April 17, 2015 - 12:45 pm - Hand me that sledgehammer, please

Who said the Packers Tailgate Tour is all play?

The members of the tour traded in their Sharpies for work gloves Friday morning in Sun Prairie and helped the Hammer with a Heart program with a home-improvement project at the home of Madelyn Link. The players demolished an old storage shed and built a raised garden bed to pitch in.

Photo gallery: Tailgate Tour stops to fix up a home

“It was fun,” said Micah Hyde. “I’ve done that before and have really enjoyed it.”
Hyde also reflected on the impressive hammer swinging of his teammate, Andrew Quarless.

“It’s about time he used his strength for something, since he doesn’t use it on the field.”

Link was very excited, not only to have the work being done on the home, but also to have the Packers take part.

“Excited is an understatement,” she said. “I blew a gasket when I heard they were coming. With the house, I was to a point where I didn’t know what to do. Jason (Hafeman) and Project Home came and looked at the house and said it was something they could do. I could give them all a bear hug.”

For Hafeman, the organization’s outreach manager, Link is exactly the type of person the program seeks to help.

“She’s got an amazing story,” Hafeman said. “She’s been in this house since she was born and a crossing guard at the school five blocks away for 31 years. To make it safe and keep her in her home is great.”

The Hammer with a Heart program, which is run through Project Home and supported financially by the Packers, assists approximately 1,000 households each year with a variety of no-cost and low-cost home improvement programs. Hammer with a Heart provides major home repairs and maintenance, and improves the families’ safety, comfort and health in their homes through the help of sponsors, volunteers and staff.

While the younger members were at the home site, Mark Murphy, Antonio Freeman, Dave Robinson and Jerry Kramer paid a visit to the Colonial Club to play Wii bowling and toss the bean bag with the residents. The visit included a discussion of some of the great moments of the Lombardi Era with Kramer and Robinson.

“It was a lot of fun,” Murphy said of the visit with approximately 70 residents. “They definitely know their history about the Ice Bowl.”

Afterward, the tour enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Sweet Spot in Whitewater as they continued their route south to Elkhorn for tonight’s party to benefit VIP Services Inc.

April 18, 2015 - 9:22 am - Back to school night for the Tailgate Tour

Elkhorn Middle School was the site of the Packers Tailgate Tour Friday night, where a sold-out gathering of more than 600 enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the players.

The walk down the hallway toward the gym brought back memories of Casey Hayward’s own middle school experience.

“We had to walk a line in the hallways at my school,” he said. “It wasn’t a bad thing, just some structure.”

The event benefitted VIP Services, a nonprofit that empowers people with disabilities to explore and experience endless possibilities. It offers employment opportunities, life skills development, transportation service and other assistance to people in the community with disabilities.

Photo gallery: Elkhorn tailgate party

Live music kept the crowd entertained while they waited in line for autographs or enjoyed the tasty tailgate food.
The question-and-answer session again featured some insight into the players careers, with Micah Hyde describing the various ways he contributes to the Packers, including corner, slot defender, safety, return man and a possible new wrinkle.

“I’m trying to put on some weight so I can play linebacker,” he quipped.

Jerry Kramer gave the crowd some insight into Vince Lombardi’s legendary ability to motivate players as he recalled a day at practice when he missed a block and then had a false start.

“He got four inches from my face and said, ‘Mister, college students have a concentration span of five minutes, high school is three, kindergarten is 30 seconds. Where does that put you?’ ”

Later, as a dejected Kramer sat in his locker and pondered his now seemingly dubious future, Lombardi approached.

“He patted me on the shoulders and neck and said, ‘Son, one of these days you’re going to be the best guard in the league.’ Talk about being ready to go.”

Prior to the party, the players had the opportunity to meet several individuals who work for VIP Services when they surprised them during a pizza party. It was clear the group was touched by the visit as smiles as wide as the room accompanied the many hugs and pictures.

“That was fun,” said Bill Schroeder. “I really like how emotional the clients are. You can tell they appreciated the visit.”

Mark Murphy appreciated the opportunity to help VIP and its mission. Over the course of the tours, stops have been made at a handful of such organizations.

“It’s a great program,” Murphy said. “I’m really impressed with VIP. Organizations like this are so valuable to the individuals as it gives them a sense of purpose and have a job and contribute. It’s helpful to the families, too.”

At the post-event dinner, Gilbert Brown wasn’t around to defend himself when Dave Robinson considered the all-you-can-eat items on the menu.

“You’re lucky Gilbert Brown isn’t here,” he said to the restaurant staff.

As the conversation turned to other subjects, Robinson was describing what it’s like to be color blind when Hayward pulled up on his smart phone the famous picture of the “the dress” that was all the rage on the Internet recently. As he passed it around the table, most of those in attendance thought it was either blue and black or white and gold. But Robinson had his own take.

“That dress is red,” he insisted, as the others laughed heartily.

The members of the tour are looking forward to the final day.