Growing up in tiny Grafton, Wis. 80 miles from Green Bay, contributing photographer Ron Modra lived and died for the Packers. He pored over team yearbooks, gathered with his buddies around the TV set on Sundays to cheer on the green and gold and never stopped talking about his beloved Packers. "I'm sure any kid who grew up in Wisconsin during the '60s still thinks a lot about the old Packers," says Modra, 37. "They were a team of wonderful personalities. They were also a wonderful team—period."
With Super Bowl XX approaching, Modra got the idea of crisscrossing the country to photograph surviving members of the Packer team that, in 1967, beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I. Modra's mission was to find out how the athletes who had upheld the honor of the NFL against the upstart AFL had themselves held up. The resulting photo essay (page 56) was clearly a labor of love. "It was such a pleasure to meet all the guys," Modra says. "When you're a kid you have high expectations of your heroes, but there were no disappointments."
Modra got a helping hand on the story from Packer-turned-author Jerry Kramer, who wrote his latest book, Distant Replay, "to help me measure my own thoughts and memories"—an impulse not unlike Modra's. Kramer and ex-Packer guard Fuzzy Thurston and his wife, Susan, helped Modra track down other old Packers. By the time he put away his camera, Modra had spent at least two hours with each of 22 former players, plus Olive Jordan Frey, the widow of Henry Jordan, who was deeply moved when the photographer told her about the pictorial reminiscence he was preparing.
Along the way Modra encountered a number of obstacles. Bart Starr preferred posing in Birmingham, Ala. at one of his businesses. But Modra caught up with Starr in Phoenix, where Starr is involved with a local effort to land an NFL franchise. With some coaxing, Starr was photographed as shadows of darkness covered the Arizona desert. In Minneapolis, Max McGee had a sport coat chewed on by a hungry horse while Modra posed them together. But the Packers came through for Modra in '67, and they did it again this time.
We think you'll agree that Modra came through, too.