Gary Knafelc Obituary, Death – Gary Knafelc, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the first game at what is now Lambeau Field, died on Dec. 19 in Clermont, Fla., where he and his wife had lived for about a decade. Knafelc. He started Vince Lombardi’s first game alongside Jerry Kramer. Knafelc played with the Packers from 1954 to 1962 and was inducted in 1976. He was the Packers’ home-game PA announcer from 1964 through 2004. After his playing career, he was one of the few Packers of his generation to live in Green Bay.

Knafelc caught three game-winning passes from 1955 to 1959, including two of the Packers’ most famous. In the now-famous coach’s first training camp, he was Lombardi’s starting tight end. Knafelc scored the game-winning touchdown in Green Bay City Stadium (now Lambeau Field) on September 29, 1957. His 6-yard catch of a Babe Parilli pass helped the Packers beat the Bears 21-17.

Knafelc said in 1996, “The play was broken.” “After being snatched, Babe ran left. As I ran between the goalposts, he threw the ball through.” Two years earlier, in the Packers’ season opener against Detroit, the three-time defending Western Conference champions, Knafelc caught an 18-yard touchdown throw from Tobin Rote with 20 seconds left, setting off a scene that may be unsurpassed in Packers and NFL history.

Thousands of fans stormed the field at old City Stadium, surrounding Knafelc in the end zone, and carried him to the Packers’ bench. Knafelc caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Lamar McHan with 11:44 remaining to lift the Packers past San Francisco, 21-20, and give Lombardi a 3-0 start to his first season as coach. In 1956, the Packers beat the Chicago Cardinals 24-21 at Comiskey Park courtesy to a quarterback sneak by Rote with 1:05 left.

Knafelc’s efforts in the four games were featured in the 1960 Packers Yearbook. Future Pro Football Hall of Famer and Packers receivers coach Tom Fears said, “(Knafelc) makes the big catch look easy.” Knafelc signed with the Packers two games into 1954. He was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round that year, then injured his hamstring and was released. A year later, Knafelc became the Packers’ left offensive end. He lined up at a split position for four years, with the exception of knee ailments.

In 1959, Lombardi moved him to right end, or tight end, where he blocked the outside linebacker for the Red Right 49 power sweep. The left halfback rushed back to the right and sought daylight based on the tight end’s block. After two years as starter, Knafelc backed up Ron Kramer in 1961 and 1962. Knafelc’s position was crucial to Lombardi’s signature play and the power running game, which was the cornerstone of his football philosophy. “I learned to block by dread,” Knafelc said. “I feared Lombardi” Knafelc launched a commercial interior design business in Green Bay after retirement. In 1963’s “Palm Springs Weekend,” he played Gary Kincaid.