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Clayton Tonnemaker

Clayton Tonnemaker
Minnesota, c. 1940s
No. 15
Center, Linebacker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1928-06-08)June 8, 1928
Place of birth: Ogilvie, Minnesota
Date of death: December 25, 1996(1996-12-25) (aged 68)
Place of death: St. Paul, Minnesota
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)Weight: 237 lb (108 kg)
Career information
High school: Minneapolis (MN) Edison
College: Minnesota
NFL Draft: 1950 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
Debuted in 1950 for the Green Bay Packers
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • Consensus All-American (1949)
Career NFL statistics
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Stats at
Stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

Clayton "Clayt" Tonnemaker (June 8, 1928 – December 25, 1996) is a former American football player who played center and linebacker for the Green Bay Packers from 1950 to 1954. Tonnemaker was an All-American at the University of Minnesota, where he played center linebacker. In 1980 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Early life

Tonnemaker, weighing in at 11 pounds, was born on June 8, 1928 on a farm near Ogilvie, MN, to Anna Nelson and Frank Clayton Tonnemaker. After his father died when Clayton was 7, he and his mother and sister, Lucille, sold their farm at auction and moved to the town of Rush City, MN. The family later moved to Northeast Minneapolis, and Clayton attended Edison High School.

Football career


Tonnemaker lettered in football at Rush City High School as an 8th grader. After moving to Minneapolis, Tonnemaker played center for the Edison football team, serving as captain and winning All-City Honors. He unofficially played for the Minnesota Gophers while in high school, even scoring a touchdown during a 1946 spring season scrimmage. It was not legal for a high schooler to train with a college team at the time, so the Gophers didn’t acknowledge this.[1]

College: University of Minnesota

Tonnemaker officially began playing center linebacker for the Gophers during his freshman year, 1946, when a World War II-era ruling made it legal for freshman to play in the Big Ten. Before the war this was not allowed. He became part of a group of Gopher players known as the '49ers, their year of graduation.[2] He was a regular from mid-freshman year, with the Gophers winning 23 out of 30 games, and a “win-loss edge over every Big Ten rival except Michigan”.[3] Along with Leo Nomellini, Tonnemaker was part of a defensive line that allowed “an average of less than nine points a game in the '49ers’ final season”.[4]

Professional: Green Bay Packers

Originally drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, his pro contract was transferred to the Green Bay Packers after the American Conference merged with the NFL in 1950 and the rules changed.[6] The Packers made him their number one National Football League draft pick in 1950 (4th in the NFL overall),[7] and paid him $8,000 a year, the top salary on the team. Tonnemaker played center and middle linebacker.

  • Named All-Pro in his rookie season (1950) and again after his war service in 1953
  • Picked to play in the first Pro Bowl ever (January 14, 1951)[7] but missed it because he had to report for Army duty
  • Captain 1953/1954
  • Played from 1950–54[7]

Honors and awards

  • Minnesota Football Hall of Fame: 1946, 47, 48, 49
  • National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame: 1980
  • Played on 10 teams and named the captain of each one[8]
  • Chicago Tribune All-Time All-Big Ten Team - Center[9]
  • State of Minnesota Football Hall of Fame - 1981
  • Gopher Men’s Sports Hall of Fame - 1992


  • Served in the Korean War for 32 months, 18 months as a Lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps in Japan
  • Left the Green Bay Packers in 1954 to begin a 22 year career with Cargill; achieved VP status[7]
  • 1961-1965 - NFL Football Commentator on CBS
  • 1979 - Became President of Coal Creek Mining Co in Ashland, MT

Tonnemaker spent the last years of his life in Minnesota and Wisconsin, close to his family, where he was involved in private business ventures.


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