Some aspects of the Packers Tailgate Tour were easily quantifiable: 832 miles, 18 cities, five tailgate parties, 3,000 autographs and thousands of dollars raised for great organizations.
Other highlights would be quite a challenge to count: bright smiles, deep laughs and vivid, lasting memories.
Regardless of whether it was an autographed picture, a selfie with a player or simply a good-luck-this-season high five, the experiences – both by the players and the fans – are what make the tour special.
“The fans really had a great time,” said Mark Murphy. “I thought it was a very successful tour and we definitely had, by far, the best weather.”
In addition to the parties and the surprise stops, Murphy enjoyed seeing the players appreciate each other’s company and insight.
“I enjoy that the most, the interaction between alumni and current players,” he said. “With Jerry and Dave, it was unique opportunity to hear from Lombardi players. At the start, there was not so much mingling, but by the end of week, the guys were eating together and spending time together. They have so much in common. It’s 50 years of Packers history and players.”
Murphy also liked the new setup employed at a few of the school stops, where the current players and recent alumni visited with the students while Murphy, Kramer and Robinson had the opportunity to visit with a local civic group, along with others.
“We had a little different approach and met with business leaders and teachers from the school,” he said. “Having Jerry and Dave there, it was really fascinating to see how riveted people were, to hear directly from Dave and Jerry about the Lombardi era.”
Murphy also reflected on other tour highlights: “Children’s Hospital really stood out for me today. The kids were so excited to see the players.
“The veterans clinic also was special. The residents there were so sharp. You can tell they really follow the Packers. It meant a lot to see the younger players thank them for what they did for our country.
“The history and tradition of the organization is so significant, to bring Jerry and Dave and more recent alumni along is important. It helps down the road for another generation of fans to hear the history directly.”
Although the final totals haven’t been tallied, the monies raised for nonprofit organizations has climbed past $1.8 million over the 10 years of the tour, a great show of support from Packers fans for outstanding causes in their local communities.
As Jerry Kramer reflected on the tour, he was impressed with the enthusiasm of the fans.
“I’ve certainly experienced the great support of the fans over the years,” he said. “But we got another look at them. We helped out, but they were doing things to help out in their communities. That’s wonderful and the way the world should be.”
He recalled a Lombardi quote that today could apply to the tour’s mission as it features the players and the fans essentially working together for the good of the community.
“When the game is over, the lights are out, the parking lot is empty and the story has been written,” Kramer recalled Lombardi saying, “and in the quiet of your room, you take off the championship ring and put it on the dresser. The only thing left at that time is the quest for excellence and trying to make the world a little bit better place because you were in it.”
Tour members reflected very fondly about the experiences of the week. Here are some of their thoughts.
Micah Hyde: “Meeting the guys was awesome, and hanging out with everyone. Surprising the kids at school was fun and spending time with the people at the nursing home was a blast.
“The kids at the hospital were special. I’m glad we had the opportunity there.
“Everything is the same with the players, no matter the age. It’s the same stuff, just 50 years older.”
Casey Hayward: “I really enjoyed the trip, especially the Children’s Hospital visit and the veterans home.
“It was very interesting to see perspective from each generation of players. Big Gil and his big personality. I really enjoyed everyone. Free (Antonio Freeman) even though he was late. All he talked about was his catch.
“And the Lombardi era. Those guys can really tell stories. Thank you, Jerry and Dave.”
Andrew Quarless: “I enjoyed Children’s Hospital. The talk about bullying: the girl apologizing was a touching moment for me.
“It was great to interact with the alumni. To hear about Lombardi. Enjoyed Jerry and Dave the most. They still active and enjoying life, and really funny, which is encouraging to me.
“And of course, interacting with the fans.”
Dave Robinson: “Thought it was great. It was my first time, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Pleasantly surprised day after day. Tony Fisher (Packers alumni coordinator) kept us in line all week. Kudos to him.
“Anyone from the Packers that hasn’t been on a tour needs to be on one.
“Refreshing on how in the small towns, these people turn out. Packed in to see the guys. I didn’t’ realize how deep-rooted the support for the team is in the state. I had been away from some of these places for so long. I got excited every day.
“And I came to know that Andrew is a fellow Penn State alumnus. Great to get to know him, and the other guys. Amazing how many things we have in common with these guys.”
Jerry Kramer: “I had a great time. Very glad I came. The Wisconsin fans responded as expected. Tour is well organized. They’ve got a good handle on it. Mark (Murphy) and Cathy (Dworak, the Packers’ director of community outreach and player/alumni relations).
“It was fun to hang out with the younger guys and experience the antics that still go on in the locker room. Casey and Micah whacking each other verbally. That was fun. Little bit of everything.
Antonio Freeman: “Great to do it with the guys: former, past and present. Hospital visit was humbling. Awesome to see the smiles and excitement of all the Packers fans where we went.
“The tour gave us the locker room feeling we all missed so much these five days. That made it fun. Thanks to everyone who had a hand: sponsors, staff and players. It was first class.”
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