GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame called Chad Clifton in January to tell him of their plans to induct him, the two-time Pro Bowl left tackle thought he was a victim of a prank. And he knew just the person who'd try such a thing.
"The first thing I said to them, after my jaw dropped, was, 'Mark Tauscher put you guys up to this, didn't he?'" Clifton said with a laugh Saturday night, referring to his good friend and bookend right tackle for a decade. "'Who is this, really?'"
But it wasn't a joke, and no one would question whether Clifton deserved the honor. For 12 seasons, he protected the blind sides of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, taking over the starting job as a rookie second-round pick five games into the 2000 season and overcoming myriad injuries -- including problems with both knees and a career-threatening hip injury suffered on an unnecessary blindside hit by Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp in 2002.
"I had the hip injury early in my career, so that kind of set the tone of, 'Hey, you're going to have to do extra things in the weight room, extra things in the training room, to be able to come out and play at a high level,'" Clifton recalled before Saturday night's induction ceremony, in which he was presented by the team's offensive line coach, James Campen. "As your career wears on, injuries happen. Everyone has them. And you have to take care of your body. I did that the best way I knew how.
"After football, I don't know if you noticed, but I've still got a little bit of a limp. The right knee is not what I wish it would be. But other than that, everything seems to be all right."
Clifton's daily regimen during the second half of his career consisted of 90 minutes to two hours each day with athletic trainers Bryan Engel and Nate Weir. They did a series of exercises and treatments that included pool range-of-motion work, weight training to strengthen his leg muscles, icing and massages to keep the swelling down, electric stimulation and what he called "rehab-type exercises."
The approach worked. From 2003 through 2010, Clifton missed just six of a possible 128 starts before a torn hamstring cost him most of his final season in 2011.
"Coach [Mike] McCarthy always would say, 'Until you don't have a left tackle, you don't know what you have,'" Campen said. "Especially in the era that Chad played in. He had to block the best of the best for the better part of his career. He was against the great pass-rushers of [his] time.
"And it did it seamlessly. He was an outstanding, outstanding football player."
Clifton earned his two Pro Bowl selections during the back half of his career (2007, 2010), and while he was part of the team's best offensive line since the Lombardi Era -- along with center Mike Flanagan, guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle, and Tauscher, who was in Clifton's draft class -- he later mentored three of the team's current starters: right tackle Bryan Bulaga and guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton.
"I was very fortunate over my 12 years to play with some really good offensive linemen," Clifton said. "And [to] have a different group throughout my 12 years, too. Without a doubt, my first four, five years with those guys kind of set the foundation for my success."
Clifton was the last man standing out of that group in 2010; Flanagan, Rivera and Wahle had all retired and Tauscher suffered a season-ending shoulder injury earlier in the season. Clifton, though, started all 20 games that season, including the Packers' victory in Super Bowl XLV.
"By that point, that was my 11th year and you kind of know, 'I'm not going to be doing this that much longer,'" Clifton said. "To get a Super Bowl, the way we got it that season with so many injuries we had and so many trials and tribulations that we had to battle through to get into the playoffs, and then kind of get on the hot streak and then get on to the Super Bowl and then win that, it's icing on the cake.
"To be able to get that, even though it was at the latter part of my career, I'm so appreciative of it."