THE MAJIK MAN. He pulls the trigger. He brings them back from the brink. Majkowski is a third-year pro out of Virginia, where his exploits as an option quarterback were so lightly regarded that he wasn't drafted until the 10th round. He shared the job with Randy Wright in '87 and again last year. The fans loved Majkowski because he was an action guy—a terrific athlete who scrambled a lot and made things happen, good and bad—but the coaching staff wasn't so sure. "His arm never was right last year," says Joe Clark, the offensive assistant who arrived in Green Bay after Lindy Infante was named coach in February 1988. "We were worried about him."
In the last game of the season, Majik brought the Pack back with two touchdown passes to beat the Phoenix Cardinals 26-17 in Tempe. They were the two most significant passes of his career, because if Green Bay had lost, it would have tied the Dallas Cowboys for the worst record in the league and thus would have had the first pick in the draft. The Packers would have used it to grab UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman.
"Aikman was at that Cards game," says Tom Braatz, Green Bay's executive vice-president for football operations. "Afterward, I ran into him at a Mexican restaurant in Phoenix. He was with a girl better looking than him. We talked. I said, 'Well, you're a Cowboy now.' "
Infante, who was coach Forrest Gregg's offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and had installed the cerebral passing system that got the Bengals into the '82 Super Bowl, wasn't sure that Majik was the man to run his show. Athletes didn't impress Infante. He was looking for brains. "In the off-season he told me something I never forgot," says Majkowski. "He said, I want you to be a manipulator, not a gunslinger.' So I became a student. I was in here every day, looking at film."
The kid had brains, to be sure, but he had something else—hunger. "Ever since I was six years old, the only thing I wanted to be was an NFL quarterback," he says. "Every place I've ever been, I was like a big secret. I always had confidence in myself, but no one else did. Maybe if I'd been a warm-weather quarterback or played in a passing system, it would have been easier."
He played high school ball in Depew in the upper New York State snowbelt. As a senior he broke his hand in two places, and the colleges said, See ya. "Syracuse suggested that I spend a year at Fork Union [Va.] Military Academy, so I went there and my father paid for it," says Majkowski. "Then Syracuse forgot about me. I wound up at Virginia. I was a good option quarterback, and you know where option QBs get drafted—in the 10th round."
The Packers signed him for a salary of $65,000, with $10,000 up front. From that humble beginning has emerged the Majik Man, who will make about $400,000 this year. Infante says Majkowski's success has come from his dedication to learning the system, which calls for a complex set of reads and adjustments on the go, not only for Majik but also for all five receivers. Center Blair Bush says the key to Majik's ability to bring the team from behind is his "almost maniacal competitiveness in football, darts, anything he can beat you at. He never feels we're out of a game, and it's rubbed off on everyone."
THE TALENT. What talent? The Packers haven't put anyone in the Pro Bowl for the past three seasons. Not that they didn't have deserving players. In Green Bay everyone knew that outside linebacker Tim Harris was one of the best in the business, but around the league he was regarded as a supernudnick, a chatterbox who said anything that came into his head and fired an imaginary six-gun after sacks. Last year Harris had 13½ sacks, fifth-best in the league, and this season he has 16½, including two on Sunday, which makes him No. 1.
"Talking is just my way of psyching myself," says Harris, a formidable force at 6'5½", 260 pounds, though he's officially listed at 235. "Some guys get upset. Tim Irwin, the Vikings' tackle, dumped water on me one time. Some guys laugh. When we played the 49ers, I was yelling to their bench, and Eric Wright, their cornerback, yelled at me, 'Hey, Tim, how many sacks you got?' I said, 'Twelve and a half,' and he said, 'No, I mean today.' I said, 'One, and I'm gonna get it right now.' Then I got a sack on the next play and fired my six-gun at him."
Brent Fullwood and Sterling Sharpe were Green Bay's No. 1 draft choices in '87 and '88, respectively. Fullwood was hot and cold in his first two seasons. Sharpe had 55 catches last year but few big ones. He scored only once. Fullwood, who has gained 736 yards this year, has turned into the team's heavy-duty runner and shown all the toughness he displayed in his glory years at Auburn, where he averaged seven yards a carry.