BEAVER DAM, Wis. – Marv Fleming's initial response to being elected to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame was one of indignation.
"My first reaction was 'Okay … why didn't it happen before?'" said Fleming.
Not long later, he got a wake up call. Not unlike the thought process that goes through your head when Coach Lombardi asked his trademark, "What the hell's going on out there?"
"I changed to 'Marvin, be thankful.' Not many guys get to be [in the Hall of Fame],'" said Fleming Thursday at a charity fundraiser in Beaver Dam, Wis.
Fleming played in Green Bay for seven seasons from 1963-1969 that included three world championships counting Super Bowls I and II.
His statistics weren't gaudy. He finished his 12 year professional career with 157 receptions for 1823 yards and 16 touchdowns. But that was a different era.
"Marv had a real tough job," said teammate and linebacker Dave Robinson, who will be presenting Fleming when he's inducted into the Hall of Fame this evening. "He followed Ron Kramer. Everybody thought that when Ron left and went to Detroit that the offense was going to suffer.
"The tight end is the key man on the Green Bay power sweep, and Marv stepped up and was excellent on the sweep. He did excellent. He was as good if not a better blocker than Ron Kramer. He had great hands. He caught the ball for us. We never missed a beat. Ron Kramer was missed, but Marv Fleming was the one who was there for the three consecutive world championships, '65-'67."
Perhaps Fleming's biggest claim to fame is his spot in Super Bowl lore, the first player to play in five Super Bowls, the first two with the Packers and then Super Bowls VI, VII and VIII with the Miami Dolphins following the '71 through '73 seasons.
That's part of the reason teammate and wide receiver Carroll Dale thought Fleming was worthy of such an honor.
"Marv is well deserving," said Dale. "Bart [Starr] and I wrote letters to the Hall of Fame board recommending that he be, because Marv went on twelve years. There's not many Packer Hall of Famers that played in five Super Bowls, and won four of them. So I think we'd be honored to have him join us."
From a statistical standpoint, 1966 was Fleming's best season. He had 31 receptions for 361 yards and two touchdowns. That was good for an average of just over two receptions per game and 25.8 yard per game. Not exactly what one would think of as Hall of Fame-type numbers by today's standards.
The tight end position has evolved in the years since Fleming played, to the point he almost has a hard time relating to the younger generation.
"Unbelievable," said Fleming. "They think the tight end is a guy that catches the ball. Somebody will compare me to [nineties-era tight end Mark] Chmura, you know? Two different type of systems.
"I caught three or four balls a game, and if you look at my record, I caught at least 90% of my balls. But we ran. Lombardi believed in, you keep the ball on the ground, you maintain the ball. You put it in the air, it's up for grabs. In our system, we ran, we ran, we ran. Because it's the system."
But that doesn't detract from what his former teammates know was a Hall of Fame career. Robinson knew he was an outstanding blocker and reliable receiver when given the chance. And that's what caused Dale to write a letter of recommendation in support of Fleming's induction.
But above all, Fleming was a winner. Those four Super Bowl rings can attest to that.
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