By Floyd Henschel
I’ve been a Green Bay Packers fan for 70-plus years. I remember when my neighbor in Kiel, Chuck Meiselwitz, asked me to go to Green Bay to see the Packers play the Chicago Bears. Wow, pretty exciting to be able to see the green and gold play. The game was played in the old City Stadium on the east side of Green Bay. After the game we were thrilled to see the Bears players up close as they were getting on their bus for the return trip to Chicago. I can’t recall the score of the game, but I do remember seeing some of their bloody faces since it was the days before players wore face masks.
Do you remember Tobin Rote at quarterback and Tony Canadeo at running back? Jug Girard was the Packers punter and Ted Fritsch was their place kicker. They were some of my Packer heroes while I was in grade school.
Things changed in Green Bay when the Packers hired coach Vince Lombardi on Jan. 28, 1959, an offensive coordinator for the New York Giants. Coach Lombardi replaced coach Ray “Scooter” McLean, whose one-year record with the Packers was 1-10-1. Lombardi was a terrific coach and led the Packers to two consecutive Super Bowl victories. At that time the quarterback was Bart Starr with Paul Hornung and Jimmy Taylor in the backfield. Zeke Bratkowski was their backup quarterback. Of course, if you don’t have an offensive line as well as a good defense, the football team would not have success. Remember the Packer names? Forrest Gregg, Jerry Kramer, Fuzzy Thurston, Bob Skoronski, Marv Flemming, and the wide receivers, Carroll Dale, Boyd Dowler and Max McGee? When the opponents had the ball, we heard the following Packer names on defense: Willie Davis, Lionel Aldridge, Henry Jordan, Ron Kostelnik, Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson, Jim Flanigan, Herb Adderley, Doug Hart, Willie Wood and Bob Jeter.
In 1992, we were cheering for quarterback Don Majkowski, but he got hurt and gave way to Brett Favre. Brett was one tough quarterback, playing when most players would not because they were hurt.
“Tape me up, give me a shot and I’m ready to play,” he’d say. You couldn’t help but admire Brett after hearing a statement like that. He was a true gun-slinger if there ever was one.
My favorite story about Brett was when he was riding the bench for Atlanta and doing too much drinking and not much playing. The Falcons coach was Jerry Glanville, who had extraordinary charisma. Coaches like to talk to each other, especially during preseason games. Coach Jerry would be in the middle of a group of coaches and telling them he had this quarterback who could throw the football out of the stadium. Several coaches said that could not be done, so Coach Jerry said for a $100 bet, I’ll show you it can be done, or so the story goes. The bet was on and Coach Jerry yells, “Hey Mississippi, get over here.” Over comes Brett Favre as the coach throws him a football and says, “Throw it out of the stadium.” And that is exactly what Brett did and Coach Jerry collects the $100.
It really upset me when Brett played for the Vikings. My initial thought was, “You traitor!” But as you probably remember, Brett, the gun-slinger, could have taken the Vikings to the Super Bowl, which rarely happens in Viking land. During the 2009 season, he actually led the Vikings to a 12-4 season while beating the Packers and into the playoffs the Vikings went. They had the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl to try for their first victory, but Brett had to throw one more pass that was intercepted and the Vikings lost the game to the New Orleans Saints in overtime. The Vikings kicker, Ryan Longwell (also an ex-Packer), was waiting on the sideline, warming up so he could kick the winning field goal, but it didn’t happen.
Remember some of the other Green Bay quarterbacks? How about these names from the past: Cecil Isbell, Lynn Dickey, LaMar McHan, Scott Hunter, Jerry Tagge, Randy Johnson, John Hadl, Jim Del Gaizo, Randy Wright, Blair Kiel, Jim McMahon, David Whitehurst, Mike Tomczak and their most recent quarterback to be released, Brett Hundley.
Two games on my top list since being a Packers fan include, No. 1, “Marcol’s Miracle.” Chester Marcol’s field goal was blocked by the Chicago Bears, deflected back to him and he took it into the end zone for a Packers win, 12-6.
You may not know this, but Chester was a Polish immigrant, born in Opole, Poland, on Oct. 24, 1949. His full name was Czeslaw Boleslaw “Chester” Marcol. He graduated from a small Michigan Division III school, Hillsdale College, where he was named NAIA All-American and holds the record for the longest field goal. Coach Dan Devine selected Marcol in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft, pick No. 34, I believe. Some other Packers drafted that year included Willie Buchanon, Jerry Tagge, Dave Pureifory and Keith Wortman, to name a few other draft choice that year. Marcol was the Packers’ place kicker from 1972 to 1980.
And now for the “miracle.” It was opening day, Sept. 7, 1980, against the Chicago Bears. The Packers were tied 6-6 in overtime. A 32-yard pass from Lynn Dickey to James Lofton helped set up a 34-yard field goal attempt to win the game for the Packers. Marcol’s kick was blocked and came straight back to him. He caught the ball, ran around the left end and was able to make it into the end zone to give the Packers a 12-6 victory.
Marcol was cut by then head coach Bart Starr on Oct. 8, 1980. It was later announced that Marcol had a serious addiction to cocaine.
The second top game, in my opinion, was the “Ice Bowl” game. The 1967 Packers were to play in the NFL championship game against the Dallas Cowboys. The game was played at Lambeau Field on Dec. 31. The temperature at game time registered a frigid 13 degrees below zero. The Packers were able to claim their third NFL title with a 21-17 victory over the Cowboys when quarterback Bart Starr took the snap from center Ken Bowman. Bowman and guard Jerry Kramer combined to take out Dallas tackle Jethro Pugh. With Pugh out of the way, Starr surprised everyone with a quarterback sneak for the score. After the game, newspapers reported head coach Lombardi saying, “We gambled and we won!”
What made the game so meaningful was the fact my family doctor called on that Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. and asked if I wanted to attend the Packers championship game. Of course, I said yes. The good doctor told me later it was too cold for their wives to attend the game so he had three tickets available. Two other friends, Bob Gartzke and Gary Scharfenberg, joined us for the game. The trip to Green Bay was eventful as our car had a gas line freeze several blocks from the stadium. The doctor said we should go ahead so we wouldn’t miss the beginning of the game. He eventually joined us after getting his car towed to a nearby filling station. Even though the temperature was well below zero, we weren’t that cold except for our feet on the cold concrete. My wife had made a thermos of hot chocolate and after I poured the four drinks we toasted the Packers and drained the hot chocolate, which was not that hot anymore, but warmed us up a little.
It has been wonderful being a die-hard Packers fan, even though the last two years with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback have not been very exciting. I’m still a loyal fan. They now have a new beginning with a new coach, so hopefully the championship years will return to Green Bay. I sure hope so!