Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sports Illustrated: April 24, 1989


While not a member of the team’s roster yet, the sixteenth appearance of the Packers on the cover of Sports Illustrated was with Tony Mandarich, right before he was selected by Green Bay with the second pick in the 1989 Draft. A shirtless Mandarich is shown on the cover with the headline, “The Incredible Bulk... the Best Offensive Line Prospect Ever.”

Inside, the article calls him “the BIG enchilada,” and shows him pushing two grocery carts filled with food to supply his “49 meals a week.” The article praises his accomplishments and his positioning himself to become the highest paid offensive lineman ever — and also discusses at length all the rumors of his steroid abuse. According to one Big Ten assistant coach, “Pro scouts come in and ask about Mandarich, I tell them (about the steroids), but they don’t care. It’s really sad he’s getting so much publicity.”

“At any rate,” the article says, “a diploma doesn’t have much to do with his career at the moment. He says he’ll play even in rustic Green Bay ‘if the price is right.’ And what’s right? Bet on $8 million for five years. Would he live year-round in Green Bay? ‘Hah! I’m back here (in Los Angeles) the day the season’s over.’ ”

Also in the article: “That afternoon as Mandarich relaxes in the condo, a telegram arrives from the Green Bay Packers. It reads: ‘Tony, please call (position coach) Charlie Davis or (GM) Tom Braatz concerning travel to Green Bay for pre-draft physical before end of week.’ ‘Yeah right!’ hoots Mandarich.”

What became of Mandarich after being selected by the Packers (who, by the way passed up Barry Sanders) will be covered in a later installment. In defense of the Packers and GM Tom Braatz, here is a small sampling of what other NFL personnel “experts” were saying at the time about Mandarich:

“He’s the best college football player I’ve ever seen... this kid is better than Anthony Munoz.”
— Tom Boisture, N.Y. Giants

“Maybe the fastest offensive tackle in history... and just maybe the best.”
— San Diego GM Steve Ortmayer

“He’s always working on his techniques, which are almost perfect anyway.”
— Dick Steinberg, New England Patriots

It goes to show that the “experts” certainly don’t know everything.

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