Don Hutson, one of the Green Bay Packers' greatest players and perhaps the best wide receiver in college and professional football history, died on Thursday in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 84.
Milton Johnson, a spokesman for the Wiefel and Sons Funeral Home in Palm Springs, Calif., said Hutson was hospitalized on June 17 with an undisclosed illness and then discharged to a nursing home, where he died of natural causes.
At the University of Alabama, Hutson was named to all-America teams in 1933 and 1934, his junior and senior seasons.
In 11 seasons (1935-45) with the Packers, he played end (as wide receivers were known then) on offense and safety on defense. He was also the kicker.
Three times -- in 1936, 1939 and 1944 -- his Packer teams won championships.
In 9 of his 11 seasons, Hutson was voted to the National Football League's All-Pro team, and twice he was named the league's most valuable player.
Hutson was a charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame (1951) and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1963).
When he retired, his deeds occupied a full page in the N.F.L. record book. He still holds the records for most seasons leading the league in receptions (8), most consecutive seasons leading in receptions (5), most seasons leading in touchdowns (8), most seasons leading in scoring (5) and most points scored in a quarter (29).
Although his N.F.L. career receiving records of 8,010 yards and 99 touchdowns have been broken, they reflected amazing accomplishments in an era in which teams often passed only on third down and then only when they needed long yardage for a first down.
Hutson was the first player to perfect the fake in pass receiving. As one opposing coach, Greasy Neale of the Philadelphia Eagles, said, ''Hutson is the only man I ever saw who could feint in three different directions at the same time.''
Another coach, Luke Johnsos of the Chicago Bears, said it was difficult to defend against Hutson because ''half the time, he didn't know himself where he was going.''
At 6 feet 1 inch and 185 pounds, Hutson was willowy, and he looked even more sleek because he wore tiny shoulder pads and no hip pads. He could run 100 yards in 9.7 seconds.
And he worked hard at his job.
''For every pass I caught in a game,'' he once said, ''I caught a thousand passes in practice.''
In short, he was the Steve Largent and Jerry Rice of his time.
Donald Montgomery Hutson was born on Jan. 31, 1913, in Pine Bluff, Ark. He played football only one year in high school and was better known then for his collection of pet rattlesnakes.
He got to Alabama only because Bob Seawall, a high school teammate, said he would go there only if Alabama would take Hutson, too. Seawall dropped out of Alabama after two years.
Hutson stayed and became more celebrated than the other starting end, Paul (Bear) Bryant, his partner in a campus dry-cleaning business, who went on to become one of college football's legendary coaches.
In those days, the N.F.L. had no draft of college players. Every year, Coach Curly Lambeau of the Packers would go to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., to scout the teams for prospects. In December 1934, when he was barred from Alabama's secret practice there, Lambeau climbed a wall, tearing his trousers. It was worth it, he said.
''Hutson would glide downfield, leaning forward,'' Lambeau said, ''as if to steady himself close to the ground. Then, as suddenly as you gulp or blink an eye, he'd feint one way and go the other, reach up like a dancer, gracefully squeeze the ball and leave the scene of the accident, the accident being the defensive backs who tangled their feet up and fell trying to coverhim.''
In the Rose Bowl itself, Hutson caught seven passes, two for touchdowns, as Alabama upset Stanford, 29-13. Then, at a time when most N.F.L. starters were paid $100 a game, he signed with the Packers for $175 a game.
On the first play of his first pro game, the legend began. The Packers were playing the Chicago Bears in Green Bay, Wis. On the first play, instead of the expected run, the Packers called a pass. The Bears' defense concentrated on Johnny (Blood) McNally, the Packers' dangerous running back and receiver. On the other side of the field, Hutson loped lazily downfield, with only Beattie Feathers covering him.
Hutson stole a look at McNally. So did Feathers, a mistake because as soon as Feathers was distracted, Hutson took off. Arnie Herber's pass hit Hutson in stride, and he outran Feathers for an 83-yard touchdown.
''For the next 10 years,'' said George Halas, the Bears' coach, ''Hutson was doing that sort of thing to every club in the National Football League. I just concede him two touchdowns a game, and I hope we can score more.''
Other coaches agreed.
''He was a cold, hard competitor,'' said Jimmy Conzelman, the former Chicago Cardinals coach. ''I doubt that he had a nerve in his body.''
When Hutson retired in 1945, he was earning $15,000 a year, a huge salary then. His skills were still there, but, he said, ''It was playing defense that wore me out.''
He spent two years as an assistant coach of the Packers. Then, living in Green Bay and active in civic affairs, he became wealthy as the owner of an auto dealership and bowling lanes in Racine, Wis.
Three years ago, the Packers named their indoor practice facility for him.
''He most certainly was the greatest player in the history of this franchise,'' the Packers' general manager, Ron Wolf, said Thursday night.
He also was a quiet, unflappable man.
''The day we were married,'' said his wife, Julia, ''he was so calm that you'd think he'd merely stepped into the church to get out of the rain.''
His mother added: ''He wouldn't say two words in an A-bomb attack. He doesn't talk unless he has something to say.''
Hutson did have something to say about the game that made him famous.
''I was never very emotional about football,'' he said, ''but I loved the game just the same.''
Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter.