Green Bay Packers greats Mark Chmura, Greg Koch and Marv Fleming were inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on Saturday night at Lambeau Field. Coming one day after Johnny Jolly was suspended for at least the 2010 season because of a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy, there stood Chmura, whose name was forever besmirched for an alleged sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl at a post-prom party in 2000.
There stood Koch, who spent a good portion of his 16-minute speech railing against athletes who act like fools despite "winning the lottery" of professional sports.
And, finally, there stood Fleming, a pillar of society who learned the lesson of football and life from the great Vince Lombardi.
For Chmura, it was a day he was pretty sure would never come.
After sitting out his rookie season with a back injury, Chmura became a vital cog in the Packers' rebirth. From 1993 through 1999, Chmura caught 188 passes with 17 touchdowns. A Pro Bowler in 1995, 1997 and 1998, he averaged 46.3 catches and had all of his touchdowns.
The alleged incident came in April 2000. He was charged in May of that year and released in June. He had mostly been shut out of the organization in the years since until that chill began thawing in the last year or so.
Marv Fleming, Greg Koch and Mark Chmura. Bill Huber/Packer Report
"You know, I really (didn't) know (that he'd be inducted)," Chmura told a handful of reporters during a pre-banquet news conference in the Lambeau Field media auditorium. "I saw all the guys from my era going in. I probably wasn't too sure whether I was going to go in. The last couple of years, I kind of skirted away, didn't follow too much who was going, because probably in the back of my mind, I didn't really know if I was going to be able to."
That was obvious when the phone call came.
"It's kind of a fun story," he said. "I was running late to go to one of my son's basketball games. I saw the ‘920' number, which typically is something to do with the organization here. I let it go, let the answering machine pick it up and they didn't leave a message. Then they called my cell phone. Didn't pick that up and they recalled my home phone again. I picked it up and it was Mike Gage, and he told me that I was going to be in the Class of 2010. I was kind of in shock. It was kind of a surreal moment. Very exciting."
Koch was a standout offensive tackle for the Packers from 1977 through 1985, an era known mostly for powerful offenses and pitiful defenses. Today, Koch is a trial lawyer in Houston. Perhaps coincidentally, considering Jolly is from Houston and was arrested for alleged felony possession of codeine in Houston in July 2008, Koch talked at length about how athletes are wrongly put on a pedestal.
"If I were talking to young players today," said Koch, "and I saw ‘em, I'd say, ‘Let me tell you something. You have just hit the lottery. And don't ask me how I know this, but if you're going through an ATM at 2 o'clock in the morning, it's never for a good reason.'
"Get off the street, play this game."
The first seven years of Fleming's 12-year career were spent in Green Bay. He was on the winning team in Super Bowls I and II under Lombardi and played in three more Super Bowls with Miami — with two wins — under Don Shula. The receiving stats weren't anything special — 157 receptions and 16 touchdowns — but he was a tireless and punishing blocker.
"It's a super pleasure being here and part of the Dave Robinsons, the Willie Woods, Herb Adderleys, Bart Starrs," Fleming said. "I'm on that team. I was a Packer player. Now I'm on a super Packer team. Whether they throw me passes or whether I have to block, I'm a team player. All I'm looking forward to is, at the end of the day, did we win? When I go home at night, at the end of the day, I'm going to say, ‘Marvin, how did you do?' When I put in 100 percent, which I do, I don't care what people think, I don't care what people say because I know I was a football player."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.