The NFL is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Part of the league’s look back on its fabulous history are many interesting features and documentaries broadcast on the NFL Network.
I recently caught a segment on Super Bowl I, a 35-10 Green Bay Packers victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 15, 1967. The game was played at the famed Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a stadium I have been to many times.
I grew up a Los Angeles Rams fan and still count Roman Gabriel, Merlin Olsen, Lawrence McCutcheon and Eric Dickerson among my favorite players of all time. But I have always had an affinity for the Packers. Partly because their coach, Vince Lombardi, is a mythical figure and they have had so many great players in their franchise history.
The Packers won the first two Super Bowls. Over the years, I have had the chance to interview several members from those teams. I consider those conversations among the highlights of my career.
The first Packer I ever interviewed was Jim Weatherwax in January 1997. A defensive tackle, he played three years for Green Bay (1966, 1967, 1969) and saw action in Super Bowls I and II.
Weatherwax is a guy most of you have probably never heard of, but he holds a special connection with me. We both graduated from Redlands High School in Southern California. He was two decades ahead of me.
Weatherwax was more of a basketball star in high school. His coach at Redlands was Jerry Tarkanian. Yep, the same guy who chewed towels on the sidelines for UNLV and Fresno State, among other college programs. “Tark” coached two years at my school in the early days of his career.
Weatherwax began his collegiate career at San Bernardino Valley College, a two-year institution about 15 minutes from Redlands. I attended SBVC in the early 1980s.
From SBVC, Weatherwax went to West Texas State and Cal State Los Angeles before being selected by Lombardi in the 11th round of the 1965 NFL Draft.
Weatherwax was living in Dana Point, Calif., when I caught up with him. Today, the 76-year-old resides in Loveland.
Next up for me on the Packers interview trail was Hall of Fame right tackle Forrest Gregg. He was living in the Broadmoor area when we chatted in 2009. We mostly talked about his book “Winning in the Trenches: A Lifetime of Football.”
Gregg was a giant of a man. He was patient with me as I gushed over his career as a player and coach. Gregg started for the Packers in those first two Super Bowls. He retired after the 1971 season as a member of the Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys.
Gregg died in April of this year, three days after I had my right hip replaced. I was lying in a hospital bed in Lone Tree when I received the news.
Two weeks after interviewing Gregg, I caught up with Willie Davis, the Packers’ Hall of Fame left defensive end. Davis owned a home in the Broadmoor area and was a neighbor of Gregg’s.
Davis retired a Packer after the 1969 season and had a successful career as a businessman. He is 85 today.
In 2011, I caught up with quarterback Don Horn. He was living in the Northgate area of town when I called him to talk about his days as the backup to the legendary Bart Starr.
Horn was Lombardi’s last first-round pick with the Packers in 1967. He played four seasons with the team before ending his career with the San Diego Chargers in 1974.
Horn fell in love with Colorado when he was playing for the Denver Broncos in 1971 and 1972 and purchased his first home in Colorado Springs in 1978 in the Templeton Gap area of town. He is 74 today.
The last Packer I interviewed is the greatest. Bart Starr took my call at his Birmingham, Ala., office in 2013 when I wrote a feature story on him for a Christian publication. He was every bit as kind to me on the phone as he appeared in every interview. To this day, the 45 minutes I had conversing with Starr rank as a defining moment in my career.
Starr will always be – to me – the most significant Packer player of all time. I say that will all due respect to Don Hutson, Curley Lambeau, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Jerry Kramer, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Reggie White.
When Starr died on May 26 of this year, the football world lost one of its greats. Those who grew up marveling at Starr’s greatness remember when he was a larger than life hero.
Thanks for walking with me down memory lane.
Danny Summers has been covering sports at all levels in the Pikes Peak region since 2001. Send your story ideas and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.