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William “Red” Mack, who started his football career in an orphanage and ended it in the Super Bowl, has died at the age of 83.
Mack was selected by both the Steelers in the 1961 NFL draft and the Bills in the 1961 AFL draft. He chose the NFL and played receiver and halfback for the Steelers, Eagles, Falcons and Packers. In the final game of his career, his Packers beat the Chiefs in the first Super Bowl.
Playing for the Packers meant dealing with the legendarily no-nonsense coach Vince Lombardi, but for Mack that was nothing compared to the toughest coach he had: Sister Madeline, the nun at St. Paul’s Orphanage in Pittsburgh, where he and his four siblings lived.
“Sister Madeline,” Mack recalled in a feature published by Notre Dame in 2017. “She grabbed me by the back of the neck and told me to go get a football uniform. She said for me to put my bad temper to good use.”
Mack said that before he landed at St. Paul’s Orphanage at age 10, he spent time fighting in the streets. Football allowed him to channel that aggression.
“And if I didn’t play well, Sister Madeline would let me know about it,” he said. “The orphanage—best thing that ever happened to me. I had a nun for a mother and the discipline that I needed.”
At age 80, Mack reflected on his life by saying, “If I hadn’t had football and my coaches, I figure I would probably be in jail right now.”
His wife of 59 years, Jean, replied, “Jail? Actually, I think he would probably be dead without football.”
After St. Paul’s Orphanage, Mack played for Hampton High School, then Notre Dame, before going to the NFL. After retiring from the NFL, Mack moved back to South Bend, Indiana, and lived the rest of his life just a mile from Notre Dame Stadium.