Interview with Stuart Stotts
Wisconsin Historical Society Press: What motivated you to tell Curly's story? What about him intrigued you?
To be honest, I got motivated because I was asked to do the book by the Wisconsin Historical Society. But once I was asked to consider it, I became very interested in him and in particular, the early history of football. He was a controversial character, incredibly charismatic and driven, and yet also, ultimately a man who probably overreached his grasp. It was fascinating to learn about him in the context of the early development of the game, as well. Plus, I've always been a Packer fan since the days of Bart Starr.
WHS Press: Did you know anything about Curly before you began this project?
Very little. I had vague impressions of him as the founder of the Packers, I had maybe seen some photographs of him as a young player.
WHS Press: Why is Curly's story important for young readers?
I think Curly provides a great view of a very successful sports figure, while also giving readers some awareness of the pitfalls that come with success and fame. Readers will also learn a lot about a game that is central to both Wisconsin and America. Curly's story teaches us something about drive, dedication and the fire to play and win.
WHS Press: How did you go about doing your research? Was it difficult to tell this story to young readers?
I read books about Curly and the Packers, as well as about football as a young developing sport. I spent some time in Green Bay at Curly's high school, and speaking with Packer historians and sports writers who knew Curly. The only real hard part about telling the story to young readers was separating out the more "adult" aspects of Curly's life, which, in the end, aren't essential to understanding the rise of the Packers.
WHS Press: What about his story did you find most surprising?
Curly's incredible success as a winning coach at a very young age. He won the league championship three times in a row when he was in his thirties. It's like winning the Super Bowl three times in a row. I didn't realize how good of a coach he had been.
WHS Press: What do you hope readers take away from this book?
A sense of the development of football: how it moved from local teams playing in parks to this huge thing we call the NFL. Also, I hope readers see how being good at something requires huge dedication, but also, in the end, a humility about who you are and your own limitations.
WHS Press: How does Curly's story help us understand more about Wisconsin? About football?
Curly's story gives you a sense of the less developed and yet more intimate nature of football in a place like Green Bay. It was an industrial, working-class town filled with immigrants and factories, and yet it spawned this world-renowned team, the Packers. The Packers are one of the first things many people think of when thinking of Wisconsin.
The book has a whole section on the development of football, which I found fascinating to research. For example, in the early 1900s, people were often killed playing football because players were so unprotected and the game was so physical.