Day three of the Packers’ “Tailgate Tour” took the team’s nine-man contingent to Hayward Senior High School in Hayward, Wis., for a surprise visit to about 600 students. The most asked question continues to be about Antonio Freeman’s famous catch against the Vikings on Monday Night Football.
What’s No. 2?
It might be about Matt Flynn’s performance against the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Flynn led a grossly underdog Packers team into New England late last season, to face a red-hot Patriots team. The Packers, of course, were without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had been knocked out of the previous week’s game due to a concussion.
In what was his coming-out party as an NFL quarterback, Flynn completed 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 100.2, and nearly upset the Patriots. In one night of action, Flynn became the hottest backup quarterback in the league.
Despite the loss, it is a game that has often been described as a turning point in the Packers’ season. The Packers left New England that night with their backs to the wall in their bid to qualify for the playoffs, but their gutty performance, as led by Flynn, lit a fire in the Packers that burned right through the postseason and Super Bowl XLV.
Flynn, a seventh-round draft choice in 2008, was suddenly a star.
“It makes you feel really good. It’s an honor for people to say that. I was just going up there to play the best I can. I didn’t want there to be a big drop-off at the position. It was the most fun I’ve had since college. It gave me a little bit of confidence knowing I could go out there and perform well. It took me a few days to get over losing,” Flynn said.
Growing up in Texas, playing for the Packers never entered Flynn’s mind. He knew nearly nothing about the Packers or Green Bay.
“When I was drafted, Ted (Thompson) asked me what number I wanted, and I was 15 in college so I said 15, and he said you can’t have that. That’s how little I knew about them,” Flynn said.
The number 15, of course, belongs to Bart Starr and has long since been retired.
“It means a lot of be a part of the great tradition. It’s one of the most storied franchises in pro sports. When I was at LSU, I used to talk to Jim Taylor all the time. When I came up here in Green Bay, I realized how great he was and who I had been talking to all these years,” Flynn added.
Flynn and current Packers players Desmond Bishop and Josh Sitton are joined on the “Tailgate Tour,” a team charity event, by Packers alumni players Dorsey Levens, Gilbert Brown, Forrest Gregg, Freeman and Taylor. Team President and CEO Mark Murphy is also on the “Tour” team.
Wednesday night’s “Tailgate Party” at the Ashland, Wis., Civic Center began with a seven-block parade in which the Packers contingent walked behind a marching band. At Hayward Senior High School on Thursday, the message to students was about teamwork and sportsmanship.
The “Tailgate Tour” is in its sixth year and has raised over $100,000 annually for designated charities. This year’s charities are Bay Cliff Health Camp in Marquette, Mich., BRICK Ministries, Inc. in Ashland, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Wisconsin in Eau Claire, Wis., The Women’s Community, Inc. in Wausau, Wis., and the Green Bay Area Public School District in Green Bay. The nightly “Tailgate Parties” in those specific communities are the fund-raisers. Thursday’s “Tailgate Party” is set for the Eau Claire County Expo Center.
“It’s been great. The whole thing has been a great moment. They get really excited,” Flynn said of the fans.