During the first Super Bowl, played 51 years ago on Jan. 15, a Hokie actually reached the end zone.
Unfortunately, an official’s flag negated the play, much to the dismay of HYPERLINK “http://www.hokiesports.com/football/jerseys/dale.html” Carroll Dale, who had hauled in a 64-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bart Starr in the second quarter. A linesman called a motion penalty on the Green Bay Packers.
“Honestly, after it was over, we looked at it over and over and there was no motion or movement,” Dale said via phone, softly chuckling. “It was solid. That was one of my memories. I had the record for the longest touchdown called back (in a Super Bowl). I think someone has broken that (since then).”
As the NFL celebrates the latest version of what is arguably the greatest sporting event in the world, Dale often gets asked his thoughts on the first Super Bowl and the growth of the NFL over the years. He and the Packers knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 on that fateful day at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Dale was the first Virginia Tech player to appear in a Super Bowl, but certainly not the last. Virginia Tech has been well represented in the NFL’s biggest game over the years, as 18 Hokies have been on active rosters for the game, with another four as part of a team that appeared in a Super Bowl, but not on the active roster. Twelve have earned championship rings.
Seven Hokies have been part of multiple Super Bowls – Dale, Tom Beasley, Don Strock, HYPERLINK “http://www.hokiesports.com/football/jerseys/smith.html” Bruce Smith, Antonio Freeman, Vaughn Hebron, and Kam Chancellor. Smith, a former Tech defensive lineman, leads the contingent with four Super Bowl appearances, playing in four straight with the Buffalo Bills during the early 1990s.
Only Dale, Beasley and Hebron have won more than one championship ring. Dale won two with the Packers, who won the first two Super Bowls. Beasley played on those dominant Pittsburgh Steeler teams of the mid-1970s and won two rings. Hebron won back-to-back rings with the Denver Broncos in the late 1990s.
Dale, who lives in Wise, Virginia where he grew up, caught four passes for 59 yards in Super Bowl I – the second of three championship rings he won while playing for Green Bay. His first came in 1965 in the NFL Championship Game, while his third came following the Packers’ 33-14 victory over Oakland in Super Bowl II.
He expressed surprise at how big the Super Bowl has become.
“Definitely,” he said. “It’s hard to believe. I was watching the news and the amount of money that they’re going to spend on security just blows your mind. It’s hard to realize how big it has become. A 30-second commercial for $5 million?
“I’ve got a replica of the four Super Bowl tickets from when the Packers have won. The first one is $8 and the second is $12 or $15. We had 30,000 unsold tickets in the Coliseum for the first one. Then the one for Super Bowl XXXI [when Green Bay beat New England] was $400 and Super Bowl XLV [when Green Bay beat Pittsburgh] was up in the $4,000 range. That must have been a box seat, but now they’re in that neighborhood.
“That gives you an example of how it’s grown. It’s unreal and the price they’re paying for commercials – it’s just mind-boggling.”
The first Super Bowl was actually called “The First AFL-NFL World Championship Game.” In those days, two leagues existed – the NFL and the AFL. The two leagues later merged to form today’s current NFL.
Dale said that the players wanted to do their best to represent their respective leagues.
“Coach [Vince] Lombardi really focused on sharing the responsibility,” he said. “This upstart AFL that we were facing … we were told to keep our mouths shut. We were not only representing our families and the Green Bay Packers, but also in this game, the entire NFL.
“Supposedly a lot of owners were worried that the Packers would be overconfident and think we just had to show up, so he [Lombardi] bent our ear a little bit. It was a lot like carrying a load. It [winning] was a relief more than a celebration and joy of winning, though we had that. We were excited, but still, it was more of a situation where we were thankful and glad it was over. We had gotten the job done.”
Dale was fortunate to play in the game. After a Hall of Fame career at Virginia Tech in which he started 39 straight games, caught 67 passes for 1,195 yards and 15 touchdowns in his career, and became the school’s first All-American, he went to the Los Angeles Rams, who took him in the eighth round of the 1960 NFL Draft. He played five seasons for the Rams, but was traded to the Packers in the spring of 1965.
That marked a turning point in Dale’s career. He played with Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderly, Willie Wood and other greats, and he won his first championship that season, catching a touchdown pass from Starr in the Packers’ 23-12 victory over Cleveland in the title game.
In Super Bowl II, he caught four passes for 43 yards against the Raiders. He played four more seasons with the Packers and spent the 1973 season with the Minnesota Vikings, who went on to play in Super Bowl VIII – giving Dale three Super Bowl appearances. The Vikings lost 24-7 to the Miami Dolphins in that game.
Dale considers himself a Packers fan. Early last season, the organization brought back those who played in the first Super Bowl, a group of 24 players who stayed in Green Bay for 10 days, did some charity work and attended the first two games. The former players were recognized on the field during those games. They also brought back players in pairs for other games throughout the season. Dale attended every time.
Dale, who turns 79 in April and comes to Blacksburg regularly, remains amazed at what the Super Bowl has become.
“As we get older, this time of year, you have people talking about it, and it’s [the first Super Bowl] been replayed a lot more,” Dale said. “We’ve relived it a lot and talked about it. It really is amazing how many great football players play in a 10- or 15-year career and never win the division, let alone the Super Bowl. The odds of a player winning it are really slim.
“But it’s really mind-bogging what it’s [the Super Bowl] become. I’m overwhelmed just by how the game has changed over the past 50 years – and the Super Bowl is a prime example of that.”