After nearly 1,000 miles and stops in 19 cities, the ninth annual Packers Tailgate Tour officially concluded as the motor coach pulled into Lambeau Field.
Thousands of fans enjoyed the opportunity to see their Packers players in a different light, such as sharing a smile and enjoying a laugh, an experience entirely different from watching them on the field, doing battle on gameday.
In the process, approximately $275,000 was raised for charity, bringing the nine-year total to nearly $1.4 million.
After a stop for dinner at Bubba’s BBQ in Shawano, Wis., the ride back to Lambeau Field was generally uneventful, with (thankfully) no more singing renditions of a parodied Gilligan’s Island theme: “A five-day tour, a five-day tour.”
The members had a chance to reflect on the experience.
Mark Murphy: “It was my seventh one, and each one is a little different. This was our fourth year with the mix of current players and alumni and I thought it was probably the best. The group got along well, and the interaction as week went on, you could see it build. They had more in common than they thought they did.
“I enjoyed the surprise stops at the schools, and the bus ride from Escanaba to Ironwood was like a sleigh ride. I’ll remember that.”
Lynn Dickey: “The fans, they’re the best. One of the highlights for me, though, was meeting the younger guys. Spending time with James and Paul was great, too. We see each other from time to time, but to spend five days together…that was a highlight.”
Paul Coffman: “It was bigger and better than thought it would be. Town to town, the turnout and enthusiasm of the fans was great. I always knew it was great; it went to a new level on this trip. The memories they have of our games in the 80s is incredible.
“The veterans hospital really stuck out for me. Those men have laid down life for county, so we could enjoy our freedoms. It was an honor to interact with them and bring little joy to their lives
“It was fun to reminisce with Lynn and James about our fun times, and share the stories with the current players. There’s a common bond with football and the Packers’ fraternity. It was great to interact with these guys.”
James Lofton: “It’s hard to believe the fan base is so rabid, but you look at what the team has been able to do the last 15 seasons, the success has been great for the fans. Hearing their stories from our time and seeing the photos they had was special.
“With Paul and Lynn, it was like a 25th high school reunion, hanging on bus, the corny jokes, retelling stories, talking about guys we played with, coaches we had. It was priceless.”
Jarrett Bush: “It was a great time, a great experience. It was nice to be able to show our appreciation to the state’s fans. They’re second-to-none. Sharing words of wisdom to the high school and younger students was fun, too.
“The visit with the residents at Benjamin’s House was great. We heard their stories, and it really puts in your head that we’re very fortunately to play football and be in a position to help people in that situation. It almost feels like a calling, to give back to those in need.”
Brad Jones: “I wanted to hit Wisconsin’s different parts. Hearing the fans’ real emotions about football, how it affects their lives, how much they care about football. Their support means much more to me now, I appreciate even more what it means to them.
“I liked the Hunger Games approach about our ability to do the tour. It was fun to joke that it was our survival.”
Mason Crosby: “I enjoyed the school visits, giving the students something to hold onto for this year and the future. Hope to say something that hits home and builds on what they hear from their teachers
“It was great to take care of the fans that take care of us and see their faces light up.”
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