Boyd Dowler has been forgotten by pro football, but Bart Starr never forgot him and neither did Vince Lombardi.
Dowler was an all-decade performer at wide receiver for the dynastic Green Bay Packers’ teams of the 1960s. During the period in which the Packers won five NFL championships and two Super Bowls, he was their leading receiver seven times and scored more post-season touchdowns than any other Packer.
But Dowler did more than outperform his teammates in clutch situations. He outperformed nearly everyone who had played wide receiver up to that time in pro football.
When the 6-foot-5 former single-wing quarterback retired in 1971 after 12 seasons, he was 10th all-time in receptions with 474 catches and 11th all-time in yardage with 7,270 yards. By then he had scored 40 touchdowns and retired averaging 15.3 yards per catch.
Boyd Dowler was a force who only got better when the pressure of post-season play increased.
In the legendary “Ice Bowl” against the Dallas Cowboys in 1967, Hall-of-Fame wide receiver “Bullet Bob’’ Hayes became a spent shell … but not Dowler. While Hayes had three catches for 16 yards on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, Dowler hauled in four for 77 yards, averaging 19.3 yards a catch and scoring twice in what became the 21-17 victory that got Green Bay to Super Bowl II.
Dowler injured his shoulder in that NFL title game after being hit in the end zone following one of his scores and re-injured it six plays into Super Bowl I. That opened the door for aging and, by then, little used Max McGee, who was so sure he wouldn’t play he not only partied the night before but forgot to bring his helmet to the sidelines.
When Dowler bowed out, McGee had to borrow a helmet before he went in and did what Dowler believes he would have done that day — score twice in a 35-10 Green Bay victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Bart was planning to throw to me a lot,’’ Dowler once explained, a plan in place because Lombardi did not respect the Chiefs’ corners.
Turned out he was right. McGee caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns and probably should have been the game’s MVP.
What would Dowler have done that day? We’ll never know, but a year later, in Super Bowl II against the Oakland Raiders, he had two receptions for 71 yards (35.5 per catch), including a 62-yard touchdown bomb that broke the Raiders’ backs and began what became a flood of points in a 33-14 rout.
As one anonymous defensive back of Dowler’s era was once said of him, “The only way to cover Boyd Dowler is to foul him.’’
NFL defenders weren’t able to do that often enough to stop him, but the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s voters have done it for the past 43 years. That’s the number of years he’s been eligible to be debated by the Hall’s selection committee without ever being a finalist. Dowler was one of six wide receivers voted by the Hall of Fame selection committee to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team — and he’s the only one of the six not enshrined in Canton.
Boyd Dowler is still waiting to be heard, but his performance over 11 seasons in Green Bay, in which he finished Top 10 in the league in receptions three times and was the 1959 NFL Rookie of the Year, speaks loudly that he deserves a hearing. Sadly, his chance of getting it seem slim now after 47 years of retirement. About as slim as the chances were of keeping him out of the end zone when the Packers dominated the NFL.