P.A. Announcer Hangs It Up After 40 Years


As the thermometer read 13 below-zero and Bart Starr snuck in from the 1-yard line behind the daylight-clearing blocks of Jerry Kramer and Ken Bowman, Gary Knafelc made his most memorable call during the Packers' most memorable play.

"Bart Starr. Quarterback Sneak. Touchdown. Champions," he declared after the last play of the famed "Ice Bowl," the 1967 NFL Championship game which propelled the Packers to the first Super Bowl.

Knafelc was there for that call just as he was for nearly every other. After serving as the public address announcer for every Packers home game from 1964 to 2004, he has announced his retirement from the booth.

"He did it because of his feelings for the organization," Packers President and CEO Bob Harlan said. "He was always a very dedicated guy and loved the Green Bay Packers."

Knafelc felt that passion during the Ice Bowl despite offering a succinct description of its penultimate play. But he had learned not add too much color from the press box early on.

During the first game he ever called, an intrasquad contest between the Packers offense and defense, Vince Lombardi served as his spotter, helping him identify the players. As Hornung received a pitch from Starr, Knafelc made the call.

He announced: "And Peerless Paul--,"

No sooner had Hornung's first name left his mouth when Lombardi threw a folding chair against the corrugated wall in the press box. He thrust his finger in Knaflec's face.

"That will be enough," he said.

Despite that reproach, the Hall of Fame coach did Knafelc a great favor, offering the P.A. duties to the nine-year Packers veteran after the 1963 season. Knafelc responded with an emphatic yes.

"I said yes before I even thought about it because I was so used to saying yes to him," he said. "You just didn't talk to Coach Lombardi. Nobody did."

But Knafelc had the credentials for the job. He overcame a stuttering problem to host several banquets and public speaking engagements while working in public relations for Miller Brewing Company.

His voice work included gigs in front of the camera. He hosted the first Packers television show called "Packerama." Under the stage name Gary Kincaid, he even had a role in Palm Springs Weekend but did not pursue a full-time career, choosing his family and profitable school supply business over the tinsel of Hollywood. That business would merge with Valley School Supply, owned by former Packers Willie Davis, Ron Kostelnik and Bob Skoronski.

His experience with the Packers also made him a natural choice as P.A. announcer. A flanker for five years before becoming a tight end, he had an unforgettable play against the defending champion Lions in 1955. The Packers were coming off of a four-win season.

Because the Lions were covering Packers wide receiver Bill Howton tightly, Knafelc approached quarterback Tobin Rote during the game's waning moments. He said he could deceive the defense.

"As far as I'm concerned everyone in the stadium thinks it's going to Bill Howton," Knafelc said. "I know I can beat them on a short post."

So he caught the high and hard pass. (To this day Knafelc thinks Rote threw it that way so they would have one more play if he failed to convert). The 28-yard touchdown pass won the game, 20-17.

Joyous fans carried him off the field, the only time a Packers player has received such a tribute. One child even gave Knafelc 50 cents during the celebration. Officials had to sweep the fans off the field to attempt the extra point.

Loyal Packers fans remember that scene to this day.

"He was someone everyone knew from his playing days," Harlan said.

After an on-the-field career in which he scored the last touchdown in the old City Stadium and the first one in the new City Stadium, he worked behind the scenes for the Packers as well.

His P.A. job had great perks, giving him the chance to see every Packers home game in a cozy environment.

"I think the best part was you didn't have to be in the cold weather," he quipped.

Knafelc would arrive to each game two-and-a-half hours before kickoff to work on pronunciations and read through his announcements, presentations and advertisements. His son Greg, who worked for the Packers as a spotter, would identify the defensive players while Gary identified the offensive players.

As the years went by, the job became more demanding. The amount of copy greatly increased. The P.A. announcer must read five times as many commercials and several more special events than when Knafelc first started. He began those duties 50 minutes before each game and had to refrain from speaking when the Packers huddled or lined up for a play.

"It's kind of hectic," he said.

After 40 years of service, he approached Harlan a month ago about his retirement. Knafelc has a winter home near Orlando, Fla., and a daughter and two grandchildren. With the NFL regular season now running into January followed by playoff games and an increasing number of games falling on holidays, he was spending and less and less time with them.

"It's kind of silly to have a place down there and not be able to go down to it," he said.

But when he is in town, Knafelc still will have a place at Packers home games. Harlan granted him a seat in the press box for all games at Lambeau Field.

"He can continue to feel a part of it," he said. "The Packers remember those that have contributed to the organization in the past. We keep them a part of the family, and Gary's a part of the family."

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