felt the same way. That’s only one of the reasons why the guys have remained friends. We also have love and respect for each other.”
You can watch that historic interception HERE.