BY MIKE WARREN
GREEN BAY ‑ If ever there was a player who won the NFL Lottery, an argument could be made for Marv Fleming.
And while many other players may have found themselves in similar circumstances during their careers, Fleming was among the first.
Fleming’s NFL career spanned 12 seasons, during which he played in eight championship games, including five Super Bowls — the first to do so.
Fleming also played for two legendary head coaches – Vince Lombardi in Green Bay and Don Shula in Miami, and with two legendary quarterback – the Packers’ Bart Starr and the Dolphins’ Bob Griese.
Fleming was drafted out of Utah by the Denver Broncos in the ninth round of the AFL Draft on Dec. 1, 1962.
Two days later, Lombardi’s Packers took Fleming in the 11th round of the NFL Draft held in Chicago.
For Fleming, the decision was an easy one to make.
Choose an AFL team that was one of the worst in the inferior league, or join the Packers in Green Bay, where they had just won back-to-back NFL titles in 1961 and ‘62?
Fleming chose the two-time defending NFL champion Packers, who were coming into the 1963 season without star tailback Paul Hornung, who would serve a season-long suspension for betting on NFL games.
With Hornung’s pending absence, it was felt by many at the time the Packers would shift to more of a passing-dominated offense, thus the addition of Fleming, three other ends, six halfbacks, two quarterbacks (including Notre Dame’s Daryle Lamonica) and ten other offensive players in the ’63 draft.
However, with veteran pass catchers Boyd Dowler, Max McGee, and Ron Kramer, along with solid pass-catching backs like Jim Taylor, Elijah Pitts and Tom Moore, Fleming played a somewhat diminished role in Green Bay.
In his rookie season, Fleming hauled in seven passes for 132 yards (18.9 avg.) and two touchdowns – both coming from third-string quarterback John Roach.
The following season, Fleming caught just four passes for 36 yards.
With the departure of Ron Kramer after the 1964 season, and with an aging Max McGee, the prospects of Fleming moving up in the receiving corps pecking order looked promising.
However, Head Coach Vince Lombardi traded LB Dan Currie to the Los Angeles Rams for E Carroll Dale, who quickly became QB Bart Starr’s second-favorite target behind Boyd Dowler.
During the 1965 regular season, Fleming caught 14 passes for 141 yards and two scores. He did not have a catch in either of the team’s two playoff victories over Baltimore and Cleveland.
The 1966 season was the most productive of Fleming’s seven seasons in Green Bay.
He grabbed 31 throws for 361 yards and two scores. In the postseason, Fleming caught three passes for 50 yards in the NFL Championship game at Dallas Jan. 1, 1967.
In Super Bowl I two weeks later, Fleming snagged two throws for 22 yards.
The 1967 season figured to be another solid one for Fleming, from an offensive production standpoint.
But Lombardi was starting to mix second-year running backs Donny Anderson and Jim Grabowski into the passing game more and more.
Fleming was reduced to 10 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown during the regular season.
In the playoffs, which were now expanded, Fleming hauled in three catches for 30 yards against the Rams in the Western Conference Championship game played in Milwaukee.
Eight days later, Fleming recorded no statistics in Green Bay’s dramatic come-from-behind win over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Championship game, also known as “The Ice Bowl” because of its frigid -13 game-time temperature.
In 68-degree weather in Miami two weeks later in Super Bowl II, Fleming secured four Bart Starr passes for 35 yards.
“We had a team,” Fleming told Packerland, during a visit to Green Bay in July. “Being a Green Bay Packer was the ultimate of being on a team when everybody loved each other. We got along.”
In two seasons under Head Coach Phil Bengtson, Fleming made solid contributions, hauling in 25 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns in 1968 and 18 catches for 226 yards and two scores in 1969.
Before the start of the 1970 season, Bengtson traded Fleming to Miami for WR Jack Clancy, who spent just one season in Green Bay.
In Miami, where the Dolphins had entrenched veterans such as Paul Warfield, Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick, Fleming saw production similar to that in Green Bay.
During the 1970 campaign, Fleming brought down 18 passes for 205 yards.
By 1971, the Dolphins had assembled the nucleus of their Super Bowl teams.
During the regular season, Fleming grabbed 13 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
In the postseason, however, Fleming made his presence known.
In the longest game in NFL history — on Christmas day in 1971 — the Dolphins defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in the AFC Divisional Game.
The game lasted 82 minutes and 40 seconds.
With 1:36 left in regulation and Miami trailing 24-17, Miami quarterback Bob Griese found Fleming in the back of the end zone from five yards out to tie the game at 24.
Fleming had four catches for 37 yards and the game-tying touchdown.
The Dolphins went on to win on a Garo Yepremian field goal in the second overtime.
The Dolphins used a dominating ground game in the AFC Championship the following week, and Fleming did not record a catch.
He did, however, register one catch for 27 yards in a 24-3 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI.
In 1972, the Dolphins again had their focus on the championship — not realizing they would make history another way.
During the regular season, Fleming caught 13 passes for 156 yards and a score. In the playoffs, he grabbed five throws for 50 yards in the AFC Championship game versus Pittsburgh, after being shut out in the divisional round the week prior.
In Super Bowl VII, Fleming was targeted, but did not record a catch. He was, however, now part of the first team to go undefeated through an entire season.
Fleming spent two more seasons in Miami before retiring from football following the 1974 season, during which he caught just one pass for three yards, after grabbing three passes for 22 yards during the ’73 season, in which he won his fourth Super Bowl, as the Dolphins became the first team since Fleming’s 1966 and ’67 Packer teams to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
Marv Fleming was inducted in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 2010.