Wednesday, March 15, 2023

CHARLEY BROCK: "Tough as Nails"

By TJ Troup 
Charley Brock
Every player who enters the league wants to win a championship and contribute. Thus when a team wins a title we can all look at the roster of who was on the team, and who contributed. How many men played a decade for the same team, and had a winning season each year? 

This is the saga of one of the handful of men pre-modern era (before 1950) that can state he made both lists. Charley Brock was chosen by Green Bay in the third round of the '39 draft, was joining a team that had a winning tradition, and was a contender in '38. 

Late in that season, the Packers lost to the Giants to close the regular season and then lost the rematch with the New York Giants in the Championship Game. The Packers of '39 were well coached and talented, and though they stumbled at mid-season in a loss to the Bears (30-27)—the men in dark blue and gold ran the table and shut out the Giants in a very convincing title game clash. 

Charley Brock got plenty of playing time at center, and linebacker, and in the win over NYG, the lean youngster intercepted twice. Without a doubt a sparkling rookie season for young Charley. 

The NFL did not keep individual interception stats then, yet through research have learned he intercepted 8 times and returned an errant Eagle pass 42 yards for a touchdown. Brock also intercepted the legendary Sammy Baugh three times in the victory over the 'Skins. The 1940 Packers were not able to defend their title as they finished 6-4-1. Brock is still playing center, and linebacker and intercepted three times. 

Over the years the games between the Bears and Packers had become a trademark of hard-hitting, spirited football. With so many outstanding players for both teams. The defending champion Bears of 1940 split the two games with Green Bay in '41, and as such a tie in the standings, and a playoff game. 

The Bears not only beat Green Bay, but they also defend their title with a win over the New York Giants. Brock has become a mainstay at center and continues his sterling play at linebacker. Green Bay has a strong season in '42 with a record of 8-2-1, but lost both games to the Bears. Losing at home to the Bears to open the season, the Packers traveled to the Windy City to take on the Cardinals. 

Trailing 14-10 in the 4th quarter Brock picks a Cardinal fumble and strides 20 yards for the winning touchdown. Though he had many fine games previous to this one, this is one of those games that every defensive player dreams of. 

Earlier in the game, Brock had intercepted twice. The NFL did not have a player of the week award in those days, but no doubt he would have been defensive player of the week. 

Five weeks into the campaign and Charley Brock has registered five interceptions from his right linebacker post, but he is not the only right linebacker who can read the quarterback and intercept. Clyde "Bulldog" Turner of Chicago is the first Bear to intercept in four consecutive games and goes on to lead the league with eight interceptions. 
Bulldog Turner
Charley Brock intercepted against the Eagles in late November and finishes with six for the season. Every Packer player knows the division crown runs through the North Side of Chicago, but again in 1943 the Packers cannot beat the Bears. 

They tie on opening day, and later in the year lose the rematch in Chicago. Brock continues to pilfer passes as he latches onto four errant throws in '43. 

He is part of the record-setting brigade that steals nine, yes folks, NINE Lions passes on October 24th victory. Anytime a team has a record of 29 wins, just 2 losses, and a tie you would expect them to be playing for a championship, but the Packers from 1940 through 1943 just cannot beat the Bears or Giants. 

Their record against these two longtime rivals in this four-year time period is 2-7-2. Since Charley has played such exceptional football on a consistent bases week after week he begins to receive recognition (second-team All-Pro in '43). 

 Again in '44 Green Bay loses to the New York Giants and the Bears, but they win the rest and finally wins the division. The rematch with the Giants in the title game is a classic as Coach Lambeau makes some needed adjustments to the offensive game plan—while Brock and his compadres on defense stifle the New York offense. Brock is again a champion and is again voted second-team All-Pro. 

Many times when I write here at the Journal relish detailing aspects of how each man played his position. Film study is needed, and have enough film from 1943 and '44 to do so. Brock is 6' 2" yet looks taller as he bends over the ball. 

His snaps to the Packer backs in the Notre Dame box offense Green Bay uses are crisp, and accurate. Every snap I saw was a tight spiral. After the snap he usually position blocks a defensive tackle or middle guard, and almost always leads with his left shoulder. 

He is not a pile driver as a run blocker but is nonetheless effective. Green Bay aligns in a standard 6-2 defense as Brock aligns on the right side, sometimes stacked behind the end, sometimes walked off farther outside. He is quick to read the play and takes excellent pursuit angles. He is not a physical tackler, yet he displays raw strength as he more than once in film study wrestled a ball carrier to the turf. 

No doubt there are times he is in man coverage, yet usually, he drifts back into his assigned area and then plays the ball in flight. He is instinctive in diagnosing plays and is uncanny on pass defense. Charley Brock's season of 1945 stands as one of the best ever for an outside linebacker. 

For the first time, the league keeps individual fumble recoveries and Charley leads the league with five recoveries. When a player has a game like Don Hutson does against the Lions on October 7th he is going to get the headlines, yet in this game, Charley again intercepts a Lion pass, and motors 31 yards for a touchdown. 

Green Bay is in a dogfight to win the western conference crown with an improved Detroit Lions team, and the Cinderella Rams led by Waterfield. Brock makes tackle after tackle during the year against the run, and with two games to go, he has recovered three opponent fumbles and intercepted twice. Have watched the Giants vs. Packers film at the Polo Grounds many times.—just one of those games you treasure watching. 

The New York Giants has Junie Hovious at tailback, and he is a pre-Tarkenton scrambler. Very entertaining, but Junie on the second Giants possession throws across the field where Brock is laying in wait. The veteran's timing is textbook as he cuts in front of the receiver and dashes 38 yards to the New York thirty-yard line. 

Five times in the first half Hovious has completed passes to Ward Cuff, but in the third quarter Cuff on a running play where he gains 16 yards Charley not only forces the fumble he returns the ball 30 yards to the New York six-yard line. 

Late in the quarter, Hovious pitches the pigskin toward George Franck, and there is Brock again, He intercepts and dashes 27 yards to score. Can only speculate that this is Charley Brock's best game—numerous tackles, many in pursuit in the open field, two interceptions, and a key fumble recovery in the Green Bay win. 

Detroit and Green Bay meet at Briggs Stadium for second-place money as captains Callahan and Brock meet for the coin toss. Again film study is a joy as Brock again wrenches the ball free for a 5th and league-leading fumble recovery, he intercepts late in the game. He returns 26 yards, and as such leads, the league in interception yards returned. 

How many men have ever led the league in opponent fumble recoveries, and interception yards returned in the same season you ask? 

Only one—Mr. Charley Brock. 

For the only time in his career, Brock is voted first-team All-Pro. The Packers are 5-3 with three games to go in '46, but falter and cannot keep pace with the future league-champion Bears. Brock does not intercept in '46, but again leads the league in opponent fumble recoveries with five! 

Twice against the Lions in October Charley falls on Detroit fumbles. He again receives All-Pro recognition (Pro Football Illustrated) for his stalwart play. Green Bay struggles in '47 yet manages to again finish above .500 with a mark of 6-5-1. 

Now in his tenth season, he is spelled much more often at center but still plays a vital role in the Packer defense at right outside linebacker. November 30th against the Los Angeles Rams he again intercepts and recovers an opponent fumble in the same game. 

His outstanding career comes to a close and I feel compelled to evaluate and compare his career to other men who played the position. 

The best pre-modern era outside linebacker, also played on the right is Mel Hein. He is also a bulwark in the offensive line for the Giants. Bulldog Turner is a close second; a pile-driving blocker on quarterback sneaks and very instinctive as a right outside linebacker against both the run and the pass. 
Mel Hein
Those two Hall of Famers stand out, but what about Charley Brock? 

Can draw many comparisons between these three men and who was the best defensive centerfielder in the '50s. Mantle and Mays were breathtaking, yet watch Richie Ashburn cover ground, and catch everything he got near. 

Charley Brock is the poster boy for the takeaway in pre-modern era football. During the 60 games he played in from 1942 through 1947, he took the ball away 28 times! 

Today would have been Charley's 107th birthday. Time to pay tribute to this outstanding player.

1 comment: