As former Green Bay head coach Mike Holmgren said to his team 14 years ago, following the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI triumph: “It means more to us.” Holmgren was obviously referring to the fact the trophy’s namesake is legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi.
Since it was hoisted overhead by current Head Coach Mike McCarthy in front of 56,000 fans during the “Return to Titletown” celebration at Lambeau Field two days after the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV victory, and then carried around the stadium by safety Nick Collins for those in the front row to touch, the trophy has ventured out from its protective trunk in equipment manager Gordon “Red” Batty’s office only on select occasions.
Visits to three in-state basketball games have provided the most widespread exposure, with nearly 40,000 fans getting a chance to see it.
Six days after the Super Bowl, Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy, along with Batty and defensive backs Charles Woodson and Charlie Peprah, took the trophy to the Milwaukee Bucks game against the Indiana Pacers at the Bradley Center.
Three days later it was at the Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball home game vs. Butler at the Resch Center, and five days after that it was at the Kohl Center in Madison for Wisconsin vs. Penn State.
It also stopped by the Air National Guard base in Madison, where some of the pilots who perform the Lambeau Field pre-game fly-bys got an up-close look as well.
Reactions include awe, pride, disbelief and everything in between.
“I’ve seen people cry,” Batty said. “People say, ‘Wow, I never thought I’d have a chance to touch this. It means so much to my family. If my dad could have seen this in his day … ’
“Some people are afraid to touch it because of how sacred it is. Some people embrace it, give it special hugs or kiss it. They’re all very upbeat and very respectful of the trophy, what it means and the work that goes into winning that.”
That last thought, the work involved, is what sticks in Batty’s mind anytime he’s locking it into the secure trunk in his office.
“To lay it down, put it to sleep for the night, knowing all of the players in the NFL who start out at the beginning of the season with the dream of winning this trophy, …” Batty said. “To me, the memories flash from the season, the highs and lows. Here we are in week 14 and we’re not expected to be even close to this trophy, and all of a sudden, we’ve got it.”
One of the trophy’s most recent visits, just last week, was to the CP Center (Cerebral Palsy, Inc.) in Green Bay, a couple of days in advance of the organization’s annual telethon.
Betsy Mitchell, the Packers’ vice president of organizational/staff development, took it there and helped a number of individuals with severe disabilities who couldn’t otherwise touch the trophy on their own lay a hand or cheek on it.
“That was an incredibly moving experience,” said Mitchell, who is on the CP Center’s board of directors. “It was a message of triumph for what I like to call other champions in our community.”
Sometime soon, the trophy will need to go into hiding for awhile. Batty said it must be sent back to the manufacturer, Tiffany & Co., headquartered in New York City, to be engraved with the Super Bowl score and participants.
Batty will be shipping the Lombardi trophy – along with the George S. Halas trophy for the NFC Championship and quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ Super Bowl MVP trophy – to Tiffany’s for each trophy’s requisite engraving, but he wasn’t sure of the actual timetable.
When it returns it will be in Batty’s possession again until taking up permanent residence at some point in the Packers Hall of Fame next to its three predecessors (I, II and XXXI).
It could take some more excursions before that, and if so, it’ll be sure to continue eliciting the emotional responses, which Batty has witnessed more than any other individual in the organization.
“The Green Bay Packers have won four Super Bowl trophies and I’ve had the honor of looking after two of them,” said Batty, who joined the team in 1994. “To put many, many smiles on people’s faces representing the Green Bay Packers is a tremendous honor, and I’m very proud to do that.
“People ask, ‘Is that the real trophy? Is that the real thing?’ Yes it is. That’s the one they gave us right on the podium at the Super Bowl. That’s the trophy right there.”
Mike Spofford is a 1995 Masters graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University who worked as a sports reporter for two daily newspapers in Wisconsin. Spofford has been a packers.com staff writer since 2006.