"IN Memoriam, MAX MCGEE"
HELMET HUT, HELMET REFLECTIONS, NOVEMBER 2007:
IN MEMORIAM, MAX MCGEE
By Dr. Ken
From 1936 until 1949, with only 1940 as an “off year”, there was a
McGee brother playing football for the White Oak, Texas High School
team. Max was the youngest of the five McGee boys and as a 6’3”, 200
pound fullback, he could hardly be referred to as anyone’s “little
brother”. A two-time All State selection, Max’s incredible senior
season ended with a twelve game accumulation of 3048 rushing yards,
300 passing yards, 166 points scored, and a punting average of 43.7
yards. His seventeen interceptions marked him as a phenomenal
two-way star and he led his 1949 Roughneck squad to the Class B
Region VI Championship. He finished his high school career in that
final game with 338 rushing yards, a 19.9 yards-per-carry average,
and two TD’s. A standout in track where he excelled in the rare
combination of discus, shot, and sprint events, basketball, and
baseball, Max’s thirteen varsity letters made him one of the most
highly recruited athletes in the state.
At Tulane University, he continued his excellent level of play, leading the SEC frosh in rushing. His three years on the Green Wave varsity found him as their leader as a rusher, kick returner, punt return man, and punter in each season. He played with the Green Bay Packers as a wide receiver in 1954 and led the NFL in punting. He missed the 1955 and 1956 seasons, serving as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force during those two years but returned in 1957. In 1958 he led the entire NFL in punting yards, average net yards per punt, and in yards-per-reception average. A Pro Bowl selection in 1961, he was the Packers’ leading receiver every year from 1958 through ’62 and their punter. Even though his production fell due to age and injuries during the great Lombardi championship years, McGee was an integral part of the Packer dynasty, providing clutch play and leadership. His versatility and excellence were a bit overshadowed by the events leading up to Super Bowl 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs and because of this, his longtime contributions have been overlooked by some.
After a 1966 season in which he caught but four passes, he made the most of his time before the first championship game between the AFL and NFL, enjoying the nightlife of Los Angeles and missing the team’s curfew the night prior to kickoff. When Boyd Dowler, Green Bay’s starting receiver went down with a separated shoulder on the second series of the game, McGee had to borrow a teammate’s helmet to enter the game, having left his in Green Bay with the absolute certainty he would not see any game action. Noting Dowler's injury, Lombardi, almost by instinct, yelled for McGee to enter the game, by-passing Bob Long, the receiver who normally played behind Dowler. The improbable and magical day began with Max McGee reaching behind him to haul in a thirty-seven yard touchdown pass from Bart Starr, the first touchdown pass scored in Super Bowl history, and ended with seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns. The 35-10 Packer win sealed McGee’s place in history and in the memories of all fans but for his teammates, Max was always an extraordinarily dependable player and loyal teammate who could be called upon for a clutch performance. Retiring after the 1967 season, his twelfth in the NFL, McGee was very successful as one of the founders of the Chi-Chi’s restaurant chain and after selling his interest in the venture, devoted his time to charitable causes while serving as the Packers radio analyst for many seasons.
On October 20, 2007, Max McGee passed away but left football fans of an era past, with memories of a great career.