Well, today is Friday, but I am not sure the sting from Sunday’s loss has worn off yet. I am sure it was tough to watch for all of you and I know it was for me. The good news is that, as Coach McCarthy said, we still have everything in front of us and we can’t allow ourselves to dwell on the disappointment of losing at Detroit. Obviously, on a personal level, I hope Aaron is OK, but I have watched Matt Flynn practice for three years now and I know he is excited about his opportunity. Winning at New England is tall task, but we have the character and the guys in our locker room to do it.
As I mentioned last week, snow was right around the corner, and did it ever come, with almost a foot falling in what was our first blizzard in nearly a year. We were able to leave Green Bay’s Austin Straubel Airport safely on Saturday for the game before the storm started, but once we got to Detroit, it definitely slowed us down some. On our way back from Detroit we sat on the runway for quite a while waiting for the plane to de-ice and for other planes to take off. Traveling and bonding with my teammates brought my thought process to the memories I forged on the Packers Tailgate Tour I went on a few years back.
The Tailgate Tour, coming up on its sixth run this coming May, was a great chance for members of the Packers organization to meet and thank the great fans who live all across the state of Wisconsin. When I was on the trip in 2007, myself, Aaron and Nick Barnett, joined former President and CEO Bob Harlan and a handful of other Packers employees on what was ultimately a four day tour through what seemed like every part of the state. The enthusiastic support for the Packers across the state, and nation for that matter, is outstanding. I’ve never played for another pro team, but seeing how passionate our fans are and seeing how well they’ve followed the team during my 11 seasons, it makes you realize how different this team and organization is. It’s really like a college team the way the fan interest is piqued throughout the year and it’s part of what makes playing here so incredibly unique.
Throughout the four-day excursion, we made scheduled stops in Superior, Eau Claire, McFarland, and Racine to essentially say “thanks” to all of our fans who might not be around us in Green Bay throughout the year. One of the aspects of the trip that I really liked were the surprise stops we made along the way. We’d pop into various restaurants, businesses, and schools on unknowing people. We’d pull up in our big tour bus and hand out goodies. The smiles and elation on the faces of all of the super-shocked fans made the entire experience worth it. I definitely enjoyed the stories I heard from the fans, young and old, about their first game at Lambeau Field or about the first time they met a Packer when they were in grade school.
Our first stop on the tour was at a school in Wausau. It is always fun to surprise students, especially those in younger grades because we get to see that shocked look on their faces. The energy and the great questions are always a highlight of these stops, but this stop allowed Nick Barnett to show his patented samurai dance to the entire school. What Nick did not realize was that he would have to do that for every stop the rest of the way. He of course did not want to do that, but Aaron and I had a lot of fun making sure the students would chant or request the dance at every stop. Nick was a good sport, but I think he was glad when that part was over.
As we continued on, we made my favorite stop which is Norske Nook the best place for pie in Wisconsin. The pies are outstanding regardless of your taste buds. My personal favorite is Peanut Butter Crunch but Fresh Fruit and French Silk are good, too. I first learned of this slice of heaven from my Auburndale basketball coach Tim Anderson. (Side note: I would like to congratulate him on the recent honor of the local court named after him.) When he would come back from conference meetings he would always rave about Norske Nook in Osseo Fairchild. While we stopped at the Rice Lake location, Bob Harlan and our crew agreed with Tim’s assessment. So, whenever you see a sign for Norske, grab a piece of pie and enjoy your day. I am getting hungry just blogging about it.
All along the tour, especially during the school visits, we encouraged young people to read, study, and make good decisions in their own lives. Anytime I can share my experiences to help others, I do it. It is important to me because you realize how much of an influence and impact you have on young people when you are a professional athlete. I think it is as much fun for the players because we have our helmets off and are able to just talk to fans. It is a great experience for the fans because they can get up close and ask anything they want, and we can have fun with them. (Side note 2: While I was not at last year’s tailgate, I understand that James Jones got rejected by the rim as he tried to show off his basketball prowess.)
If you catch wind of any sort of notification that the Packers’ Tailgate Tour is going to be near your area, you really should make every effort to go see it. The face-to-face interaction with Packer players in such an accessible setting is a unique experience for everyone involved, and I certainly encourage you to be a part of it. Stay tuned to Packers.com for any specific location announcements. Until then, I hope you get your holiday shopping completed before our prime time match-up against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.