Thursday, January 16, 2020

Packers Bobby Dillon Elected to Hall of Fame Has Surprising Connection to Bob Dylan Besides the Name

When I was in high school I became a fan of the newly formed American Football League and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs played the Green Bay Packers in the first AFL-NFL championship game. One of the players on that Chiefs team who made an impression on me was a one-eyed receiver named Fred Arbanas. I suppose I have always liked underdogs and overcomers.

This memory came to mind when I learned about another one-eyed player who yesterday was selected for the NFL Football Hall of Fame. He happens to be a Green Bay Packer, the team that won that first Super Bowl against the Chiefs, coached by Vince Lombardi. He also happens to be named Bobby Dillon.

Weaving Threads
At this year's Duluth Dylan Fest in May, Dave Engel, author of superbly researched Just Like Bob Zimmerman's Blues: Dylan In Minnesota, will be giving the John Bushey Memorial Lecture. Interestingly, Bobby Dillon of Packer fame is part of the Bobby Zimmerman story. In fact, Engel weaves Bobby Dillon's career throughout the book, including a visit by the Packers to Hibbing when young Bob Dylan was in sixth grade.

Bobby Dillon lost his eye in a childhood accident. Nevertheless, his dream of playing professional football was not thwarted and he became a four-time Pro Bowl safety in the NFL. His career ran from 1952 to 1959 during which time he set a franchise record of 52 career interceptions that stands to this day. That was during the era of much shorter seasons, making it all the more impressive.

According to retired UMD associate Professor Craig Grau, the longtime Duluthian who's email triggered this blog post, "Engel never makes the connection between the names. He just lays it in there. The Packer was famous as an interception artist, which was amazing given he only had one eye. I am told depth perception is tough."

Then the intriguing piece of the story. "Is it not interesting how Dylan is fascinated with One-eyed Jacks, One-eyed midgets and even a One-eyed undertaker? (in "Shelter From the Storm")

So one-eyed Bobby Dillon of the Green Bay Packers was selected to the Hall of Fame yesterday, Jan. 15th. His passing in August last year was significant enough to be noted with an obituary in the New York Times.

The Times article states that "Dillon returned five interceptions for touchdowns and led the N.F.L. in interception yardage in 1956, with 244. He averaged nearly 19 yards per interception return.

"But he never played on a winning Packer team until 1959, when Green Bay went 7-5 in Vince Lombardi’s first season as coach and general manager. He had planned to retire after the 1958 season, but Lombardi, impressed by film of Dillon in action, persuaded him to return."

Bottom line: If Aaron Rodgers can lead the Pack past the 49ers this weekend, and there's no Bob Dylan Super Bowl commercial this year, then Bobby Dillon can serve as our stand-in Dylan connection with the Big Game this year. Just one more reason to root for the Packers this coming Sunday.

EdNote: The 49ers look pretty strong this year. Should they be victorious, we'll claim City Lights Bookstore where SF Beats hung out as our Dylan connection.

Related Links
Former Packer Safety Bobby Dillon Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame
Bobby Dillon on Wikipedia
2020 Duluth Dylan Fest 

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