Tommy Joe Crutcher grew up on a farm in McKinney in a large family of 14 children.
The boys were expected to help out with farm chores and not complain about it. But when Crutcher got a chance to play football, he played with unrestrained joy.
“Without the boys helping out on the farm we might not have been able to keep the farm,” said Diane Crutcher, his younger sister. “But he loved football. I always interpreted it as their way out of McKinney.”
Crutcher was a two-way star for McKinney as a running back and linebacker in the late 1950s, and will be inducted with this year’s class in the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. Like older brothers Tex and Don, he was happy to get a shot to play college football as he chose TCU over many other schools including Baylor and Texas A&M.
Ironically, Crutcher eventually returned to farming after an eight-year NFL career which included six seasons as a linebacker with the Green Bay Packers. He was 60 when he died in Port Isabel, Texas, following a heart attack in 2002.
Before he died he gave the rings from Green Bay’s first two Super Bowl wins to his older brothers.
“He gave me his ring from the first Super Bowl,” said Don Crutcher. “He was so proud of playing with the Packers.”
Before Tommy ever dreamed of playing for Vince Lombardi, he was forging his career as a high school star at McKinney.
As a junior in 1958, Crutcher rushed for 1,070 yards to lead the Lions to the Class 3A state semifinals. Despite missing three games with a shoulder injury as a senior, Crutcher rushed for 850 yards in just seven games.
“The coaches said he wasn’t real fast but had a good first burst, and then he could go a good ways,” said Don Crutcher. “He was a bruiser. When he carried the ball he was going to hurt them. As a linebacker he was probably the best McKinney ever had.”
Crutcher enjoyed a superb career at TCU as a running back and linebacker. In 1963, he made All-American as a fullback and was drafted by the Packers.
Crutcher’s timing could have been more perfect as he joined the Packers at the height of the Lombardi era as they won three straight NFL championships from 1965-67. Green Bay beat the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders in the first two Super Bowls.
He was the Packers’ fourth linebacker in a stellar unit that included Pro Football Hall of Fame members Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson and former Texas A&M star Lee Roy Caffey.
Following his football career, Crutcher was part owner of the Southwest Grain Company in the Rio Grande Valley.
“He never bragged on himself and never forgot where he came from,” said Diane Crutcher. “Even in the valley he was a big person there because of his Super Bowl wins. He was always for the underdogs because of his humble beginnings.