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Max Mcgee


As a pass-catching end and all-night reveler, Max McGee had few equals in the history of the National Football League. McGee could evoke laughter from so stern a disciplinarian as Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi. He was a master of breaking curfew without detection, declaring at one point that he had "snuck out 11 straight nights after curfew without being caught. ... I must hold the NFL record." If Lombardi taught him one thing, McGee quipped, it was how to get along on a minimal amount of sleep. Bright lights, broads and booze were an integral segment of Max' lifestyle, even on the eve of a Super Bowl game. In the book "Lombardi," edited by ex-Packer teammate Jerry Kramer, McGee relates his escapade the night of January 14, 1967, less than 12 hours before Green Bay met Kansas City in Super Bowl I. "I'd no earthly idea I'd play in that game," McGee wrote. "Neither Paul (roommate Paul Hornung) nor I expected to get off the bench. He hadn't played in about six weeks and I knew I wouldn't play unless Boyd Dowler got hurt. Vince put in a huge penalty that week, something like $5,000, and we all knew he meant it, so I didn't think anybody snuck out. The night before the game Dave Hanner checked the room at curfew and I asked Hawg if he was going to double check later. 'Yep,' he said. But then, as he started out of my room, he changed his mind for some reason. 'Nope,' Hawg said, 'I won't check your room later.' That was enough for me. I practically ran over him getting out of the room. I met some blonde the night before and I was on my way to pay my respects. I didn't feel I was letting the team down any, because I knew there wasn't a chance in hell I'd play. "I waddled in about 7:30 in the morning and I could barely stand up for the kickoff. On the bench Paul kept needling me, 'What would you do if you had to play?' And I said, 'No way, there's no way I could make it.'" "We sat together, discussing his wedding that was coming up, and suddenly I heard Lombardi yell, 'McGee.' I figured he'd found out about my sneaking out. I figured it was about to cost me $5,000. Then he shouted, 'Get in the game.' I almost fainted." "Boyd was hurt and I played the rest of the game and caught seven passes and scored two touchdowns and after the game dear old Vince came up to me and said, 'Nice game.'" "Most any end could've done the same thing," I said. "You're right," he said. "I looked at him and said, 'Well, you sure took the edge off that, you s.o.b.'" The dialogue was typical of McGee-Lombardi exchanges and the performance of semi-sober Max in Green Bay's 35-10 victory over the Chiefs also was typical of the 34-year-old receiver. The 1966 season had been hardly a vintage year for mirthful Max. In 14 games he had caught only four passes for 91 yards, earning him a reputation as "pro football's highest priced receiver, per catch." McGee's receptions, however, had come at highly crucial moments. One, against Baltimore, set up the deciding touchdown in the divisional title game. In the NFL championship game against the Dallas Cowboys, Max scored the touchdown that provided the margin of victory. After 11 pro seasons his twin gifts for catching thrown footballs and for catching merriment at unconventional hours were undiminished. On January 15, 1967, Max McGee enjoyed his finest, most luminous hour. For many weeks of the regular professional season, through weeks of playoffs and the uninterrupted ballyhoo, football devotees had awaited the initial confrontation of the two football behemoths, the champions of the youthful American Football League and the long-established National Football League. A name for the one-day extravaganza had been coined effortlessly one day when Lamar Hunt, architect of the AFL, came across his daughter's "Super Ball." "Why not," he wondered, "call our championship game the Super Bowl?" The name found immediate acceptance and, appropriately, Hunt's Kansas City Chiefs represented the AFL in the first game. En route to the climactic struggle, played before 61,946 in Los Angeles' 100,000-seat Memorial Coliseum, the Packers compiled a 13-2 record, losing only to San Francisco, 21-20, and Minnesota, 20-17, before running off five consecutive victories that included a 34-27 conquest of Dallas in the league title game. The Chiefs were tied once, by Boston, 27-27, and beaten twice, by Buffalo, 29-14, and Oakland, 34-13, on their way to a 12-2-1 record that included a 31-7 playoff decision over Buffalo. Television rights to the battle of titans were granted to the Columbia Broadcasting System, with 365 outlets, and the National Broadcasting Company, with 225. Estimates of the number of television viewers ranged up from 60 million. One-minute TV commercials sold for $75,000 on the NBC network and $85,000 on CBS. As befitted America's newest hit show, pre-game hoopla was plentiful. Bands blared, baton twirlers twirled, choral groups chorused, Al Hirt trumpeted and, just before kickoff, 4,000 pigeons were released from the floor of the stadium. McGee gave the pigeons a quick goodbye, then returned to the bench for an afternoon of quiet reverie that lasted only until he heard Lombardi bark, "Get in the game." Dowler, leading an end sweep by Elijah Pitts, injured his shoulder while trying to block linebacker E. J. Holub and was through for the day. McGee was on his way to headlines. Within moments, Packers quarterback Bart Starr completed a six-play, 80-yard drive with a pass to McGee that covered the final 37 yards. The pass was a little behind McGee, but he caught the football in his right hand over safetyman Willie Mitchell and found clear sailing to the goal line. "I think Bart intentionally threw the ball behind me so Mitchell couldn't cut across and intercept it," said Max. "When the ball stuck I almost fainted. I expected to open my left hand and find a silver dollar." The Chiefs tied the score in the second quarter when Len Dawson passed seven yards to Curtis McClinton, culminating a six-play, 66-yard march, and Mike Mercer's conversion matched one by Don Chandler earlier. Again Starr brought the Pack back. Brushing off an illegal procedure that wiped out a 64-yard touchdown pass to Carroll Dale, Starr used only 11 more plays to cross the goal line, Jim Taylor rushing the final 14 yards. Mercer's 31-yard field goal made the score 14-10 at halftime and even so astute an observer as ex-NFL star Buddy Young predicted, "Old age and heat will get the Packers in the second half." Age did, indeed, make a difference, but it was the age that breeds experience which dominated the second half. Instead of a four-man rush as in the first half, the Packers blitzed after intermission and Dawson, who had completed 11 of 15 passes for 152 yards in the first half, completed only five of 12 for 59 yards in the second. Three times Dawson was dropped for losses and on a fourth time, trying to avoid a loss, he wobbled a pass toward the sideline that was picked off by free safety Willie Wood, who returned it 50 yards to the Kansas City 5-yard line, from where Pitts, following tackle Bob Skoronski, scampered into the end zone. "That interception was the key play of the game," said Chiefs coach Hank Stram. "It changed the personality of the game. Before that play, and touchdown, we were doing the things we wanted to do. You don't like to think that one play can make that much difference, but it seemed to. From that point, we had to play catch-up. We had to pass more and do things we don't normally do best. They knew we had to pass." "That interception gave them the momentum," added Dawson. "They took the ball and shoved it down our throats." Wood, recalling that Lombardi had chided the Packers defense at halftime for less-than-perfect play, declared, "We got the message. I was stung by the pass Otis Taylor caught against me in the first half, so I was sort of waiting for a chance. We were all anticipating a sideline pass on a third-and-five situation." The run, said Wood, was the biggest (and perhaps the longest) of his career. "This has to be my biggest thrill in Los Angeles," said the former University of Southern California star, who was prevented from going all the way on his runback when tackled by another ex-Trojan, Mike Garrett. Before the third quarter ended, the Packers scored a fourth touchdown, this one on a 56-yard march in which Starr hit McGee three times, for 11, 16 and 13 yards, the last good for six points. For his day's work, McGee caught seven passes for 138 yards and two TDs. A healthy Dowler scarcely could have done better than the champion curfew breaker. The Packers' last touchdown culminated an 80-yard drive in the fourth period, with Pitts plunging over from one yard out. As the Green Bay offense accelerated in the second half, the Packers' defense improved upon its first-half performance. The Chiefs penetrated Packers territory only once in the second half, for four yards. Garrett, the losers' heavy-duty ball carrier, was held to 17 yards in six tries. In completing 16 of 23 passes for 250 yards, Starr probed Mitchell's area repeatedly. The harried cornerback gained some measure of revenge late in the game when he intercepted a Starr pass, the first against the precision passer after 173 non-interceptions. Starr was particularly devastating on third-down conversions, succeeding 10 of 13 times. The report card looked like this: FIRST QUARTER Third and 1 at Green Bay 34: Jim Taylor hit left tackle for three yards and first down. Third and 20 at Green Bay 27: Starr, back to pass, was rushed by Jerry Mays and Bobby Bell, losing five yards. Third and 3 on Kansas City 37: Starr passed complete to McGee on 19 and McGee carried it in for 37-yard touchdown. SECOND QUARTER Third and 7 on Green Bay 23: Starr's pass intended for Dale was juggled and fell incomplete. Penalty on Packers for illegal procedure was declined. Third and 6 on Green Bay 41: Starr passed complete to McGee for 10 yards and first down. Third and 10 on Kansas City 42: Starr passed complete to Dale for 15 yards and first down. Third and 5 on Kansas City 38: Starr passed complete to tight end Marv Fleming for 11 yards and first down. Third and 7 on Kansas City 24: Starr passed complete to Pitts for 10 yards and first down. THIRD QUARTER Third and 3 on Green Bay 44: Taylor swept left end for only two yards. Third and 1 on Kansas City 47: Taylor hit left tackle for four yards and first down. Third and 11 on Kansas City 44: Starr passed complete to McGee for 16 yards and first down. Third and 3 on Kansas City 21: Taylor skirted left end for eight yards and first down. FOURTH QUARTER Third and 3 on Kansas City 11: Pitts hit right tackle for five yards and first down. As Lombardi cuddled the game ball and basked in the glow of a fourth championship in six years, he said: "The Chiefs are a good team, but we wore 'em down. We had a little more personnel than they did. "And what can you say about a guy like McGee. This was one of his finest games. And Bart called a perfect game, but that's not new." Chuck Hurston, a second-year defensive end for the Chiefs, also was impressed with Starr. Holding his fingers one inch apart, he exclaimed: "Once I was this close to him and he threw a touchdown pass as if he didn't even notice me. I've never seen anything like it." Stram said: "It took exceptional timing between Starr and his receivers. It took great pass blocking, and they got it. We had a variety of coverages, but the Packers were able to isolate our corner man, one on one." If there was one sad note among the Packers, each $15,000 richer compared to $7,500 for each of the Chiefs, it lay in the fact that Hornung, who had contributed so handsomely to the creation of the Green Bay dynasty, was the only Packer who failed to see action, the result of a pinched nerve in his neck that had not healed. "He could have played," said Lombardi, "had we really needed him. His neck still bothers him and we weren't inclined to take a chance. I asked him in the fourth quarter if he wanted to get in and he said no."