American Chewy elected to Packers Hall of Fame

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Norm Smith

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Jul 17, 2010, 9:10:14 PM7/17/10
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A state of reflection
Ex-Packer Chmura has learned from past

More than a decade after he caught his last pass, Mark Chmura is going
into the Green Bay Packers' Hall of Fame.

The three-time Pro Bowl tight end and key member of the 1997 and 1998
Super Bowl teams caught 188 passes for 2,253 yards and 17 touchdowns.
He was, arguably, one of the best tight ends ever to play for the
Packers and joins several of his old Super Bowl teammates in the Hall.

Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame Inc. president Mike Gage said the panel
of six to eight voters considered, in addition to his football résumé,
Chmura's high-profile sexual assault trial and decided it should not
keep him out of the Hall. Chmura was acquitted in February 2001 of
assaulting a then 17-year-old girl during a post-prom party at a
friend's home in April 2000.

"It was an acquittal. He wasn't found guilty of anything," said Gage.
"We discussed the fact that he'd been tried, but I think it is time
everybody moved on. They discussed that incident.

"We didn't think anybody should be kept out for that."

In the years since, Chmura had attempted an NFL comeback, suffered
relapses in a spinal cord injury and retired from football.

He has worked as a legal assistant on high-profile court cases with
his former attorney, Gerald Boyle. He is a partner in a real estate
business, The Bando Chmura Group, which owns two downtown historic
buildings and just completed a renovation project at Cardinal Stritch
University.

He hosts his own local talk radio show Sunday mornings on 540 ESPN
Milwaukee and otherwise spends a great deal of time with his sons,
Dylan, 15, and Dyson, 12.

The Massachusetts native and his wife, Lynda, and sons live on a
five-acre property in Genesee and never considered leaving this
community after the trial.

Chmura will be going into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame with
tight end Marv Fleming and offensive lineman Greg Koch on July 17 in
the Lambeau Field Atrium, and the 40-year-old agreed to speak with
Lori Nickel, who covers the Packers for the Journal Sentinel, about
the Hall, the end of his NFL career, the Packers and his life since
the acquittal.

Q.You were introduced to fans at the Seattle game. Was that the first
time you'd been in Lambeau since your playing days? What reaction did
you hear?

A. I was there for the 10-year anniversary of the Super Bowl. This was
me and George Koonce, just honorary captains. I heard cheering, but
you kind of get caught up in the moment. But I'm kind of one of those
guys: "OK let's get this done so I can get out of the way and let the
real show, you know . . ."

Q. In soaking up that atmosphere, what were your emotions? Retirement
is difficult for all players.

A. Yeah it was tough the first couple of years. The toughest part is
you're with these guys seven, eight months out of the year, every day,
and then . . . you . . . leave. The Super Bowl was one of the weirdest
feelings. You win the game, you go back for the parade and then we all
looked at each other and said, "Well, what do we do now?" That's it.
My favorite game, it wasn't the Super Bowl. It was the championship
game, because you can celebrate another week. It's a lot like that,
you know, what do I do now? And you miss the game; now I don't miss it
at all because you come to a realization that, pfff, I could never
play this game. That's why we're so amazed that Brett (Favre) can
still do it.

Q. What does getting in to the Hall of Fame mean to you? (Chmura asked
his radio co-host on 540 ESPN Milwaukee, Craig Karmazin, to introduce
him at the ceremony).

A. It's a great honor. I'll be in there for my kids' kids to see. It's
just a tremendous honor. You're in an elite group of an organization
with guys like Bart Starr and Paul Hornung and Willie Davis. It's just
a great honor. I don't know how many tight ends are in there but
certainly Marv Fleming was one of the greats that played in Green Bay.
Probably Paul Coffman, Ron Kramer. So it's an elite group.

Q. You saw your peers from the Super Bowl team go in the last few
years. Did you figure you weren't going, or, did you campaign for it?

A. No, oh no. You know Frank Winters did tell me he campaigned for it.
A lot of the players have, and I'm talking older guys. Guys from the
1960s. But it was out of my control; I couldn't do anything about it.
So I really didn't think too much of it. That's probably why I was so
shocked when they called because it was probably the farthest thing
from my mind.

Q. You said you would play again after the trial. You had a neck
injury in 1999 (a herniation of the C5 and C6 disks in his spinal
cord) but after that, what happened?

A. (The Washington Redskins and the New Orleans Saints were interested
. . . ) I was working out in my weight room doing behind the neck
presses and just lost feeling again in my upper body. It was the third
time this had happened. Everything went dead. And I'm like, that's it,
I'm done, I retired and that's why I decided to stay retired. When I
got hurt in Detroit in 1999, I couldn't use my arms. It didn't hurt. I
just had no dexterity in my arms. So I actually played two more plays
and it was a struggle for me to get in to a three point stance. I went
to block the guy and I couldn't get my arms up.

Q. What led you to real estate?

A. I worked with Boyle in law for about seven, eight years. Didn't
like that. I was a legal assistant for him. I did a lot preparing
cases. I've been in jails, prisons around the state, court. Sat at the
defense table with him but that's a grind. You know? Dealing with some
cast of characters. It's pretty interesting stuff. My brother was a
L.A. cop. There's an adrenaline rush to things. In the seven years I
worked there I probably had, I don't know, 25, 30 murder cases.

Q. So you took your money and invested in real estate, which seems
wise but incredibly dull compared to the NFL and a courtroom.

A. It's very dull with this market. But it's fun like with this
Cardinal Stritch building it took us a year and a half to do. I'm not
an office guy; I've got to be out and about, so I loved the
construction part of it. It's a beautiful building now and it was just
a shell. I love being out and about at the construction sites,
checking quality of work, making sure the guys who are supposed to be
there are there.

Q. Why did you stay here? You could have gone anywhere.

A. We like it here. Me and my wife are both from Massachusetts, small
town. And we just had no desire to go back there. My kids had already
been in the school system and the school systems here are great. And
we just had a lot of friends here. And, you know, it's been 10 years,
but I didn't . . . I was guilty of using bad judgment, but I didn't do
anything wrong, so I'm not going to run away. I was stupid. You know,
probably drank a little too much at that age, was probably a little
immature and nothing good happens after midnight, and I think that was
just the case and, you know, I'm not one to run away from a fight. So.
We were going to stay. Really, the moving never crossed our mind. Not
once.

Q. I read once that you had to go out in disguise, worry if the chef
is going to spit in your food. I would have left.

A. My biggest concern was probably for my kids. Me and my wife (Lynda)
taught my kids just to be strong individuals. There's going to be
people out there that don't like me. I can't do anything about that.

Q. Do your kids ever hear anything?

A. No, they really don't. I mean, it's been 10 years. It's been a long
time. My kids are really strong enough to not really care about it
anyway. I tell them, listen, you're going to have a target on your
chest already just from being my son and living in this state. People
are going to hold you to a higher standard. That's just something
you're going to have to live with. We have thick skin. We don't really
worry about things we can't control.

Q. Did the trial cost you any relationships with the Packers, besides
Brett?

A. It did at the time because I was upset. I think you're in a sense
of denial, or you don't realize that you put yourself into that
situation. And ultimately this is a business. I'm running a business
now. If I could equate what I did to someone on my staff, you'd have
no choice but to get rid of him. So I think there was a sense of
denial and I probably went through that for a couple of years.
Probably blamed the Packers to some extent. But I think you mature and
ultimately you come to the realization that ultimately this is a
business and they were looking to get a stadium at the time and they
had to do what they had to do.

Q. What did you blame the Packers for?

A. Ultimately, for releasing me. Because when they released me, I was
guilty, lock me up forever. And then when the trial came out, people
said, 'That's what happened?'

Q. Ron Wolf cut you?

A. Yeah, and I still see Ron to this day and have no ill will against
him. Or blame them for what they did.

Q. Brett Favre admitted to battling alcohol abuse in his early years.
Did you as well?

A. I don't know if it's so much a problem as it's you're 23 years old
and you're given millions and millions of dollars. And you're probably
immature; you don't go through most of the hardships that most kids
coming out of college have to go through. You're just given a pile of
money and to top it off you're hanging out 12 hours a day with all
guys who are a bunch of kids at heart. I think there is a level of
immaturity. Did I drink too much? Probably.

Q. Are you sorry for anything?

A. You know, I've said I'm sorry 100 times. I don't know how many more
times I can say it.

Q. You apologized for what it did to your family, but I think fans
were looking for more: repentance.

A. I gave five of them. On the radio. In fact I think I apologized the
next day, right after the trial. I think I also went on ESPN.

Q. The one thing fans also question is the fact that you didn't join
the team on the visit to the White House and President Bill Clinton.
It looked hypocritical.

A. I don't remember saying that but if I did, the truth is I had
committed to Mike Utley's golf tournament. We had the same agent, it
was something I had done every year since 1992, the guy was paralyzed
. . . But . . . when I look back, I should have went. I should have
gone. I was still immature. It sounds stupid, at, what was I then, 27?
- but I guess I was still immature.

Q. This thick skin thing, everyone says that. Does this bother you,
the way some fans think of you?

A. No, not at all. See, I don't see myself as a, I don't know the term
I want to use - celebrity? I'm a guy. A normal guy who lives in
Genesee, Wis.

Q. You want to be, and I hear you, but you don't get to choose how
everyone else looks at you.

A. That's fine. I live my life the way I live, raising my two boys,
going to work every day. I think Andy Reid was the one who told me,
"You're not going to get everyone to like you. So don't try." Is this
article that comes out, all of a sudden everyone is going to like me
now? No, of course not. I can't change that. Do I care what people
think? Yes, absolutely I care. Am I going to change everyone's view of
me? No.

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