Beloit turns out for The Tour

Posted by Aaron Popkey on May 15, 2013 – 11:16 pm

The Packers Tailgate Tour ended a great string of visits on the second day with a great turnout for the Tailgate Party at Beloit’s Eclipse Center.

The Packers Tailgate Tour ended a great string of visits on the second day with a great turnout for the Tailgate Party at Beloit’s Eclipse Center. More than 1,000 fans took part in the event to support Beloit Regional Hospice.

The boisterous crowd heard from Mark Murphy and the players during a question-and-answer session that touched on many familiar subjects, including the draft, the upcoming season and what it was like playing in the Super Bowl.

Aaron Taylor, the former offensive lineman, drew laughs when he answered a query about what a player enjoys most about playing football.

“There are great friendships and camaraderie that you can develop,” Taylor began, “but there’s no greater joy in life than moving a person from point A to point B against his will.”

The fans in attendance included not only those from south of the border, who ventured in from Bears’ country (Illinois), but also Rhett Flavel, a green and gold backer from Australia. Flavel was visiting friends in the area who surprised him with a ticket for the event.

“It was a great surprise,” he said. “I only learned of it four or five hours ago. It was great to see them in person.”

Sarah Kruse, the director of community outreach for the Beloit Regional Hospice, enjoyed the evening as well. Kruse was pleased about the benefit her organization was to receive on account of the evening, but she also was happy to see that attendees enjoyed themselves.

“It went smoothly,” she observed. “People were happy and enjoyed seeing the personality of the players. It was a great turnout.”

Day 3 is on tap and features a number of stops on the way to the first-ever stop in Iowa.


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Packers visit a very special school

Posted by Aaron Popkey on May 15, 2013 – 4:30 pm

130515-school-for-deaf-tailgate-600After a tasty takeout lunch on the bus from Berres Brothers Coffee in Watertown, the Tailgate Tour made a stop at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delevan, Wis.

The school, founded in 1852, is a learning institution for 100 deaf and hard-of-hearing students that serves the surrounding area as well as the entire state. About 60 students board at the school each week and then return home on the weekends, with five of those coming via airplane.

The players spoke to the students and guests about teamwork and giving back to the community with the assistance of school personnel who used sign language.

The players were impressed with the types of questions the kids asked, with topics varying from the emotion of the game to overcoming obstacles to self esteem struggles.

With regard to emotions, Jarrett Bush shared with the students how football is very emotional.

“I get angry, mad and frustrated,” said Bush. “And then I’m happy and excited. It’s such an emotional game. That’s why we’re so exhausted, both emotionally and physically, after the games.”

Aaron Taylor shared his own experiences as a youth when a student asked about whether any of the players had self esteem challenges. Taylor, who has a white mother and a black father, moved a lot as a youth and didn’t have his father in his life.

Former Packer Aaron Taylor waves to students

Former Packers guard Aaron Taylor waves to students — VIEW PHOTOS

“We moved a lot and I had trouble fitting in,” Taylor said. “I tried to be liked and did what I thought other people wanted me to do, be who they wanted me to be. But I was never myself. Finally, I found my interests and found people who shared those interests, and much of it was through sports. I then became someone who believed in myself and overcame my lack of confidence and self esteem.”

And on a lighter topic, the students learned that Randall Cobb likes to shop for shoes.

Mark Murphy and the players had fun on stage with a young Bears fan, too.

Before the tour members departed, they were presented a jersey and autographed mini-helmet from the school’s football team. Equally steeped in history, the Wisconsin School for the Deaf has fielded a football team for more than 100 years.

After a spirited goodbye at the bus, the group continued on toward Beloit for tonight’s festivities.


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Watertown High School welcomes the Tour

Posted by Aaron Popkey on May 15, 2013 – 2:57 pm

Shortly after 11 a.m., the guys stopped by Watertown High School and were greeted by more than 1,200 students at an assembly.

After visiting with students at Waupun High School, another surprise stop was in store as the Tailgate Tour bus passed through Watertown. Shortly after 11 a.m., the guys stopped by Watertown High School and were greeted by more than 1,200 students at an assembly.

To get things formally started, a ceremonial first toss was conducted with Randall Cobb on the receiving end of a pass from Tarek Yaggi, the Gosling’s star quarterback who in the fall is headed to Bakersfield, Calif., Junior College. Later, during the question-and-answer session, Cobb gave a favorable review of the pass.

“He throws a good ball, certainly,” Cobb said.

“It was fun,” Yaggi said while admitting to being nervous. “I’ve watched him on Sunday catch passes from Aaron Rodgers and now I’ve been able to throw to him. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Santana Dotson reflected on playing with Brett Favre and in Super Bowls XXXI and XXXII, explaining to the assembly that he could tell upon joining the team for his first season in 1996 that expectations were high.

“They had reached the NFC Championship Game the year before, and the Super Bowl was the next step in everyone’s mind. No question about it,” Dotson said. “For me, getting introduced at the Super Bowl was an emotional moment. I knew my mom and wife were up in the stands crying.”

The members of the tour also received an emotional thank you from a student, Jordan Jeanson, for a donated football the Packers community outreach department supplied for a benefit for her mother, Trisha Pieper, who is undergoing kidney dialysis and is waiting for a kidney transplant.

Jeanson gave the players hugs and wished them well for the rest of the tour.


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A surprise stop at Waupun starts the day

Posted by Aaron Popkey on May 15, 2013 – 11:09 am

Now on the second day, the Tailgate Tour is motoring along toward Beloit after making a surprise stop at Waupun Junior/Senior High School.

Now on the second day, the Tailgate Tour is motoring along toward Beloit after making a surprise stop at Waupun Junior/Senior High School.

The crew surprised more than 800 students at a school assembly and spoke to them about making goals and achieving their dreams, and how hard work and doing well in school are critical to their success.

Randall Cobb and Santana Dotson spoke about the topics, and Dotson stressed that showing up is a good start, but only half the effort. Working hard on the academic part of high school is crucial. He drew laughs telling the kids that osmosis learning through a book under a pillow is not the approach to take.

Aaron Taylor added that professional sports goals are worthy aspirations, but everyone needs to have an alternative goal. He and the other players would be ex-athletes for a much longer period in life, so each of them has to have a secondary career goal.

Aaron Taylor, Santana Dotson, and Randall Cobb stand with a fan

Aaron Taylor, Santana Dotson, and Randall Cobb stand with a fan — VIEW PHOTOS

Jarrett Bush has firsthand experience with an academic focus; many of his immediate family members have graduate degrees. So while he’s been successful in football, he has maintained a goal to obtain a master’s degree. And he had to work hard on academics through high school and college, but he put in the extra time and is positioned to continue with a career after football.

Some fun topics were broached, too, with Cobb revealing that among his hardest obstacles to overcome in high school was his love of sleep. He said it still is a challenge today at times.

When asked about early career aspirations other than football, Taylor recalled how he wanted to be a chef. Beyond him being a large fellow and liking to eat, he explained that he had a love of food and recipes, and even went as far as to prepare an intricate Thanksgiving meal as a 9-year-old. His mom did help.

Before throwing footballs to the students, the players did talk some football, too, with topics ranging from leaders on defense to aspirations of a Super Bowl.

As the crew got back on the bus to continue the day’s trip to Beloit, Mark Murphy noticed a news report on the TVs about OJ Simpson and said, “There’s a great example of what we were talking about to the students…you don’t want to end up there.”


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Tour’s first day wraps up in Oshkosh

Posted by Aaron Popkey on May 14, 2013 – 11:25 pm

Group shot from Oshkosh Tailgate Party

More than 650 festive fans turned out for the Tailgate Tour’s first party at the Oshkosh Premier Waterfront Hotel & Conference Center.

The event benefited Christine Anne Domestic Abuse Services Inc., an agency servicing individuals and families in Winnebago and Green Lake Counties who struggle with the effects of domestic abuse. The agency also educates the community on the dynamics of abuse and how it can help in the fight against it. More information on the organization can be found online at www.christineann.net.

According to the organization’s executive director, Julie Fevola, the event provided not only a monetary benefit, but also helped raise awareness for their cause.

“It helped get our message out,” she explained. “Tonight energized our supporters, and also saw everyone having a great time.”

Cornerback and special teams ace Jarrett Bush enjoyed his first day.

“It was awesome,” he said. “You could sense the excitement in the room. It was like a high school rally, but really more than that.”

“I’m looking forward to each day, to see the fans.”

Day 2 is up next.


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Packers visit Children’s Hospital in Neenah

Posted by Aaron Popkey on May 14, 2013 – 8:49 pm

The group made another surprise stop, this one at Children’s Hospital in Neenah, Wis.

After a tasty lunch at Zuppas in Neenah…”I’ll have a Southwestern Randall Cobb Salad,” said Cobb, to eye rolls of his Tailgate Tour mates…the group made another surprise stop, this one at Children’s Hospital in Neenah, Wis.

The organization is the only hospital in the Fox Valley exclusively dedicated to the care of kids, and is affiliated with Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee.

For about an hour, the group visited with children who are receiving treatments for various illnesses. The guys also had a chance to show their creative side when we helped them with a tile craft project.

The guys dropped in on a few rooms to visit with patients and families, too. A particularly fun stop was in the room of Christian Hetchler, a young twin who has been in the hospital since being born prematurely in late December with his brother, Thomas. Christian has remained in the hospital as he grows stronger, soon to join his brother, Thomas, at home.

Christian’s mom, Sarah, asked Cobb if he’d like to hold the youngster. Cobb obliged with a big smile.

“It was amazing to have these guys visit our room,” Sarah said. “It’s great that they take the time to engage with the fans. My husband’s name is Randy, so he’ll get a kick out of this.”

In addition to the patients’ rooms and the common area, the group visited a rehab center and encouraged patients going through various exercises.


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DiGiorno pizza, anyone?

Posted by Aaron Popkey on May 14, 2013 – 11:46 am

After the surprise stop at Denmark High School, the Tailgate Tour made a stop in Little Chute at the plant that produces DiGiorno pizza, the official pizza of Lambeau Field.

After the surprise stop at Denmark High School, the Tailgate Tour made a stop in Little Chute at the plant that produces DiGiorno pizza, the official pizza of Lambeau Field.

What seemed like a normal evacuation drill for employees was actually a diversion to get everyone outside when the Tailgate Tour bus pulled up to the building.

The crew spent time mingling with the 350 employees and signed autographs and posed for pictures. Conversation about football was abound, including the current team and the Super Bowl teams from 1996 and ’97.

For Gale Cruse, a supervisor at the plant, it was a welcome surprise.

“We all just figured it was a drill, certainly,” she said. “But it was a big surprise. We were excited and everyone was clapping. Lots of smiles on people’s faces. Everyone was asking each other, ‘Did you know about this?’”

It’s off to lunch and then an afternoon full of activities.


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Denmark is the first stop on Packers Tailgate Tour

Posted by Aaron Popkey on May 14, 2013 – 10:33 am

Randall Cobb races a student at Denmark High School

The Packers Tailgate Tour is on the road after its first surprise stop at Denmark High School. More than 1,500 students, faculty and staff were on hand to participate in a Play 60 assembly with the guys.

Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy introduced the players and asked Jarrett Bush to talk to the crowd about work ethic, a key component to success.

He then asked Aaron Taylor to discuss attitude.

“Attitude is the difference-maker,” Taylor said. “Your attitude will determine how you do in life. Waking up each day with the intent to be great is the key.”

The first hug of the tour occurred at 9:20 a.m., as Randall Cobb obliged a student from the group. It will be the first of many over the next five days.

During one of the answers to the questions, Murphy said, “Go Vikings,” in regard to Denmark High School’s moniker.

“I don’t normally say that, but in Denmark it’s appropriate,” he explained.

Cobb was challenged to race by Nicolau Carnaval, a 16-year-old exchange student from Brazil. It appeared that Carnaval beat Cobb, but the third-year wide receiver disputed that.

“I’m not sure about that,” Cobb said. “Maybe he did.”

In the spirit of Play 60, the players led a group of students through stretching exercises, and then raced a group of preschoolers.

The current players, who are in the midst of offseason workouts, had no issues, but the alumni have varying degrees of exercise routines.

“I’m exhausted,” said Frank Winters with a laugh. “I haven’t run that far in years.”

The bus continued south toward tonight’s destination, Oshkosh, with a few more stops in store during the day.


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Packers Tailgate Tour hits road Tuesday morning

Posted by Duke Bobber on May 13, 2013 – 9:11 pm

The eighth annual ‘Green Bay Packers Tailgate Tour’ is set to depart Tuesday morning.

The tour will make stops in Oshkosh (May 14), Beloit (May 15), Dubuque (May 16), Tomah (May 17) and Wisconsin Rapids (May 18), with tailgate parties held in each city to support a local non-profit organization.

Tour celebrities include Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy, players Jarrett Bush, Randall Cobb and Alex Green, and Packers alumni Santana Dotson, Aaron Taylor and Frank Winters.

Fans interested in ‘Tailgate Tour’ details are encouraged to visit the Packers.com blog throughout the week, as well as follow the official team Twitter account, @packers. If you attend any of the stops on the tour, share your photos by using the hashtag #TailgateTour on Twitter.


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A strong finish in Door County

Posted by Aaron Popkey on May 20, 2012 – 8:24 am

The seventh Packers Tailgate Tour concluded on a high note Saturday night at a very successful tailgate party to benefit the Door County Habitat for Humanity. More than 600 people attended the event at beautiful Sunset Park on the shores of Sturgeon Bay.

The arrival was parade-style, complete with a police escort, as the players sat up on the rear seats of convertibles (a Tour first) and made their way through downtown Sturgeon Bay from the Maritime Museum.

Before they boarded the cars, Jordy Nelson demonstrated to the other players how to wave.

“Elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist,” he said as he deftly moved his arm.

A lively Q-and-A session covering a whole host of topics delighted the crowd.

Marco Rivera performed one more Samba dance in conjunction with a question about Donald Driver.

Larry McCarren’s pinkie finger again was a topic on at least one person’s mind. The questioner wanted to know who broke it.

“If I had a big scar on my face, would you make fun of that, too?” McCarren asked back to the laughter of the crowd.

Players also discussed the hardest hits they received; Nelson’s was from Chicago’s Lance Briggs.

One Rivera admirer told the former guard that he looked young enough to still be playing. Rivera answered that while he may look well, he’s all broken down inside. But, he was very thankful that he got 11 good years in. He also revealed a secret about how he maintains his youthful look.

“I use moisturizer,” he said.

Elsewhere in the park, young attendees took advantage of another Tailgate Tour first: a petting zoo.

All in all, it was good night for the Habitat.

Started in 1993, the Door County Habitat for Humanity was formed to give a “hand up,” not a hand out to their partner families. Homes are sold to families who must make a down payment, work 200 hours of “sweat equity” for each adult in the family, make mortgage payments and pay taxes as any homeowner would. A total of 33 new homes have been built in Door County since its start, with roughly 2.5 homes built each year. More information can be found online at www.doorhabitat.com.

On the bus ride back to Green Bay, the crew reflected on this year’s tour, an approximately 800-mile trek that traveled through Omro, Tomah, La Crosse, West Salem, Oconomowoc, Madison, West Allis, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Grafton, Cedarburg, Algoma and Sturgeon Bay.

Henderson: “It was a great time. Really fantastic and definitely memorable. I had a chance to hang with old compadres and form some new friendships. I liked interacting with recipient charities; it was good knowing the support they would be getting.”

McCarren: “It is such a unique event. I can’t imagine any other team doing it this way, getting the reception it gets, and raising the money it does. It is one of the many unique aspects of Packers. Try as you may, you can’t duplicate it.”

Charlie Peprah: “I enjoyed seeing parts of Wisconsin that I don’t normally get to see. The soldiers were a memorable visit for me. The players on the trip were a great group of guys. We got along really well and jelled well.”

Mason Crosby: “Being able to reach out and see kids is something we’re not able to do all the time, so that was fun for me.”

Rivera: “I liked touching the fans the way we did. And they touched us, too. On the other players on the trip…hey, we survived. Actually, I was glad to be a part of the trip.”

Nelson: “I enjoyed all the stops, but the soldiers – past and present – were a highlight for me. The relationships I was able to build on with my teammates was great. And the opportunity to bond with guys from the past was cool, too.”

Rivera and Henderson weren’t able to determine who had the larger belly circumference at the end of the week without a tape measure. Henderson pointed out that Rivera seemed to eat more food all week, but Rivera said that didn’t matter.

“I just process my food differently,” Rivera said in a matter-of-fact manner.

Everyone else laughed and shook their heads.

Click here to see photos from the final stop on the tour.


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