Bob Hyland Takes a Look Back to His Football Playing Days

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Bob Hyland played football at Stepinac, Boston College and in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, New York Giants and New England Patriots

By Peter Gerken

Writer’s Note: I conducted this interview a few weeks before Thanksgiving in anticipation of Bob Hyland celebrating 30 years owning Bob Hyland’s Sports Page Pub. Due to the length of this interview it will be presented in two parts. Below is the first part. I hope you enjoy reading this.

PG: How many years did you play on the varsity football team at Stepinac?

BH: When I was a freshman they moved me up to the j.v.. When I was a sophomore they moved me up to the varsity so I played three years of varsity at Stepinac. They only did that with two kids at the time. Myself and a guy by the named of Tommy Walsh who was a running back.

PG: Did you start all three years at Stepinac?

BH: I didn’t start as a sophomore. I started as a junior at center and defensive tackle. Pretty much played both ways all the time back then. I never left the field. I was on the kickoff team, the kickoff return team, the punting team, and the punt return team. I never sat on the bench. I made All-County as a center that year.

The following year we had a good young center coming up from the j.v. so they moved me to guard. I played left guard.

PG: Did you prefer one position over the other?

BH: I like them both. I felt very comfortable at center. Some people can’t play center because there is a lot of pressure on the center, but I was brought up playing center so it just became part of me. I really liked guard from the standpoint you didn’t have as much to worry about. The exchange and all that business. All you had to do was to run and hit people.

PG: Was Boston College your number one choice for college or were there other colleges you were considering?

BH: I was considering other schools. I was considering West Point. I had my appointment to West Point as a matter of fact. I took all the exams and so forth but then I got cold feet. I decided not to go that route.

Navy recruited me. I had 60 or 70 colleges write me letters and communicate with me.

PG: Who is the best player you played against in college?

BH: I played against a guy named Steve DeLong from the University of Tennessee. He won The Outland Trophy that year which is for best defensive lineman. He didn’t have a tackle against me . I played very well against him as a sophomore and that kind of opened the eyes of the pros and so forth because they were watching him as a possible draft choice and I really had a very strong game against him and that kind of put me on the radar. He was a great player.

I played against a guy by the name of Mike Reid from Penn State who was a very good defensive tackle. It was a good era for B.C. football. We had some good teams there.

PG: Who was you coach at Boston College?

BH: A fellow by the name of Jim Miller. He was  good for me.

PG: When you decided to go to Boston College
did you think you had a chance of making the NFL?

BH: Yes. It was one of the reasons I went there. It was one of the reasons I didn’t go to Army because I think I wanted to play pro football. Even when I was 17 years old I had a feeling I could play pro football.

PG: When you attended Boston College was Holy Cross your biggest rival?

BH: It was a very big rivalry at the team. B.C. was really on a upward trend and Holy Cross wasn’t putting a lot of emphasis on football. They had a lot of good football players and so forth. They had a lot of spirit and so forth, but they weren’t on the right trajectory as far as building a real progam.

PG: Was Bob Cousy the B.C. basketball coach when you were there?

BH: He was there my freshman year. I was playing intramural basketball as a freshman and Cousy asked me to go out for the freshman basketball team. The reason he did so because we had a guy by the name of Willie Walters who was potentially a very good center. He turned out to be a very good center. He (Cousy) just needed someone to bang him. I did it gladly. I was just an okay basketball player, but I was a big strong kid who liked to rough house. That’s what he (Cousy) was looking for.

PG: Please tell me a little about being drafted in the 1967 NFL draft?

BH: Bubba Smith was the first (drafted). It was either Bubba Smith or me. Who was going to be the first choice that year. We both went down to Baltimore. The Colts had the first choice. They had Bubba going in on a Saturday and I went in on a Sunday and met with them (The Baltimore Colts). They decided on Bubba because they wanted a defensive end/ defensive tackle. I was almost the number one choice in the country that year. That would have been fun. (Writer’s note: Hyland was drafted night by the Green Bay Packers who were by coached by Vince Lombardi.)

PG: Can you please tell me a little bit about Bubba. Unfortunately he died recently?

BH: It was a shame. I got to know him pretty well in the all-star games. He was a very funny guy. He really had a good sense of humor. I liked him a lot.

PG: Can you please describe the first time you met Vince Lombardi?

BH: The first time I met him I was with an agent who I had met through the guys from Notre Dame during the all-star games. I felt though I had to have an agent to help negotiate a contract. For Lombardi that was a big mistake. He hated agents. He didn’t want agents to get in those days 10% of your contract,.

I meet this guy (the agent) and we fly up to Green Bay and we go into Coach Lombardi’s office and shake hands with him and so forth. The leagues (NFL and AFL) had just merged so we heard it was going to be a completely different set of circumstances as far as trying to get a decent contract because you could only have one team draft you. Unlike when the NFL and AFL both existed.

That’s when Donny Anderson and those guys got the big contracts because they had one team vying against the other. We went in and he (Lombardi) made his offer and I just couldn’t believe it. It was almost nothing. It was really shocking how disappointing it was when the U.S. Congress allowed that merger to occur. I don’t know if they were aware of how the owners would use it to their advantage and take away all of our negotiating rights. Basically playing for 1/10 of what we would gotten the year before.

PG: Was it true what people say about Lombardi that all he cared about was winning?

BH: Very much so. Except for his religion I think it was the most important thing in his life. He always said it was your family, your religion and the Green Bay Packers and not necessarily in that order. I sometimes think winning football games was number two for him.
His family they admit to this day that he might have emphasized his desire to win football games more so than spending as much time as with them as they would have liked. That was the decision he made. I think he loved his wife, loved his kids but that was just the way he was. He was a very motivated man. He had a huge ego and he wanted to be different from everybody else from the standpoint of winning football games.

PG: Did you like playing for Lombardi?

BH: I did. I loved it. You never felt comfortable he always kept you in your discomfort zone. He always expected more and more from you. You never felt that you could relax around him. Evidently that’s what you need to become a very good football player.

PG: Did he care about his players?

BH: O yea.

PG: Did he ever let his guard down?

BH: No. Not that I could see. One thing is sometimes you wonder if he had the player’s physical well being in mind. He expected you to play while you were hurt. I did a lot of that. Most coaches are that way. They feel as though you’re going to play unless a doctor says you can’t play. Otherwise it’s up to yourself and does what you can.

PG: What do you remember about the second super bowl?

BH: We won the ice bowl on December 31st and then two weeks later we played the super bowl. It wasn’t even called the super bowl at the time. That name came into being the next year. It was called The National Football League Championship. It was a very low-key affair compared to now. It was important we had press day and all that stuff. It was so low key then compared to now.

Everything is just exaggerated now these days in the world of sports. The players aren’t just players now they’re celebrities. Everything is a major event. In the old days if you made the pro bowl you play in Hawaii it was just a little vacation for you. Now they turned that into a moneymaker thing. Everything is about making money in sports now.

Peter Gerken is a Westchester County native and has published previously with The Patent Trader and the Bronxville Review Press. While attending Boston College he was the sports editor of the university’s newspaper, The Heights, and served as a staff writer for the Boston College sports publication Eagle Action. He can be reached at

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