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Pasco resident and former Packers star dies

LAND O'LAKES — Vince Lombardi stood beside the hospital bed of one of his rock-solid defensive tackles and asked a favor.

Might Dave "Hawg" Hanner, who had just had his appendix removed, be well enough to address his fellow Green Bay Packers before the team played that weekend?

On game day, Lombardi asked if Mr. Hanner might feel well enough to dress out.

Mr. Hanner ended up playing, breaking many of his surgical stitches in the process.

"You played back then," said his son, Ed Hanner, who remembers his father's discipline and toughness.

Dave Hanner, a chitlins-eating, tobacco-spitting staple of the Packers' "guts & glory" years, died on Sept. 11 after suffering a heart attack. He was 78 and had lived in Land O'Lakes since 1984.

Mr. Hanner stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 260 pounds during his playing days from 1952 to 1964. He was named to the All-Pro team in 1957 and 1959, alongside names like Jim Brown and Packers teammate Paul Hornung. He was a defensive line coach during the Packers Super Bowl victories in 1966 and 1967, and served as assistant head coach until being fired by former teammate Bart Starr in 1980.

He returned to the Packers the following season as a scout, retiring in 1996.

"He was one of the best defensive tackles the Packers ever had," said Lee Remmel, a Packers historian. "He played the game to the limit of his abilities."

On the field and off, Mr. Hanner demanded respect. Once, when Ed Hanner returned home from college with a mustache, his father greeted him at the door with a hug — and handed him a razor.

"The message was, 'We love you, we really want you home, but get that off of your face,' " said Ed Hanner, 52.

Softer side

His daughters saw a softer side. "He liked to play the tough guy," said Sammye Hanner, 48. "But we girls knew that if we just asked, he would give us whatever we wanted."

Mr. Hanner earned his nickname, "Hawg," from his days playing for the Razorbacks of the University of Arkansas, where he earned an agriculture degree.

Before professional football beckoned, he might have worked at his father's cotton farm. His father seemed disappointed by his son's choice, and did not attend Mr. Hanner's football games.

"That was one hurdle," Ed Hanner said, though Dave Hanner never spoke about his father's disapproval, or about the deaths of two brothers in separate car crashes in the same year.

On the field and off, Mr. Hanner didn't just meet people. He collided with them.

He crashed into the throne of the opposing team's high school homecoming queen while making a tackle, spilling Jane Burns and all her flowers onto the turf.

"Then he turned right around and picked me up," said Jane Hanner, 80.

Mr. Hanner once turned his love of Red Man chewing tobacco into a penalty for the opposing team.

In a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mr. Hanner accidentally got tobacco juice somewhere down his throat. He lined up against the Steelers for the next play.

Willie Davis, 74, a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Packers and longtime friend of Mr. Hanner's, recalled what happened next.

"The guy popped up," Davis said. "Dave had managed to barf right on his hand."

The Steelers were flagged for illegal procedure.

Davis and Mr. Hanner were together two years ago at a Packers alumni night. Guests paid $100 to speak to him. Mr. Hanner didn't understand why.

"It had become more commercialized, and that part bothered him," Ed Hanner said.

Poor blood circulation since forced doctors to amputate Mr. Hanner's right leg. He refused morphine for his pain, but Ed Hanner whispered an instruction to nurses, who gave Mr. Hanner the morphine anyway.

"He never asked for it," his son said. "That was just him."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (813) 661-2431 or


Joel David Hanner

Born: May 20, 1930.

Died: Sept. 11, 2008.

Survivors: wife Janie Burns Hanner; daughters Sammye Jane and Holly Hanner; sons Joel, Ed, Mike and Jim Hanner; sister Trudy Lendley; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren

Pasco resident and former Packers star dies 09/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 22, 2008 2:43pm]
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