GREEN BAY—Ken Ruettgers and Ahman Green took different routes to Green Bay, but the two Packers stars arrived at the same destination on Saturday night, the Packers Hall of Fame.
Ruettgers was a first-round draft pick of the Packers out of USC in 1985. He was the team’s offensive MVP in 1989. He capped a 12-year career where he began his career, as Ruettgers spoke of a visit he made to the Hall of Fame two nights before his first pro game.
“I went to the Packers Hall of Fame to find out what is the story that is the Green Bay Packers. I was amazed at the depth and breadth of what I found. That became a yearly tradition for me,” he said.
Ruettgers and Green are alumni of the Brett Favre era of Packers football, and Ruettgers spoke warmly of the resurrection of the Packers, but each is identifiable for his own achievements. Ruettgers was considered to be one of the best tackles in the game before Favre even arrived in Green Bay, and Green returned to Green Bay in 2009, a year after Favre left, to become the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
“I never was a stat guy. I never was for highlights,” Green said, after watching a video presentation featuring highlights from his Packers career. “It’s here,” he said, fighting back emotion.
Green came to the Packers in 2000 in a trade with Seattle. It was, yet, another personnel stroke of genius by then-GM Ron Wolf.
At one point during his acceptance speech at the Lambeau Field Atrium on Saturday night, Green succumbed to tears.
“Coming back to Green Bay to get that record … I watched that team grow. I was very fortunate to be a part of that team,” he said.
Green said the 2009 season was a preview of what was ahead in 2010, which is to say a Super Bowl title for the Packers. He retired from football following the 2009 season, but he continues to make Green Bay his home.
“I’m all about trying to better this community. I’m not out to make a quick buck. Why not stay in a community that supported you?” he said.
His presenter, older brother Jerry Paul, spoke of helping raise Green, and told the story of Green having rolled off the bed when Paul was changing his one-week-old brother’s diaper.
“That’s the first time I saw how tough he is,” Paul said.
Ruettgers was presented for induction by Scott Berchtold, a former Packers PR executive who has spent the last three decades in the PR department of the Buffalo Bills.
Berchtold the story of Ruettgers facing Lawrence Taylor when Taylor needed 1½ sacks to set a sacks record. Taylor got no sacks that day.
As a first-round pick, Ruettgers wanted to “be part of bringing back a winning tradition to Green Bay.”
He would be.
What was the game-changer?
“Leadership from the top,” he said. “Bob Harlan and his vision. Of course, you have to get the right guys.”
Ruettgers and Green are two of “the right guys.”
Saturday night’s 44th Annual Packers Hall of Fame Induction Banquet also honored running back Eddie Lacy as the Ariens Company 2013 Rookie of the Year, wide receiver Jordy Nelson as the Miller Lite 2013 Most Value Player of the Year, Antonio Freeman for his Festival Foods Memorable Moment in Packers History, and long-time Packers Board of Directors and Packers Hall of Fame, Inc. Board of Directors member Herman Reckelberg, who won the Bart and Cherry Starr Recognition Award.