*An 11th-round draft choice from Utah in 1963, Fleming played seven seasons (1963-69) in a Packers uniform, appearing in 95 games - fifth most in club history among tight ends. As a tremendous blocker, he was a key component of the Packers' vaunted sweep. He also recorded 109 receptions for 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns during his Packers career.
He was a key player for the Packers' three straight championship teams (1965-67), appearing in Super Bowls I and II. Packers.com caught up with Fleming to ask him to share with fans his recollections of the most memorable game in which he played for Green Bay, aside from the two Super Bowls.*
When Packers fans reflect on or hear about the 1967 season, most of the attention is immediately focused on the famous "Ice Bowl" against the Dallas Cowboys and the subsequent victory in Super Bowl II over the Oakland Raiders, which turned out to be Vince Lombardi's last game as the team's head coach.
But for tight end Marv Fleming, the memories of the '67 season are tied up just as much in a couple of games that played a pivotal role in the Packers participating in the "Ice Bowl" in the first place.
Playing in their 13th regular-season game (out of 14) on Dec. 9, the Packers were at the Los Angeles Coliseum to face the Rams, who had lost just once all year and were 9-1-2 but trailing the unbeaten Baltimore Colts in the Western Conference's Coastal Division. Green Bay was 9-2-1 and had already clinched the Central Division crown over the Chicago Bears, who had five losses with two games to play.
Dating back to the second meeting of the 1960 season, the Packers had dominated the Rams, posting a 10-2-1 mark over a span of 13 head-to-head battles. But 76,637 West Coast fans, the largest crowd the Packers would play in front of all year (including Super Bowl II a month later) cheered their Rams to a big victory in a wild fourth quarter.
"We were winning and all we had to do was keep the ball," Fleming said. "Then they blocked one of our punts."
That they did. After the Packers recovered an L.A. fumble and then scored a touchdown on a Chuck Mercein 4-yard run with 2:19 left, Green Bay led 24-20. The Packers then subsequently stopped the Rams on fourth down at the Green Bay 44-yard line.
But the Packers went nowhere in three running plays (losing 3 yards, actually) and the Rams burned all three of their timeouts, forcing a punt with 54 seconds left. Donny Anderson's punt was then blocked by Anthony Guillory and returned by the Rams' Claude Crabb all the way to the Green Bay 5, and two plays later, quarterback Roman Gabriel hit Bernie Casey for the winning TD pass with just 34 seconds remaining.
"I just remember going out to Los Angeles and getting beat in the last minute like we did, and seeing the fans just go crazy," Fleming said. "They thought they had won the Super Bowl. They had finally beaten the Packers, and it left a heck of an impression on us to see all those people in the stands, a place that big and that large, seeing all of them yelling and screaming.
"Lombardi was (furious). He said we went out there for a vacation."
Indeed, the game-time temperature that day was 64 degrees, the warmest game the Packers had played since the third game of the season, on Oct. 1. But that would change, for both teams, soon enough.
The Rams went on to beat the Colts the following week to win the Coastal, setting up a rematch with the Packers for the Western Conference championship. That game, two weeks to the day after the contest at the balmy Coliseum, was at Milwaukee County Stadium in 20-degree weather with 12 mph winds, and the Packers did what everyone expected them to do in the elements.
"They had to come back and play us in Milwaukee on a cold day, which was a great day," Fleming said. "We came back here in the cold and they came with it, and they couldn't bear with it. We had the weather on our side, big time."
The Packers trailed 7-0 after one quarter but absolutely controlled the game over the final three periods. Travis Williams' 46-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, on a play Fleming recalled getting two key blocks, was the first of four unanswered Green Bay touchdowns in the 28-7 romp. Fleming also caught two passes for 22 yards in the game.
The win in the rematch with the Rams put the Packers into the NFL Championship, which became the "Ice Bowl," and that win propelled them to Super Bowl II and yet another title.
For Fleming, the games with the Rams also stood out that year because he spent much of those contests - and anytime Green Bay played L.A. - blocking future Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones.
Individual defensive statistics were not kept back then, so there's no way to specifically quantify Jones' impact in the two 1967 games. But rest assured he was a handful to face twice per season for Fleming, let alone twice in a span of 14 days in December of '67.
"He was so quick," Fleming said. "Him and (the Colts') Bubba Smith I had to block, and if I showed my hand, tilted it a little bit, or aimed my body, that sort of thing, they could smell it. They could see that I was coming their way.
"Having Forrest Gregg and Bob Skoronski as tackles with me to make those double-team blocks, it was that much better."
Fleming also credited his battles in practice with All-Pro linebacker Dave Robinson with helping him prepare for games against players like Jones and Smith, handling the duties of a tight end in the old-school way.
"Thanks to somebody like Dave, he made me the everyday ballplayer I was," Fleming said. "Dave was tough, and he was my opposition all the time. Lombardi loved to see the two of us go against each other.
"When you see that picture of Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston pulling on the Packer sweep, the reason that picture would look so good was I would seal everything off," Fleming continued, with a laugh. "One of the things I pride myself on is blocking. A tight end had to block, and if you could catch balls, that was a plus. Now if a guy doesn't catch passes, he's not a tight end."
Since his playing days ended, Fleming has been actively involved in charity work. For example, two years ago he helped fund an operation to separate a pair of Siamese twin boys from Zimbabwe. The operation was successfully performed at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, and the boys are now nearly 4 years old.
To continue to support his charitable work, and in conjunction with his upcoming induction into the Packers Hall of Fame, Fleming is offering a limited edition of 81 - matching his Green Bay uniform number - autographed 16-by-20-inch canvas photo prints. All proceeds from sales of the prints will go to various charities, including the Herbie Fund (SickKids) and Tom Brown's Rookie League, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching youth sports in a positive atmosphere. Brown is a former Green Bay teammate of Fleming's.
For more information on the Fleming limited edition prints, go to www.mthreemarketing.com
Tickets for the July 17 induction banquet, which begins with the doors opening at 4:30 p.m. with a cash bar, and dinner and program to follow at 7 p.m., are $125 each. To purchase tickets, call Gwen Borga at 920/965-6984, or e-mail her at email@example.com.