MINNEAPOLIS – Max McGee, the unexpected hero of the first Super Bowl and a long-time challenge for Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, died Saturday after falling from the roof of his home, police confirmed. He was 75.
Police were called to the former Green Bay receiver's Deephaven home around 5:20 p.m., Sgt. Chris Whiteside said. Efforts to resuscitate McGee were unsuccessful.
McGee was blowing leaves off the roof when he fell, according to news reports. A phone message left at a number listed for an M. McGee wasn't immediately returned.
"I just lost my best friend," former teammate Paul Hornung told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "(His wife) Denise was away from the house. She'd warned him not to get up there. He shouldn't have been up there. He knew better than that."
Inserted into Packers' lineup when Boyd Dowler was sidelined by a shoulder injury, McGee went on to catch the first touchdown pass in Super Bowl history in Green Bay's 35-10 victory over Kansas City in January 1967. Still hung over from a night on the town, McGee caught seven passes for 138 yards and two TDs.
"Now he'll be the answer to one of the great trivia questions: Who scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history?" Hornung said. "Vince knew he could count on him. ... He was a great athlete. He could do anything with his hands."
Though an admirer of Lombardi, McGee time and again pushed the tough-as-nails coach to the breaking point.
McGee — remembered for saying: "When it's third-and-10, you can take the milk drinkers and I'll take the whiskey drinkers every time." — put Lombardi to the ultimate test prior to the first Super Bowl.
McGee had caught only four passes for 91 yards during the 1966 regular season and, not expecting to play against the Chiefs, violated the team's curfew and spent the night before the game partying.
Reportedly, the next morning he told Dowler: "I hope you don't get hurt. I'm not in very good shape."
Dowler went down with a separated shoulder on the Packers' second drive, and McGee had to borrow a helmet because he left his in the locker room. A few plays later, McGee made a one-handed reception of a pass from Bart Starr and ran 37 yards to score.
"He had a delightful sense of humor and had a knack for coming up with big plays when you least expected it to happen," Packers historian Lee Remmel said. "He had a great sense of timing."
Remmel said McGee once teased Lombardi when the coach showed the team a football on their first meeting and said, "Gentlemen, this is a football."
"McGee said, 'Not so fast, not so fast,'" Remmel said. "That gives you an index to the kind of humor that he served up regularly."
McGee was a running back at Tulane and the nation's top kick returner in 1953.
Selected by the Packers in the fifth round of the 1954 draft, McGee spent two years in the Air Force as a pilot following his rookie year before returning in 1957 to play 11 more seasons. He finished his career with 345 receptions for 6,346 yards — an 18.4-yard average — and scored 51 touchdowns and 306 points.
After retiring from football, he became a major partner in developing the popular Chi-Chi's chain of Mexican restaurants. In 1979, he became an announcer for the Packer Radio Network with Jim Irwin until retiring in 1998.
McGee and wife Denise founded the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in 1999.
According to the center's Web site, his brother fought diabetes in his lifetime, and Max and Denise's youngest son, Dallas, lives with the disease.
McGee is survived by his wife, four children and several grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were pending.