The setup Thursday night in the Upper Dells Ballroom of the Ho-Chunk Casino in Baraboo was fitting for a rock concert, complete with a stage, lights, sound system and video screens.
To the nearly 1,000 Packers fans in attendance, the members of the Tailgate Tour were their rock stars. And they greeted them appropriately.
The Tailgate Tour team was at full strength, too, with the return of Antonio Freeman. The former wide receiver had to stay in Green Bay Tuesday when he experienced some issues with his shoulder. After a series of tests revealed no serious concerns and the level of discomfort subsided, Freeman was able to catch up with his teammates.
“It’s great to be here because it was killing me having to stay back in Green Bay,” Freeman said. “The camaraderie with my old teammates was something I looked forward to, and putting some smiles on some faces.”
When the event settled in, the attendees heard from the members on a variety of subjects. Micah Hyde spoke about one of his early moments in the NFL, an experience that revealed the level of talent that exists in the pro league that is a huge step up from the college ranks.
“It was in a practice and Aaron Rodgers had this no-look pass for a touchdown,” he recalled. “And it wasn’t just a short throw, either. It was a corner route that he threw while looking the other way. I was thinking, ‘What did I get myself into?’ I hoped that not all NFL quarterbacks would be able to do that.”
Jerry Kramer was asked if he was going to write another book to complement the four successful writings he’s authored.
“I am considering maybe it’s time for another book,” he said. “I’ve been approached by a few publishers. Maybe I can do a final book and tie the experiences all together.”
The benefit was a huge boost to Benefit People Helping People, an organization which applies the time and talents of its members directly toward needs within the local community by conducting fundraisers, food drives, bake sales, sidewalk sales and fall festivals in order to support local food banks and other help centers. It also coordinates the “Adopt-a-family” outreach program and the School Supply Program.
Bill Harris, the organization’s founder and president, was extremely pleased with the evening’s success.
“Wow…wow!” he exclaimed. “It is unreal to have this night. Who would have thought we’d have a visit from the Packers. It’s a huge benefit for us. We’ll be able to better serve the broken hearts and those in need in our community. We’ll bring them back up.”
Away from events and visits, the players simply enjoy each other’s company and the playful banter that comes with the relationships. A late-night dinner featured such conversations, and Freeman was a target when he was offering some observations on the event.
“Johnny Come Lately be quiet!” Gilbert Brown commanded, perhaps making up for some of Freeman’s lost time.
Bill Schroeder was discussing some frustrations with his smart phone when Dave Robinson offered a solution as he held out his old-style, flip phone.
“Throw that away and try a real phone,” Robinson quipped.
Also at the dinner, the current players reported that they got a workout in during the afternoon’s break time, an effort that included some swimming in the hotel’s lap pool.
The tour is now officially over the hump and Day 4 will see the motor coach head south toward Elkhorn.
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