The Green Bay Packers have had many great touchdown passing combinations in their history. From Arnie Herber to Don Hutson, Bart Starr to Boyd Dowler, Brett Favre to Antonio Freeman and Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams, the Packers have had some great passer-to-receiver combinations who got the ball into the end zone. But there is one combination that was unusual and is often overlooked in Packers history. It didn’t involve a quarterback and both players stood only 5’8”.

The duo of halfback Willard Harrell and wide receiver Steve Odom was deemed the Packers “Touchdown Twins” and they set a new NFL record that season by scoring on halfback option passes in three straight games. The old record was set in the first season of the AFL by Dick Christy of the Boston Patriots who threw halfback option passes for a touchdown in two straight games.

Bart Starr  and the Packers Turn to the Touchdown Twins

In 1975, Bart Starr was in his first year as coach of the Packers. The offense struggled all season with John Hadl as their quarterback. Hadl threw only six touchdown passes all season despite playing in all 14 games and the Green Bay offense ranked 23rd out of 26 teams in yards gained.

So, Starr decided he had to turn to some trick plays to keep his team in games. He turned to the halfback option play and the dynamic duo of Harrell and Odom to jump start his moribund offense.

Harrell was a rookie in 1975 after the Packers selected him in the third round of that year’s NFL Draft. The former Pacific star quickly found a role on the team and carried the ball 121 times as a rookie. He also gave the team a spark as a punt returner and as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 34 passes in his rookie campaign.

Odom was in his second season in 1975. The Packers had selected him in the fifth round of the 1974 NFL Draft. He was a great return specialist and even went to the Pro Bowl in 1975 after gaining 1,034 yards on kick returns that season. He scored a touchdown on a punt return as a rookie and added another on a kick return in 1975. Both were 95-yard runbacks.

The former Utah star was also a good deep receiver. Despite his lack of height, Odom had the speed to get behind defenders. He averaged 16.6-yards per catch in his first season and improved that number to 19.9-yard per catch in 1975.

Still, the Packers offense was struggling. Running back John Brockington was playing through injuries and averaged only 3.0-yards per carry. The Packers ranked dead last in the league in rushing yards and 18th out of 26 teams in passing yards.

Memories of Vince Lombardi

Starr needed to do something to spark the offense, so he turned to a play Vince Lombardi used to run in the glory days of the 1960s when Starr was the team’s quarterback: the halfback option.

Harrell could throw the ball well. Unsuspecting defenses weren’t ready for the lefthanded rookie to throw the ball over their heads.

“Bart liked the halfback option and I just liked throwing the ball around in practice,” Harrell explained after his career was over. “So, we worked on it and then tried it a few times in games. Deep down, everyone wants to be a quarterback. I wasn’t quite tall enough.”

But he was good enough to execute the halfback option pass and he and Odom hooked up on it for touchdown passes in three straight games. Remember, the Packers starting quarterback threw only six touchdown passes all season. Harrell threw three to Odom in three games.

The Packers Touchdown Twins Connect for Three Straight Games

In Week 9, Harrell tossed a 24-yard pass to Odom on a fake sweep. That tied the game against the Lions at 10-10 in the fourth quarter. The Lions responded with a 74-yard drive that led to ex-Packers kicker Errol Mann’s winning field goal with just 13 seconds left in the game.

A week later, the Packers hosted the New York Giants in Milwaukee. Harrell opened the scoring with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Hadl. In the second quarter with the Packers up 17-0, Harrell threw another touchdown pass to a wide-open Odom to increase the Packers lead to 24-0. The Packers won the game 40-14 in what was their highest point total in five years.

The following week, the Packers hosted the Bears in the snow at Lambeau Field. In the second quarter, Harrell again found Odom in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass. He threaded the ball to Odom between three Chicago defenders.

The following year, the duo hooked up for another score on a halfback option play. It came in the Packers 24-14 win over the Lions in Green Bay on a 40-yard bomb. Harrell also gained 111 rushing yards in this game including a 56-yard dash.

The Packers weren’t a good team in 1975 and they finished with a 4-10 record. But players like Harrell and Odom gave fans hope that on any given play, something exciting could happen. They set an NFL record that still hasn’t been broken in the process.



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