Remembering Chester Marcol's miracle

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears play on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field, it will be their 187th meeting.

In the NFL's oldest rivalry, there have been tens of thousands of plays.

But there was only one Chester Marcol miracle.

And every time the Packers and Bears play, it's a story worth retelling as Marcol did in his 2011 biography "Alive and Kicking,” which he co-authored with longtime Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sports writer Gary D'Amato.

The book's opening chapter is entitled "Miracle.” What better way to describe how the Packers beat the Bears 12-6 in overtime on Sept. 7, 1980. Marcol, the Packers kicker, lined up for a game-winning field goal in overtime only to have it blocked by Bears defensive lineman Alan Page.

What happened from there is best told by Marcol in his book.

He wrote:

"I looked up, expecting to see the ball sail through the uprights for the sudden-death victory. Instead, I saw nothing but Page's jersey numbers. He had bull-rushed [center Larry] McCarren, timed his leap, and blocked the kick -- just as he said he would.

"A split-second later, I was clutching the ball, which had bounced directly back into my chest.

"Instinctively, I started to run to my left. Most of the Bears were in a heap on the ground, having gone all-out to try to block the kick. By the time they realized I had the ball, it was too late to do anything about it. Jim Gueno, our left up-back, got in the way of the only Bears defender in the area and threw a little hook block. It wouldn't have mattered; nobody was going to catch me.

"I held the ball high and tight to my chest and sprinted into the corner of the end zone for the winning touchdown. Lambeau Field went crazy as my teammates mobbed me, screaming and pounding me on the back.

"I had not only scored a touchdown, but a game-winner and against our hated rivals, the Bears, no less. In the locker room afterward, Starr presented me with a game ball and asked me to lead the team in prayer. I did so with tears of joy streaming down my cheeks. The ball I carried into the end zone is today in the Packers Hall of Fame.

"But here's the thing about that touchdown that nobody knows:

"I was under the influence of cocaine when I scored.

"I had gone into the bathroom at halftime and, while the coaches and players were preparing for the second half, I snorted coke. I don't know if it would be accurate to say I was high when I scored that touchdown two hours later, but I definitely was under the influence.

"It's not something I'm proud to admit. But it happened and to tell the story of my touchdown without including the part about the cocaine would not be an honest account."

Marcol, who said he first tried cocaine the week before and quickly became hooked, later became a drug and alcohol counselor.

His book is available from KCI Sports Publishing.

And video of the famous play can been seen on YouTube.