In advance of this historic telecast, NFL Media historian Elliot Harrison took a look at the robust list of Pro Football Hall of Famers from this game: seventeen individuals in all. And while Willie Davis, Paul Hornung, Henry Jordan, Dave Robinson, Willie Wood, Buck Buchanan and Emmitt Thomas certainly deserve mention, here are the top 10 Hall of Famers involved in Super Bowl I:
10) Ray Nitschke, linebacker, Green Bay Packers: The consummate middle linebacker, Nitschke was the heartbeat of the 1960s Packers. He played 15 seasons in Green Bay, beginning with the one-win outfit that Vince Lombardi inherited when he took over in 1959. Despite the slow start to his career, Nitschke became a roaming hitting machine, often overshadowed by Hall of Fame middle linebackers Joe Schmidt and Dick Butkus in his division. (What an era for that position!) Nitschke was All-Pro in 1964 and '66.
9) Hank Stram, head coach, Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs wouldn't have been in Super Bowl I without the guidance of Stram, a progressive head man who led the franchise from its inception in 1960 (when it was the Dallas Texans) until the conclusion of the 1974 season. Stram's offensive mind and knack for coaching up small-college talent made the Kansas City Chiefs the team of the AFL. His regular-season record with the organization was a sterling 124-76-10 -- and he went 5-3 in the postseason.
8) Jim Taylor, fullback, Green Bay Packers: He retired, following a swan song season in New Orleans, as the NFL's second all-time leading rusher with 8,597 yards. From 1958 through 1966, Taylor was the hammer of Green Bay's power running game, especially after Lombardi took over coaching duties during Taylor's sophomore campaign. Taylor went on a tear from 1960 through '64, rushing for more than 1,000 yards each season and scoring a whopping 66 touchdowns on the ground during that span. Visited with him this offseason, and let me tell you, he's as fiery as ever.
7) Bobby Bell, outside linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs: Tall, fast and black -- that wasn't the prototype of an NFL outside linebacker in the 1960s. There was hardly anyone in the league like this Chiefs star, who helped change the game. Think DeMarcus Ware, with slightly less pass-rushing prowess but far superior coverage ability. Bell made AFL All-Pro from 1965 until 1969, then made it again in 1970 when his league merged with the NFL. He was as confident when we spoke in 2013 as he must've been as an all-world linebacker in 1966, which should give insight into what made him fantastic.
6) Herb Adderley, cornerback, Green Bay Packers: The Packers began winning titles when Herb Adderley arrived on the scene in 1961 -- literally. Green Bay won its first NFL title since 1944 in Adderley's rookie season. They won again in 1962. Then, the Packers pulled off the three-peat later in the decade. All the while, Adderley locked down the opponent's best wideout as the premier cover corner of the 1960s. He was also instant offense, scoring nine return touchdowns from 1961 through '69.
5) Len Dawson, quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs: While Joe Namath was the cover boy for the AFL, and specifically its quarterbacks, Dawson was the best passer the rival league ever featured. Dawson hit his zenith from 1962 through '66 (the season of Super Bowl I), leading the AFL in touchdown passes four times and passer rating four times. Dawson also paced the pack in completion percentage during six of the AFL's 10 seasons. His 101.7 passer rating in '66 represents the only season an AFL quarterback surpassed the 100 mark.
4) Bart Starr, quarterback, Green Bay Packers: Starr gets the nod over Dawson among the quarterbacks, while settling into the cleanup spot of our list. While we're on it, Starr cleaned up in the one area people don't associate with the Lombardi Packers: throwing the long ball in running situations. These Packers weren't always the conservative group they are sold to be. While often asked to be a game manager, Starr led the league in yards per throw twice, a testament to his ability to be effective vertically. His 105.0 passer rating in 1966 was the second-highest of the decade, and wasn't again topped until Dan Marino hit 108.9 in 1984. Most impressively, Starr was 9-1 in the postseason. Take that, Brett Favre. Take that, Aaron Rodgers.
3) Forrest Gregg, offensive tackle, Green Bay Packers: While fully aware Green Bay fans would like to see Starr or another Lombardi Packer higher on the list than an offensive tackle, I can't mute the high praise from Vince Lombardi himself -- the iconic coach said Gregg was the greatest player he ever had. If that's not enough, Gregg was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. If that's not enough, perhaps the fact Gregg made the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994 will whet your whistle. The SMU product gave it his all to the whistle, which is why men like Deacon Jones gave Gregg high praise.
2) Lamar Hunt, owner, Kansas City Chiefs: An owner on this list? Huh?! You're darn right. And you're lucky I didn't put him No. 1. Let's put it as succinctly as possible: The NFL -- as you know it, I know it and all the coaches and players know it -- doesn't exist without Hunt's heavy mark on the game. The man who created the AFL on a cocktail napkin in 1959, on a plane flight no less, should be given enormous credit for spearheading a professional football league that became viable enough in seven seasons to make a title game between the AFL and NFL a sexy proposition in the first place. Moreover, the AFC today is littered with the franchises Hunt scribbled on that napkin: the Bills, Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Jets, Patriots, Raiders and Titans (then Oilers). There are 11 Super Bowl champion teams from that group.
1) Vince Lombardi, head coach, Green Bay Packers: The NFL is, and always has been, the product on the field. That's why Lombardi must be the top Hall of Famer involved with Super Bowl I. The Packers were nowheresville when Lombardi took over in 1959, a season after Green Bay went 1-10-1. With the same group of non-athletes, soon-to-be-cut guys and glimmers of hope, the Pack went 7-5 in Lombardi's first season. They made their first championship game appearance in 1960. Over the next seven years, Lombardi's teams won five titles, including the first two Super Bowls. The Lombardi Packers set a standard of excellence that modern head coaches are still trying to match. Lombardi's overall record (playoffs included) in Green Bay was 98-30-4. Good grief.