You may not recognize the name Vernon J. Biever, but if you’re a fan of pro football, you have surely seen his iconic images.
As a college-bound student in 1941, Vernon had the audacity to contact the sports editor at the Milwaukee Sentinel, where he offered his skills to photograph the Green Bay Packers for the newspaper. To his surprise, the editor gave him an assignment to shoot the game that very weekend. Just like that, he received his start as a professional football photographer.
Like most promising careers in the early 1940s, World War II caused an interruption. In 1942, Vernon enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving as the official photographer of the 100th Infantry Division. Following Vernon’s service, he continued his college studies and again contacted the Milwaukee Sentinel for a job photographing the Packers. By 1946, the newspaper didn’t need Vernon’s services, so he contacted the team himself and made an offer: “you give me a field pass, and I’ll give you prints.”
As Vernon often said, “the price must have been right.” For the next 61 years, he was the official photographer of the Green Bay Packers, capturing some of the greatest moments, players, and teams in National Football League (NFL) history. Vernon’s work adorned the pages of countless newspapers, books, and magazines, and won numerous recognitions in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame photo contest, culminating with the 1984 NFL Photographer of the Year award.
Beyond pro football, Vernon brought his talents to other sports as well, including the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Auto Racing. As a trailblazer in the field of sports photography, his ability to craft an appealing photograph, combined with his innate ability to capture the human element of professional sports, set him apart from his peers.
Vernon passed his love and knowledge of sports photography to his two sons, John, and Jim. John had an illustrious career with Sports Illustrated, covering not only pro football, but all major sporting events. Jim worked alongside his father as the Packers team photographer for more than 30 years. He now manages his father’s archives – an estimated 225,000 images.
Vernon J. Biever photographed his last football game at Lambeau Field on December 30, 2007. Although he passed away on October 13, 2010, at the age of 87, his photos endure, preserving his distinctively captured essence of pro football emotion and aura.