It rained for most of the week before the game, but the Packers enjoy working in the rain. "You keep your hat on all the time, and you can't hear the coaches yelling at you," a player said. "It gives you a sense of privacy. We don't get that very often."
Hornung was one of the few who did not like the rain much. The field at Green Bay's City Stadium had been resodded three weeks before, and it was still mushy. Since Hornung is both a runner and a kicker, a mushy field hurts him. He tested it Friday, found the footing soft and shook his head.
"You get knees on a field like this," he said. "You can't cut. You can't feel anything running, and trying to kick a Held goal out of turf like this is like trying to hit a wood out of the rough. It's too soft. You can't feel the ball."
Coach Lombardi told the Green Bay groundkeeper that it was the worst field in the NFL, and the groundkeeper, a pudgy, middle-aged man, ducked his head and said it would be all right for the game. The rains had stopped and a spanking breeze was blowing and he thought it would dry out and get hard, and when Lombardi told him to roll it with a steamroller to pack it down, the groundkeeper said the steamroller would put waves in the field.
September 20, 1964
"It's wavy as a ribbon now," Lombardi said. "I want it hard." "It will be hard," the groundkeeper said stubbornly. Oddly, the Packers were not tense before this game. Hornung, carrying a double burden—coming back after a year's suspension to prove to himself and the rest of the world that he could do it, and lifting the team, as well—was relaxed and happy and confident. "Vinnie told me I'd have to take a lot of conversation from the stands and from the players on the other clubs," he said. "I haven't had to take any so far, the only thing I've had from the other players—on other teams—is a welcome home. Rick Casares on the Bears went out of his way to tell me he was glad I was back and to wish me luck. So did Dave Whit-sell on the Bears. And a couple of others on other clubs. And the people in the stands have been real friendly. I'm glad. I don't hear the stands much anyway—there's too much noise to hear one guy yelling at you, but as far as I know, no one has yelled at me yet. I'm lucky."
The Packer team takes its cues from Hornung, a natural leader. He was free and easy in practice and so was the team. Maybe they remembered the week before the second Bear game last year, when Chicago murdered them in Chicago 26-7. They have seen movies of the game at least a hundred times since, and it would be surprising if they had forgotten it. In the week before that game they were grim and determined and their workout on Friday was a violent one. On the Friday before this game they laughed a good deal. Once Jim Taylor, the remarkably muscled fullback, went deep for a pass, turned his head just in time, and caught it. "Way to go, Iron Head," Hornung yelled.
"Now you've quit isometrics, you can turn your head," Lombardi said to Taylor, grinning. Lombardi is not much for grinning two days before an important game. Later Taylor swung wide on a power sweep, a play he and Hornung run superbly well. It is the force of the Green Bay offense. On this occasion Taylor swung out and threw a pass. It was a wobbly, slow pass that fell far short. Coming back to the huddle, Max McGee, the spread end, said, "Duck season has opened early. That one fluttered." Hornung said: "Looked like a duck shot getting off the water—but I never saw a duck fly that slow."
Dressing after the practice, Hornung smiled when Guard Fred Thurston walked by. Thurston slapped Hornung on the shoulder and posed briefly with his chest out. He leads Hornung and Taylor on the power sweeps and much of the success of their runs depends upon the blocking of Thurston and his running mate at guard, Jerry Kramer. "Fred C. Thurston," Fuzzy said, tapping himself on his chest. "God's gift to Paul Hornung." Hornung laughed easily. "You are right, baby," he said. "So right."
Jerry Kramer came into the dressing room, moving slowly and with evident pain. He had not been at practice; the night before he had been hit by a severe pain in his chest, and this morning, while the rest of the team worked, he had been at the hospital trying to find out what was wrong. He walked over to Hornungs locker, and Hornung's face grew serious. "How you feel, baby?" he said.
"It still hurts. They shot me with novocain, but it still hurts," Kramer said.
"They know what it is?" Hornung asked, his face worried. "I don't know," Kramer said. "Maybe an infection of the diaphragm. I don't know. It hurts." (Hornung also worried about Defensive Tackle Henry Jordan, who had pulled a groin muscle.)
Hornung, as usual, was laggard in dressing. McGee stopped by his locker. He was fully dressed. "Come on, Goat," he said. "Let's get home."
"I'm coming," Hornung said. "I just got to shower." Goat is short for Goat Shoulders, the name the Packers have given Hornung because of his unusually narrow shoulders. He has a thick neck—as thick as Jim Taylor's—but his shoulders are pinched and his arms are slender. He has powerful runner's legs and a broad, strong bottom; he is built like a triangle, with a narrow, slanted top.
Kramer was still standing by Hornung's locker. He smiled painfully. "You ought to play offensive guard awhile," he said. "I bet I'm two inches shorter than I was. All that pounding makes you short and wide."
"You'd look like me," Thurston said, coming by again and puffing out his considerable chest. Thurston's head sprouts directly from his thick, wide shoulders, with almost no neck, and Hornung smiled as he looked at him.
"Nope," he said. "Not me. I don't want to have to unbutton my shirt to blow my nose."
Hornung, McGee and Ron Kramer, the Packers' massive tight end, rent a rambling, red brick house about two blocks from the Green Bay stadium. It is equipped with a television set in the living room and another in the dining room, and most of the time the players watch television when they are not in meetings or practicing. On this Friday Hornung went to the airport to pick up his mother, who had flown up from Louisville to see the game. She comes to Green Bay once or twice a year to watch her son play.
After he picked her up, he went to the barber shop in the Northland Hotel to get a haircut. Lombardi was two barber chairs away, and both men slept through the haircuts. Jan, the barber who cut Hornung's hair, said, "He always does. You put on the clippers, and he goes to sleep."
He came back to the house later in the afternoon and played dominoes with McGee. He and Kramer and McGee play innocuous games of dominoes and cribbage to pass the time, complaining bitterly at a loss and crowing extravagantly over a win. They had dinner at a Green Bay restaurant called The Spot, which Hornung truly believes has the best steaks in the entire world.
Saturday morning McGee was the first up. "He's got an alarm in his head," Hornung said. "I've been rooming with him for eight years, and he's up at 8 o'clock in the morning no matter what time he gets to bed. It's uncanny." Kramer cooked breakfast, as he always does. He fried sausages and eggs and made toast and coffee and—when it was ready—he awakened Paul.
"You cook these eggs on the floor?" Hornung asked.
"The butter burned a little," Kramer said. "That's why they look like that."
"Good," said McGee. "Excellent, mother. They taste very good. Just the way I like them. Burned."
Saturday morning practice was at 10 o'clock, and Hornung, McGee and Kramer finished breakfast in plenty of time to be suited up and on the field well before 10. One Packer was late, and Lombardi, getting edgy now with only a little more than 24 hours to go before the game, fined him $50. The rest of the team greeted the fine with huge enjoyment. "A little more in the kitty," Hornung said. "We are going to have a fine fine party." The Packer levies go into a pot and the party is financed by them when the season ends.
As he had all week, Hornung worked hard and ran hard in practice. "I'm 212," he said. "That's the lightest I've ever been in the pros. I feel good. I was afraid of the contact when I came back. Not physically afraid, but afraid I might be injury-prone after the layoff. But so far I feel good running, and I throw as well as I ever did. You don't lose your throwing touch. It's there all the time, like riding a bicycle. I had to work on my blocking because the timing goes off. I kicked a few balls every day during the year I was away, so the kicking didn't bother me. I think I'll be all right. I hope so. I really hope so." He took his mother to lunch in the dining room of the Downtowner Motel, where she was staying. He asked a photographer not to take pictures of himself and his mother.
"She's a little tired of all this," he said apologetically. "If you have to have the pictures, I guess it will be O.K. But I would appreciate it very much if we could skip it." He went back to the house after lunch and watched the UCLA-Pittsburgh game on television, switching to the New York Yankee-Minnesota Twins baseball game during commercials. He watched an Irish hurling match off and on, too. He said little about the football. Once a Pitt back swung wide and went to the sideline, and Hornung said, quietly, "Cut," when the back should have cut. He went to sleep briefly during a tennis match from Forest Hills but roused himself to watch Arnold Palmer, Ken Venturi, Tony Lema and Bobby Nichols in the World Series of Golf. He pulled for Venturi and Nichols, friends of his. McGee brought some cleaning in that he had paid for; Hornung's share was nearly $15, and he grimaced. "Good thing I get it for half price," he said. He put on his coat and waved casually. "See you all in the morning," he said and walked out as if the next day was a day like any other. He went to pick up his mother to take her to dinner.
In the plush Green Bay dressing room Sunday morning Hornung was still loose. Some of the players, keyed high for this opening game with the Bears, lay on their backs in front of their lockers, legs up on the seats of their folding chairs, quiet and nervous. Hornung sat easily in his chair, stuffing knee and thigh pads into the pockets of the new bright-gold uniform trousers he would wear.
The field had hardened; the ground-keeper was right. Hornung kidded Norm Masters, the chunky Green Bay tackle whose unenviable assignment for the afternoon was to block the Bears' gigantic defensive end, Doug Atkins. "One thing," Hornung said. "Just be sure to hit him a good pop on 48." "I'll run between his legs," Masters said, grinning. "You are on your own."
The day was bright and cool and, as it turned out, Hornung blocked Atkins as soon as Masters did. The first Green Bay play from scrimmage sent Jim Taylor into the line, and Hornung helped Masters on Atkins. They collaborated well enough to sweep him out of the play, and Taylor ran for eight yards.
The rest of the day belonged to Hornung and the Packer lines, both of which dominated the Bears. But it was Hornung the Green Bay fans had come to see. He had played convincingly during the exhibition season, but Lombardi had used him sparingly. This afternoon he was in every offensive play for the Packers except two. Once, going for a good gain deep in Bear territory, he lost his shoe and had to repair to the sidelines for one play to replace it. Then, with 23 seconds left and Green Bay safely ahead 23-12, he stayed on the sideline as the offense took the field to run out the clock.
He carried the ball 15 times and gained 77 yards, most of it on a lovely, twisting 40-yard run which developed off the Green Bay power sweep. He started wide to his right, cut back sharply, outran a linebacker and then gave Defensive Back Dave Whitsell a good hip fake down-field, again cutting back hard to his left as he did. Whitsell hit his leg, but Hornung drove through and was finally dragged down 10 yards farther along by Safety Man Roosevelt Taylor.
He kicked three field goals, kicked off, threw and completed an option pass. One of the field goals was for 52 yards on a play that had never before succeeded in recent NFL history. (It was also used in Philadelphia last Sunday when the Eagles tried it against the Giants—but missed.) With eight seconds left in the half Elijah Pitts made a fair catch on the Green Bay 48. To the amazement of the crowd, the Packers lined up as if to kick off from the 48, and Hornung booted the field goal. The rule allows any team after a fair catch to put the ball in play by a kick or from the line of scrimmage. Quick thinking by the Packers and exceptional kicking by Hornung brought three points.
After the game Hornung slumped in weariness before his locker. The bright-gold trousers were grass-stained. "Boy, I'm pooped," he said. "I am really tired. I needed that one. I felt pretty good. How about that Kramer and Jordan? Nobody else would have played, feeling the way they did before the game."
Most of the rest of the team had showered, but Hornung sat and talked. "I didn't get a good piece of the ball on the long field goal," he said. "I was too low on it. My timing was a little off."
Bart Starr, whose locker is next to Hornung's, came back from the showers, and Hornung said: "Beautiful game, baby. You really called a beautiful game."
"Maybe I could have gone all the way on the run," Hornung said in answer to a question. "But I saw that little Taylor coming, and I knew I couldn't outrun him. After I got by Whitsell, I thought if I could jar Taylor real hard with a good stiff arm I could get away, but he came in under it. My timing was a little off. I guess I still need some work."
"He was quicker than ever," Lombardi said later. "We made some mistakes, but it was a fine effort by the team. They were ready for this one."
Hornung certainly was.