The résumé almost seems too much to comprehend.
Four-sport star at Lincoln High. Nebraska football great. Pittsburgh Pirates baseball signee. Four-time football All-Pro with the Green Bay Packers.
Longtime Packers front-office executive (once replaced by Vince Lombardi). NU law degree recipient. Brown County (Wisconsin) district attorney — an office he held during his football career after defeating Packer teammate Lavie Dilweg for the position.
Verne Lewellen was known for a little of everything.
At Nebraska, Lewellen captained and quarterbacked the 1923 team that stunned Notre Dame 14-7. Jim Crowley, one of the “Four Horsemen” from that Notre Dame squad and a Green Bay native, recommended Lewellen to Packers coach Curly Lambeau.
Once into professional football, he played nine seasons at halfback for Green Bay, leading the team in scoring every year from 1926 to 1930 while playing for Lambeau and finishing second in the league in scoring in 1928 and 1930 with nine touchdowns. His teams won three straight NFL championships from 1929 to ’31, with Packers team historian Clifford Christl noting that Lewellen "might have been the key to their 1929 and 1930 NFL championships because of his punting."
Unofficial statistics pieced together from play-by-play accounts show that Lewellen ran 708 times for 2,410 yards (3.4-yard average) and 37 touchdowns in his career.
His Packers career coincided with his entrance into the law and political fields. Later, he would serve as the NFL team’s general manager and business manager before retiring in 1967. In 1970, Lewellen was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class.
Lewellen’s greatest skill might have been punting, which earned him the nickname “Long Distance Lew.” In 1962, longtime New York Times writer Arthur Daley called him “the finest punter these eyes ever saw.”
Although Lewellen’s career average of 39.5 yards per punt is low by today’s standards, many of his 681 punts came from inside the opponent’s 40-yard line because the common strategy of the time stressed field position.
Lewellen’s do-it-all style started at Lincoln High, where he led the school to two track championships and back-to-back unbeaten basketball seasons. His baseball career spilled into his NU days, and he later earned a tryout with Pittsburgh before arm trouble sent him back to football.
Photo credit: Green Bay Packers and Stiller-Lefebvre Collections
Played for: Lincoln High, Nebraska Cornhuskers and Green Bay Packers
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: The combination of Lewellen and Roy "Rhody" Lamb made Lincoln High a powerhouse. Among former Husker greats Lewellen played alongside were Dave Noble and Ed Weir.
Best moment as an athlete: One to remember was Lewellen's first five punts in the 14-7 upset of Notre Dame in 1923, traveling 69, 65, 47, 52 and 50 yards. In the Huskers' previous game, he intercepted a pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown for a 7-7 tie with Missouri.
Lewellen was No. 59 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »