Packers die-hard fan savoring Super Bowl run
After winning three straight playoff games on the road, including denying their arch-rival Chicago Bears a trip to the Super Bowl with an NFC Championship victory, the Green Bay Packers meet the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday.
Oh, how sweet it’s been after overcoming a handful of close, frustrating losses, surviving playoff road games as the No. 6 seed, and injuries that left the Packers with 15 players on injured reserve, eight of whom started at least one game.
Joe Kuhar, dubbed Janesville’s No. 1 Packer fan in The Gazette in 2008, is living the dream.
In his preseason prediction for The Gazette, Kuhar said the Packers would finish 12-4 and would make the Super Bowl. Kuhar’s prediction was two games off; the Packers finished the regular season 10-6.
Kuhar warned that the Packers had to stay healthy. He said Aaron Rodgers had “come a long way” and the Packers’ core receivers were a good group, but he was leery about the return of Al Harris, and the Packers’ safeties were “shaky in coverage.”
“I worried about injuries,” Kuhar said. “But we never lost by more than four points.
“The Packers have people, and they go three deep, but I was worried about people not playing.’’
Kuhar, a retired Janesville policeman, has poured every ounce of his fan support into turning his basement into a Green Bay Packer shrine.
“I love to show it off,” said Kuhar, who saw his first Packer game at Milwaukee County Stadium in the mid ’50s. “I’ve got more than 5,000 pieces of Packer stuff, including tile on the ceiling and the walls.’’
To celebrate the Packers’ Super Bowl year, Kuhar said he added 200 pieces related to this season.
A football player during his days in the Navy, Kuhar made the service all-star team, and in 1961 he wrote Vince Lombardi a letter asking for a tryout as a defensive back.
“He wrote back, ‘no thank you,’ ” Kuhar said. “That year, the Packers’ No. 1 draft pick was Herb Adderley, a defensive back, and he’s in the Hall of Fame.’’
Kuhar took the rejection well, played semipro football for the Delavan Red Devils, and remained an ardent Packer fan.
Besides celebrating the Packers’ run to the Super Bowl, Kuhar added Bart Starr’s visit to Monterey Stadium to his basement swag.
“I told Bart that we could have been teammates if Lombardi would have let me try out,” said Kuhar, who chauffeured Starr and his wife, Cherry, during their visit to Monterey Stadium last October. “He laughed and took that one well.”
This Sunday is no laughing matter for Kuhar. Winning a Super Bowl is serious business.
“I watch the game alone,” said Kuhar, when asked if he was going to a Super Bowl party. “I get very noisy during a game. It will be the same way during the Super Bowl. I don’t want any distractions.’’
Kuhar is confident the Packers have the right tools.
“I think we can stop the run,” Kuhar said of the Packers’ defense. “I think we can pressure the quarterback.
“Everybody has a game plan to take (Clay) Matthews out of the game, but he has good support—B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins and (Ryan) Pickett.’’
Of course, victory is not everything, but the only thing for Kuhar.
“The Packers are going to win,” Kuhar said. “I know the Packers are going to win.’’
It’s spoken like a one-of-kind Packer fan sitting in a sea of Packer merchandise.