When Max McGee showed up for work on Jan. 15, 1967, he was badly hungover, having spent the previous night bar-hopping with the company of two local women in Los Angeles. Everyone has shown up to work hungover — that’s nothing new, especially for an Air Force veteran. The only problem was that Max McGee wasn’t in the Air Force anymore. He was a Green Bay Packer, and he was supposed to play the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl that day.
You really can’t blame McGee. He hadn’t played well that season, and he wasn’t even a starter. He didn’t expect to play at all that day. He even left his helmet at the hotel. He tried to avoid eye contact with legendary Packers quarterback Bart Starr when he finally came home, desperate to get a few hours of sleep before the game.
But, like the champion he was soon to be, he showed up for work and did his job – in a legendary way.
McGee had been in the NFL since 1954 and was in his mid-thirties when he made his appearance in the first-ever NFL championship. But he was still a young buck between the 1955 and 1956 seasons, and he served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force at that time. He returned to the NFL after his discharge and became the Packers’ leading receiver for four of the next six years. It was in 1959 that Vince Lombardi took the reins of the Packers organization, directing their stellar success during the mid- to late- years of McGee’s career.
The 1967 season was good for the Packers but not for the aging McGee. He had only caught four passes the whole season and was looking forward to retiring. The chances of him playing in the Super Bowl were slim. So despite a curfew for the team, he took two flight attendants from his flight to Los Angeles out on the town, returning to the hotel at 6:30 in the morning. When he got to the game that day, he told fellow wide receiver Boyd Dowler that he was in pretty bad shape and that he hoped Dowler would be able to play the whole game.
Dowler was injured on the second drive of the game.
Coach Lombardi called for McGee to get into the game. Having forgotten his helmet, he borrowed someone’s and took the field. That’s how history began. Just a few plays later Starr passes the ball to McGee, who makes an amazing one-handed catch and runs the ball 37 yards into the end zone, scoring the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.
Not only would McGee score the first Super Bowl touchdown – the first touchdown of that game – he would score two touchdowns that day, for a total of seven passes for 138 yards. His hangover play is one of the top Super Bowl performances by a wide receiver ever, even in the days when running the ball was more prevalent than airing it out.
Even though QB Bart Starr was named MVP that day, the title probably should have gone to McGee, all things considered.
This article by Blake Stilwell originally appeared on We Are the Mighty
Feature image: screen capture from YouTube