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Packers Hall of Famer passes away at 81

Ken Bowman
Ken Bowman was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 1964 Draft and played center for the team for 10 seasons, 1964-73. Packers photo

By Press Times staff

GREEN BAY – Former Green Bay Packers Center Ken Bowman, 81, passed away Dec. 27 in Oro Valley, Ariz.

The Milan, Ill., native played football for the University of Wisconsin 1961-63, serving as co-captain in the Rose Bowl in 1963 where the No. 2 Badgers lost to No. 1 USC.

He was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 1964 Draft and played center for the team for 10 seasons, 1964-73.

Bowman played in 123 regular-season games and started 103.

Due to chronic shoulder separation, Bowman often played with his left arm harnessed to his side.

Green Bay Packers Historian Cliff Christl recalled the 6’3”, 230-pound player was a tough-as-nails player.

 arm harness
Green Bay Packers Center Ken Bowman had to thrust himself forward to block a defensive lineman often dislocating his shoulder through a blow upward using a raised right arm. This arm harness was designed to strap everything in tightly under his jersey to prevent this type of injury. Kris Leonhardt photo

“Perhaps there was no better proof of that than Bowman’s performance in the Packers’ 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I or what was then called the AFL-NFL World Championship. It was the game that concluded the second season of Vince Lombardi’s three straight championships,” Christl said.

“Bowman had played in only four regular-season games after separating his left shoulder in an Aug. 27 preseason game. However, when Bill Curry, his replacement, suffered a sprained ankle in the second quarter of Super Bowl I, Lombardi summoned Bowman to take his place. Up to that point, Kansas City’s future Pro Football Hall of Fame Defensive Tackle Buck Buchanan had been a disruptive force against the Packers’ offense, and the score was tied 7-7.

“Although outweighed by 35 pounds or more against the 6-7, 274-pound Buchanan and often confronted by him head-on, Bowman held his own mostly with cut blocks. According to Packers’ backup quarterback Zeke Bratkowski, the Chiefs positioned Buchanan over Bowman’s ‘left (or injured) shoulder,’ rather than opposite left guard Fuzzy Thurston.

“Uncharacteristically, (Vince) Lombardi praised Bowman following the game for playing through what he described as a ‘painful’ injury and one that would require surgery soon after the season.”

Christl said that Bowman popped his shoulder back in place in between plays, bracing up against other players to put it back in.

Bowman was placed on injured reserve in September 1974 and was released in April 1975.

He signed with the Hawaiians of the World Football League that summer, where he finished his career.

Bowman attended law school while playing football and was a De Pere attorney for two decades following his time with the Packers.

He later moved to Arizona.

Bowman was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1981, along with Lee Joannes, who served on the Packers Board of Directors for many years, and Packers Defensive Back Herb Adderley.

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