Former Packer kicker to return to scene of Janesville stage collapse in 1973

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011
— Chester Marcol never forgets Janesville.

Marcol, who became a wildly popular place-kicker dubbed “The Polish Prince” during his 1972 to 1980 stint with the Green Bay Packers, attended the Janesville Mall’s opening ceremony for an autograph session in 1973. It was an experience so memorable that Marcol wrote about it in his newly released first book, “Alive and Kicking—My Journey Through Football, Addiction and Life.”

Marcol returns for a book signing from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the University Bookstore.

“It’s the same mall, really?” Marcol said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “I tell that story a lot.’’

Marcol sat along side a suitcase display from a store sponsor on wood platform. A large crowd pressed against the platform, and it collapsed, and Marcol landed under a few people and suitcases.

“I remember swimming my up through a pile of suitcases,” Marcol wrote in his book. “It was hilarious, but then I could have been hurt.’’

Marcol’s book, written with Gary D’Amato, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sports writer, traces the kicker’s rise from a Polish immigrant whose alcoholic father committed suicide to NFL Rookie of the Year in a seven-year span, including the “Marcol Miracle.” It goes on to tell about a suicide attempt in 1986, 30 years of drug and alcohol addiction, and his return to a productive life.

Marcol said writing about his life was tough.

“Over the last year or so, I have been rehashing my life and dredging up some intensely painful memories in order to write this book,” he said. “It has not been easy, but there is a healing component in the process, too.”

Marcol cemented his name in Packer history with the “Marcol Miracle” on Sept. 7, 1980, when he caught his own blocked field goal and ran for a touchdown to defeat the Chicago Bears, 12-6, in overtime.

Marcol called the play his last good moment as a Packer. He was released later that season, which drove him deeper into drugs and alcohol abuse.

Marcol begins the book with his Packer years and his ups and downs—going from Rookie of the Year to the NFL Pro Bowl and injuries that brought on drug abuse.

In 1975, Marcol tore his quadriceps muscle on a kickoff, and it never healed properly. The injury led to the use of pain pills and trouble.

“I first needed pain pills to manage my pain,” said Marcol. “After a while, I just needed pain pills.”

In 1980, Marcol was forging prescriptions to support a habit and mixing pills, alcohol and cocaine.

Marcol said his intention for writing this book wasn’t to rekindle past glory or make money.

“I wrote this book hoping to maybe help people in trouble,” said Marcol, who is a certified drug and alcohol abuse counselor in the Upper Peninsula. “I hope this book can do someone some good.’’

Marcol said he wrote the book to help himself, too.

“I don’t want to be remembered as a football player who died a junkie,” said Marcol who was inducted into Packer Hall of Fame in 1987. “I want to be thought of as a guy who could be trusted and respected.’’

Marcol lives in Dollar Bay, Mich., with his wife, Carole, and three children.

Last updated: 6:42 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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