For 11 years, Mike Michalske was pro football's premier guard; a position many insist was the toughest job of all in the 1920s and 1930s. A guard in those days was expected to block the biggest opposing linemen head-on.
He also had to pull from the line and lead interference for the ball carrier. When the other team had the ball, the guard was the key man in stopping the enemy running attack. But he also had to be capable of storming into the backfield to disrupt a passing play.
Michalske was particularly adept at going after the passer. He also championed the idea of using former fullbacks at guard because they were fast and explosive. He sold the idea to Green Bay Packers coach Curly Lambeau and thus it was no accident that many fine Green Bay guards had cut their football teeth as fullbacks.
Christened August at birth, Michalske became known as "Iron Mike” because, while he played 60 minutes every game, he simply never was injured. "I just didn't get hurt," he explained. "The players used to say I must have been getting paid by the minute."
In high school and at Penn State, where he was an All-America pick in 1925, he played fullback, guard, end, and tackle. “Iron Mike” first turned pro with the new American Football League in 1926 but that league folded after one year.
When his New York Yankees NFL team disbanded two seasons later, Michalske, who was all-league each season in New York, waived the $400 salary due him for his free agency. Mike promptly signed with the Packers, where he remained for eight highly successful seasons, both for him and his team. The Packers won NFL titles in 1929, 1930, and 1931, and Michalske was named All-NFL in 1929, 1930, 1931, 1934, and 1935.