a list of locals – who were either born, raised, or educated here – who went pro
There are plenty of football fans in the Chippewa Valley, but we’ve produced our share of elite football players, too. Here’s a list of locals – who were either born, raised, or educated here – who went pro ...
FUZZY THURSTON, Altoona
Guard, Baltimore Colts (1958), Green Bay Packers (1959-67)
Frederick Charles Thurston – better known as “Fuzzy” – was born and raised in Altoona, but didn’t play football for the Railroaders: Back then, they didn’t have a football team! He went to Valparaiso University in Indiana on a basketball scholarship and began playing football there, too. He made his NFL debut with the Colts in 1958 (they won a championship that year), then had a nine-season career with Green Bay. His storied career is summed up this way on Packers.com: “As one of the guards on Vince Lombardi’s offensive line, Thurston was a cog in the head coach’s famous power sweep play, which helped the Packers win five NFL titles in the 1960s” – including the first two Super Bowls.
Tackle, Canton Bulldogs (1916-1920), Green Bay Packers (1921-25)
Described as a “bruising, powerful behemoth” during his playing days – when he weighed a then-astonishing 289 pounds – Howard “Cub” Buck was standout athlete at Eau Claire High School more than a century ago. He went on to three successful seasons (1912-15) with the Wisconsin Badgers, where he earned All-Big Ten and All-American honors. After five seasons with the Canton Bulldogs (which joined the embryonic NFL in 1920), Buck became an early star for the Packers and their first coach, Curly Lambeau. He’s a member of the Packers Hall of Fame, the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, and the UW Hall of Fame.
PAT O’DONAHUE, Eau Claire
Defensive end, San Francisco 49ers (1952), Green Bay Packers (1955)
“Pat O’Donahue looks as Irish and plays as rugged a game of football as his name would imply,” declared The Capital Times in 1949. An Eau Claire native, O’Donahue attended what was then known as St. Patrick’s High School (now Regis) in the 1940s, where he was a standout in football and basketball. O’Donahue was an All-American for the Wisconsin Badgers in 1951, when he was a member of the “Hard Rocks,” the team’s best-in-the-nation defense. He played two seasons in the NFL. In 1987, he was part of the inaugural class named to the Regis High School Hall of Fame.
Linebacker, New York Jets (1995-99)
A knee injury kept Cascadden from playing during his senior year at Chi-Hi, and he wasn’t recruited by major colleges. However, he found success as a walk-on for the Wisconsin Badgers and was a member of the team that won the 1994 Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl. He spent five seasons with the Jets after being signed as an undrafted free agent, and famously returned a fumble for a touchdown to clinch a playoff spot for the team in 1998.
MIKE MASLOWSKI, Thorp
Linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs (1999-2003)
A football, basketball, and baseball standout at Thorp High School, Maslowski went on to be a star for the UW-La Crosse Eagles, who won a national championship during his junior season in 1995. After playing in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe (where he set a league record for tackles), Maslowski was signed by the Chiefs. In his five seasons for Kansas City, he was known for his hard-hitting, no-nonsense style, and in 2000 he was part of USA Today’s All-Joe Team, which honors unsung blue-collar players.
TIM KRUMRIE, Mondovi
Defensive tackle, Cincinnati Bengals (1983-94)
Krumrie was a star at Mondovi High School and then a two-time All-American for the Wisconsin Badgers. He went on to a 12-season career in Cincinnati and was twice an All-Pro. He broke his leg in two places during Super Bowl XXIII, but recovered (thanks to a 15-inch steel rod) and played six more seasons in Cincinnati. Krumrie played an unintended role in launching Brett Favre’s career in 1992 when Krumrie’s sack of then-Packers quarterback Don Majkowski brought Favre into the game – a game the future legend won in dramatic fashion.
TONY BECKHAM, UW-Stout
Cornerback, Tennessee Titans (2002-05), Detroit Lions (2007)
A three-time all-conference pick and two-time Division III All-American for UW-Stout, Beckham was drafted by the Titans in 2002 and played with the team for four seasons. He later spent part of the 2007 season with the Lions.
JIM LEONHARD, Tony
Safety, various teams, Cleveland Browns (2005-present)
Leonhard comes from the tiny Rusk County community of Tony, about 70 miles from Eau Claire, where he led Flambeau High School to a state football championship. He was a walk-on to the Wisconsin Badgers, where he landed on the all-Big Ten team three times and set school and conference records. He was never drafted into the pros, but was signed by the Buffalo Bills in 2005 and later played for the Ravens, Jets, Broncos, Saints, and – beginning this season – the Browns.