When assigning football pictures we frequently leave it to Biever. Photographer John Biever, that is, who covered the Arkansas-Texas A & M game (page 28) in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday and then flew to Los Angeles to photograph the Rams-Saints game on Sunday (cover, page 20). That's a typical autumn weekend's work for Biever, who customarily travels from his home in Milwaukee to cover a college and pro game in that time span.
Football is Biever's specialty; 11 of the 14 covers he has shot since joining the magazine three years ago are from the gridiron. "Somehow he knows where the action is going to be," says deputy picture editor Phil Jache. "He always gets there and gets these remarkable pictures."
Biever's knack for being on top of the action can be explained in part by the fact that, at 37, he's a sidelines veteran. Heredity also may have played a role. His father, Vern, began shooting the Green Bay Packers for the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1941 and has been the official team photographer since the late '50s. SI has published a number of Vern's Packer pictures. The most recent one—a shot of quarterback Randy Wright getting hit—was in the Oct. 31 issue.
At 14, John began working as his father's assistant. That same year Look magazine published John's shot of Bart Starr getting ready to hand off during the 1965 NFL championship game between the Packers and the Cleveland Browns. Today John and Vern are two of only eight photographers who have covered all 22 Super Bowls.
Vern says the early lessons he taught John on the sidelines were "how to handle himself, how to keep out of other people's way and how to keep his cool." But Vern doesn't take credit for his son's ability to be in the right place at the right time. "Preparation makes a big difference," says John. "You often can tell if a team is going to run right or left, and you can sense the momentum of a game."
On two occasions in the past year a photographer working near him has had a leg broken when the action spilled over the sideline. Biever has been brushed but never run over. "I've been lucky, but then I usually head out pretty fast," he says. "I always have an escape route planned."
Spoken like a man who knows the value of preparation.
Biever is always prepared for action—and escape.