Die-hard of the Week

Doug Gardner of La Crescent, MN, recalls in a story how he met former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Henry Jordan after a game nearly 40 years ago. Here is Gardner's account:

During the pivotal sixties, the Green Bay Packers continued to capture the eye of Americans as the mighty Packers marched relentlessly through the National Football League, winning five National Football League (NFL) World Championships from 1961 to 1967.

People across the nation were enamored with such perfection from the team coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi. Professional athletes were idolized by almost every young man involved in junior high, high school, and college athletics. The Green Bay Packers were the best organization professional sports had to offer at that time and is still the best today.

During my days in junior high school from 1961 through high school in 1968, my Monday mornings revolved around the Green Bay Packers winning or losing on Sundays. Whenever they'd lose, I'd be miserable for days. I held every Packer player in such high esteem, they were like gods to me and I felt they could and should do no wrong.

When I was a senior year in high school in the fall of 1966, a friend of mine, Mike, invited me to go to a football game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The Packers were going to play the Minnesota Vikings. Mike's father I was informed, was a college buddy of Fuzzy Thurston, the left guard for the Packers. Thurston had sent tickets for the game to Mike's dad, who had his own airplane. We flew to Green Bay for the day to see my beloved Packers!

After we touched down at Austin Strauble Field, we took a taxi to Lambeau Field, and as we walked across the parking lot to the stadium, my heart started to pound as a chill ran through my body. Just seeing Lambeau Field so close was such a thrill.

That November afternoon, the Packers chased Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton all over the field and lost to the Vikings. I was "miffed". My attitude quickly changed however when Mike informed me that we were invited to a party after the game at the home of Henry Jordan who was a defensive lineman for the Packers. We were given the address and directions to Jordan's home, which was within walking distance of the stadium. By the time we found Jordan's house, the game had already been over for about forty-five minutes. Not wanting to be too early, we strolled the neighborhood because we noticed a few familiar names on the mailboxes...they were names of other Packers players. After ringing the doorbell at Jordan's home, we were invited in and were escorted to the large and well-finished basement of Jordan's home.

Approximately a half hour later, Henry Jordan came down the steps and immediately introduced himself to us. It was apparent Fuzzy Thurston informed him that we would be there as Fuzzy's guests. Jordan was a very gracious host. Now, one by one, other Packer players came down the steps…first there was Doug Hart a defensive back, then there was wide receiver Boyd Dowler. Each was dressed in what appeared to be similar gray sharkskin suits. Hart's was a shiny light gray suit and Dowler's was a shade darker, but also very "shiny". Next came Ray Nitschke, then Jerry Kramer, Jim Taylor, and Carroll Dale, followed by Forrest Gregg. Later came Bart Starr.

Everyone was either dressed in a suit and tie or sport coat and tie. After seeing Starr come in, my interest in others soon vanished. What I noticed about each of the players, was that most of them walked straight to the refrigerator or bar and had a drink … some even lit up cigarettes. Their wives trickled in two and three at a time and everyone mingled in small groups throughout the room.

Jordan took Mike and me around and introduced us to a number of the players. Here we were with the best football team in the entire world…I mean the World Champions…my heroes!

Later in the day the weather was suppose to turn bad and so Mike's dad periodically checked the weather with the Green Bay airport. After we'd been at the party for a couple hours, it was decided we should leave before the freezing rain would hit. Mike and I went over to thank "Mr. Jordan" for allowing us to come to the party and informed him that we had to leave. Jordan expressed genuine disappointment as he took Mike and me upstairs. He pulled a couple of black and white action pictures of himself from a kitchen drawer and autographed each of them for us. That was AWESOME!

That week, I sent a letter to Henry Jordan thanking him for allowing us to come to the party and to thank him once again for the picture. Henry Jordan had an address that was very easy to remember.

In my letter I asked him where I could call or write to purchase a team picture of the Packers. The following week I received a 9 X 7 envelope in the mail that was postmarked from Green Bay with Henry Jordan's return adress. In it was a colored team photo. Better yet, on the backside were autographs of most of the Packer players as well as the assistant coaches and head coach Vince Lombardi. Jordan wrote "Good Luck Doug, Henry Jordan #74" in the upper left corner. The autographs were not "stamped" replicas...they were all original signatures. One player scribbled his name out and rewrote it, and the autographs were written in various colors of ink or in pencil.

Shortly after I received this "priceless" picture, the Green Bay Packers won the very first Super Bowl ever played in January, 1967.

Just recently, my two sons took me to Packer FanFest for my birthday. I took my picture, hoping to show it to some of the Packer players who were on that team. I never got close to Bart Starr or Paul Hornung. But I was able to show it to Jerry Kramer during an autograph session I won. Kramer's very words to me were, "Oh my God, this is amazing!" He reached out his hand to shake mine and thanked me for bringing it and that it brought back memories and told me how wonderful a man Henry Jordan was and how sad it made him to see him die at such a young age. I also showed the picture and autographs to Packer president Bob Harlan, who told me, "Don't ever let that pictureout of your sight".

On Saturday morning before Fan Fest opened, I drove my sons directly to the home where Jordan lived. It was thirty-nine years since I'd been to Jordan's house, and my sons were quite amazed I was able to drive right to it. I now have a large colored photograph of Henry Jordan's home to go along with my memories from the fall of 1966.

Editor's note: To be considered for PackerReport.com's Die-hard of the Week, e-mail a photo, along with your name, city, state and any interesting information or story that you feel makes you a worthy Packer Die-hard to: Managing editor Todd Korth at packrepted@aol.com.

PackerReport.com will feature at least one or more Packer Die-hards of the Week each Saturday.

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