NFL Draft Reflection: Gusties in the Pros Posted on April 27th, 2020 by

A quick look into the archives of Gustavus football shows a rich tradition of 22 conference championships and 31 All-America awards. A deeper look shows a proud history of Gusties who went on to play professional football.

Gustavus boasts 13 all-time NFL draft selections, the most of any MIAC institution, and a number of others who played as undrafted free agents. There is also a contingent of Gusties who had the opportunity to try out in front of NFL scouts or attended a rookie minicamp.

As fans of professional football reflect on this past weekend’s NFL draft, let’s take a look back at the rich history of Gusties in the pros.

1929: Wilbur Lundell, an end for the Gusties during the program’s first two conference championships in 1926 and 1927, had a pair of short stints with the New York Stapletons and the Minneapolis Red Jackets.

1929: LaDue Lurth, a two-time All-Conference halfback, who also was a four-year letterwinner in basketball and baseball (three years track), spent the 1929 season with the Minneapolis Red Jackets alongside Lundell.

1934: Earl Witty was a bruising fullback for the Gusties during the championship years of the 1930s when George Myrum was head coach. “Kid” Witty, as he was referred to, went on to play for the Green Bay Packers for four years.

1936: Marty Olson, an offensive and defensive tackle on the championship teams of the 1930s, played one season with the Brooklyn Dodgers of the old American Football League.

Wendell Butcher

1939: Wendell Butcher, known as the “Worthington Walloper,” was Gustavus’s first All-American. After leading the Gusties to three straight MIAC championships (1935-37) while playing every minute of every game during those three seasons, Butcher played professional football with the Brooklyn Dodgers for six years.

1940: Russ Buckley was the first player in the MIAC to be officially drafted by an NFL team as he was selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the 19th round (171st overall) of the 1940 draft.

1941: Lloyd Parsons was a fullback and member of the 1940 MIAC championship team. He went on to play for the Detroit Lions in 1941.

1946: Bernie Nygren played halfback for the Gusties in the 1940s and went on to play professionally as an undrafted free agent for the Los Angeles Dons and Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946 and 1947.

1948: Jerry Cady, a second team All-American tackle in 1947, was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the eighth round (58th overall) of the 1948 draft.

1948: Beanie Langsjoen, an All-Conference running back during the 1947 MIAC championship season, was selected by the Boston Yanks in the 31st round (387th overall) in the 1948 draft.

1950: Red Malcomb earned second team All-America honors as a running back in 1949 and was selected by the Detroit Lions in the 10th round (122nd overall) of the 1950 draft.

1951: Wallace Brunswald was a running back during the Gusties’ 1950 MIAC title season and was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 23rd round (270th overall) in 1951.

1952: Haldo Norman, a first team All-American end and member of two MIAC championships, was selected by the 49ers in the 15th round (177th overall) in the 1952 draft.

Coach Lloyd Hollingsworth sits on top of the New York Giants storage trunks while the professional football team was at Gustavus for preseason training camp in the summer of 1952.
The New York football Giants conducted their preseason training camp on campus in the summers on 1952 and 1953. Among those living and practicing on campus wee some well-known names in the sports world: Tom Landry (famed coach of the Dallas Cowboys), Frank Gifford (popular TV sports announcer), Kyle Rote (legendary all-pro), Dick Nolan (coach of several NFL teams), Bill Austin (late to coach the Giants), Al DeRogotis (later to become a well-known sports commentator). Among others well known in their day: Charlie Conerly (QB), Eddie Price (FB), All-Pro tackle Arnie Weinmeister, All-Pro center Ray Wietecha, Tex Coulter, a tackle who doubled as a cartoonist and artist, some of whose Gustavus campus sketches appeared in the Ney York papers. The coaching staff included: Steve Owen (head coach), Allie Sherman (backfield coach and later head coach), Jim Lee Howell (end coach and later head coach), Ed Kolman (line coach), and Tom Landry (doubled as a defensive back and defensive backfield coach).

1953: Cal Roberts, Gustavus’s first two-time All-American, was picked by the New York Giants in the third round (33rd overall) of the 1953 draft after the Giants conducted their preseason training camp on the Gustavus campus in the summers of 1952 and 1953.

1957: Gary Gustafson, an end for the 1955 MIAC champion Gusties, was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 10th round (111th overall) of the 1957 draft.

1960: Bill Beck, a first team All-American tackle in 1959 and member of two MIAC championship teams, was picked by the New York Giants in the 16th round (192 overall) of the 1960 draft.

1967: Tom Harmon, an offensive guard during the mid-1960s, went on to play for the Atlanta Falcons in 1967.

1968: Rick Jaeger earned two All-America honors – once as a center and another at linebacker – and helped the Gusties snap a seven-year drought to earn the 1967 MIAC title. He was selected by the Chicago Bears in the 15th round (397th overall) in the 1968 draft.

1971: Jack “Jocko” Nelson was the head coach of the Gusties from 1966-70 and won MIAC titles in 1967 and 1968. He left Gustavus to take a position with the Minnesota Vikings as a linebacker and special teams coach until his untimely death in 1978.

1973: Tom Dahlberg earned second team All-America honors in 1972 after setting a school record rushing mark of 3,315 yards. He was selected by the 49ers in the 11th round (278th overall) in the 1973 draft.

1985: Kurt Ploeger, a two-time first team All-American defensive lineman, was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round (144th overall) in the 1985 draft.

2003: Ryan Hoag earned the title of “Mr. Irrelevant” after being selected by the Oakland Raiders with the final pick (seventh round, 262nd overall) in the 2003 draft. Hoag excelled in football and track at Gustavus.

2014: Jack Breckner served as an offensive lineman for the Gusties from 2006-09 and signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2014.

2016: Matthew Boyce earned two All-America honors and was a record-setting wide receiver for the Gusties from 2012-15. He had a short stint with the Minnesota Vikings during their 2016 rookie mini-camp.


One Comment

  1. Dick Rohloff '65 says:

    As an undrafted free agent, I had a prolonged NFL career of 7 days with the Vikings in 1965. Of course, they beat me up and sent me home to my bride!!

    I did teach Harmon and Yeager everything they knew!! Ha! Not!! They were both eager youngsters when I was a Jr and Sr.
    I could see a good future for them at the time.