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Fortunate Fleming happy to be alive

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

GREEN BAY – Former Green Bay Packers player Marv Fleming was the first NFL player to play in five Super Bowls, but to this day, he feels lucky to be alive.

The tight end Fleming was involved in a catastrophic car accident during his college days but bounced back to have a long, 12-year career with Green Bay and the Miami Dolphins.

“To be a part of the chosen few to even play professional football, I feel fortunate,” said Fleming, who attended college at the University of Utah. “In my life, I have always written down things I wanted to accomplish – go to school, graduate and get a degree. Playing in five Super Bowls, I feel fortunate. I’ve had a lot of help in my life, so my philosophy has been to help the guy lower than I am. I am also happy to have my current good health.”

Fleming almost never made it Green Bay at all.

Marv Fleming

“Marv Fleming may be the most fortunate player ever,” he continued. “George, my roommate in college, asked me to go home with him at Thanksgiving – I had a new Volkswagen. We drove from Salt Lake City to San Francisco, and then on the way back to college, I told him I would drive first and then he could drive. It was snowing, the roads were slippery and there was black ice. We were out of control going downhill with a big truck coming at us. I yelled ‘George, the guardrail, the guardrail.’ We went through the guardrail, tumbled and went over a 150-foot cliff and into the Truckee River. Once I got my senses, I felt water coming into the car. I didn’t know which way was up, but I grabbed George’s hair – I think he was knocked out – and pulled him up, going through the sunroof. Even today, I can feel the coldness of that water. We both got out.”

Fleming said a gentleman along the bank of the river helped pull them out of the water.

“I woke up in the hospital with a broken neck,” said Fleming, who is currently 77 years old and lives in California. “That was one thing in my life that makes me feel so happy to be here today.”

Fleming also pointed out that his roommate was no ordinary man named George – it was George Seifert, the legendary head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 1989-1996 who helped the team win Super Bowls XXIV and XXIX.

Fleming, a Packers Hall of Fame inductee in 2010, recovered from his neck injury and went on to play for Green Bay during the Vince Lombardi days.

He helped the team win Super Bowls I and II.

Arriving in Titletown as an 11th-round draft pick in 1963 (Lombardi’s fifth season), Fleming also helped the team win three consecutive World Championships and played in the famous “Ice Bowl,” a 21-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 31, 1967.

The Ice Bowl was played in -48-degree windchill and is most famously known for quarterback Bart Starr’s last-second sneak to win the game.

“It was cold,” Fleming laughed. “I had woke up early in the morning and threw a glass of water out and remember watching it vaporize.”

After his time with the Packers ended, Fleming played for another legendary coach in Don Shula for five years.

He played in Super Bowls VI, VII and VIII with the Dolphins, helping the team win the last two.

“We didn’t lose Super Bowl VI to the Cowboys,” Fleming said. “Time ran out on us.”

As if winning four Super Bowls wasn’t enough, Fleming played for two of the best-known NFL coaches ever.

“Coach Lombardi had a big influence on my life,” said Fleming. “The harder you work, the luckier you get. Shula was a good coach, but at the time, Lombardi was far ahead of him. I think the players had more respect for Lombardi.”

Fleming’s 1972 season with Miami is still the only perfect season in NFL history.

“When a team is getting close to being perfect, I get concerned,” Fleming smiled. “The year New England almost did it in 2007 but lost to New York in the Super Bowl, I came to the conclusion, ‘At least we were the first.’ When the Patriots lost, I hadn’t watched the game. I was at the grocery store, and some guy came running by yelling, ‘The Giants won, the Giants won!’ I didn’t know who the guy was, but here we were hugging in the grocery store with everyone clapping.”

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