Clayton Tonnemaker
refer to caption
Tonnemaker while playing at Minnesota, c. 1940s
No. 15
Position:Center, Linebacker
Personal information
Born:(1928-06-08)June 8, 1928
Ogilvie, Minnesota
Died:December 25, 1996(1996-12-25) (aged 68)
St. Paul, Minnesota
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:237 lb (108 kg)
Career information
High school:Minneapolis (MN) Edison
NFL Draft:1950 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • Consensus All-American (1949)
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at · PFR

Frank Clayton "Clayt" Tonnemaker (June 8, 1928 – December 25, 1996) was an 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, Minnesota, 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, Minnesota. 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 did not 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.[1] 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".[2] 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".[3]

Professional: Green Bay Packers

Originally drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, his pro contract was transferred to the Green Bay Packers after the All-America Football Conference merged with the NFL in 1950 and the rules changed.[5] The Packers made him their number one National Football League draft pick in 1950 (4th in the NFL overall),[6] and paid him $8,000 a year, the top salary on the team. Tonnemaker played center and middle linebacker.

Honors and awards



  1. ^ a b Maroon and Gold Forever, Ross Bernstein, 2009, Printing Enterprises, New Brighton, Minnesota.
  2. ^ Viking Update, Dick Gordon, October 9, 1995
  3. ^ Gold Glory, Richard Rainbolt, 1972, R. Turtinen Publishing Co, Wayzata, Minnesota, p. 133
  4. ^ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 30, 1949, p. 19
  5. ^ Minneapolis Tribune, Sid Hartman, Feb. 6, 1980, p. 2C
  6. ^ a b c d e f Green Bay Press Gazette, Don Langenkamp, January 21, 1979
  7. ^ St. Paul Pioneer Press, Don Riley, October 19, 1980
  8. ^ Chicago Tribune, July 31, 1995, Section 7, pg 7
  9. ^ Interview with daughter, Susan Tonnemaker Hunter