Photographer John Biever covered the very first Super Bowl back in 1967 at the age of just 15. He is now the only photographer who has shot every single Super Bowl spanning over five decades of the NFL championship game.
The Family Business
Biever cut his teeth on NFL photography by tagging along with his father, Vernon, who was the team photographer for the Green Back Packers. The position gave the Bievers the opportunity to cover the very first Super Bowl, as it was played between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, just seven miles away from Sofi Stadium and Super Bowl LVI.
Vernon had taken up the weekend gig of being the Packers’ official sideline photographer after serving in the Army during World War II, and he would often bring John along to games when his son was a teenager.
“His father would hand him a camera and a few rolls of film, and he was free to roam around the sidelines and even the locker room,” the Union-Tribune writes. “It came with one rule: Don’t get in the way of [legendary Packers coach Vince] Lombardi.”
During the AFL-NFL World Championship Game on January 15, 1967, which was retroactively renamed Super Bowl I, the 15-year-old John captured a photo of the first touchdown in Super Bowl history when Green Bay Packers receiver Max McGee scored on a 37-yard reception from Packers quarterback Bart Starr.
The Super Bowl is one of the world’s most-watched single sporting events today, but things were quite different back in 1967 when the NFL and American football were still in their infancy.
“Amazingly, it was not very crowded and the sidelines were not busy at all,” John tells the Union-Tribune. “Bob Hope was next to me for a while. ‘Wow, what’s going on here?,’ [he thought to myself.] It was pretty exciting stuff.”
After the game, John captured another iconic photo of Lombardi reaching his arm out as he celebrated the Packers’ victory. His father can be seen holding his cameras behind Lombardi’s outstretched arm.
“Having those two together in the photo was important to me,” John says.
A Career in Photojournalism
John would go on to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before becoming a photojournalist for his hometown newspapers, covering everything from sports to politics.
The next stage in his career came after he began sending samples of his work to Sports Illustrated magazine. The illustrious sports publication began assigning him freelance work, and before long John became a contract photographer and then a staff photographer. He would cover the Super Bowl, as well as championships in a wide range of top-tier sporting leagues, for over 30 years for Sports Illustrated.
In 2014, ESPN Films released a documentary titled Keepers of the Streak that focused on the four remaining photographers who had attended and photographed every Super Bowl in history. They were John Biever, Walter Iooss, Mickey Palmer, and Tony Tomsic.
Biever and Iooss were the final two “keepers of the streak” in 2020, but Iooss finally missed his first Super Bowl in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Biever as the only remaining photographer who has shot every Super Bowl.
“John was always a great photographer,” Iooss tells the Union-Tribune. “He’s the last man standing for the streak and good for him.”
Biever took a buyout from Sports Illustrated in 2012, moved from Wisconsin to San Diego, and got married to his longtime assistant.
The now-70-year-old photographer will be found on the sidelines of Super Bowl LVI with his Nikon cameras, ready to add to his collection of some of the most famous Super Bowl photos of all time.