The morning of Day 3 featured visits in the Hurley-Ironwood-Bessemer area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with an initial visit at Hurley School in Hurley, Wis. Students from kindergarten through high school were expecting a speaker at an assembly, but were pleasantly surprised by the Tailgate Tour bus.
The students split into groups with a Play 60 activity set for the younger students and an assembly for the others. After presenting school administrators with a check for $2,000, Mark Murphy and the players spoke to the students about perseverance and teamwork, with Ahman Green sharing his challenge of having to learn new offenses upon being drafted into the NFL and then getting a new coach.
“There were definitely frustrations that I had to persevere through,” he acknowledged. “I went from more of a simple offense in college to one much more complicated in the NFL, and then I had to learn another new one when we got a new coach.
“I had some down moments, but a coach kept me positive and encouraged me to respond in a good way when a mistake was made. That little statement kept me going and helped me persevere.”
As a kicker, Ryan Longwell depended on the teamwork of each person involved on an extra point or field goal.
“There is a very short window in which a kicker needs to get the ball off,” he explained. “From when the ball is snapped to when it needs to be kicked, everything needs to happen perfectly within 1.25 to 1.28 seconds.”
After sharing examples of NFL teamwork with students, the Tailgate Tour crew had the opportunity to see it in person in a different setting as the group crossed the border from Wisconsin to Michigan, giving employees a break at Ironwood Plastics in Ironwood and Bessemer Plywood Corp in Bessemer.
Players and alumni had the opportunity to shake hands with both Packers fans and Lions fans in this unique area, where it’s just as likely to see Green Bay flags waving as it is to see Detroit colors.
The group answered questions in the break room at Ironwood Plastics and everyone present learned that Michigan alum and Packers linebacker Jake Ryan was making his first visit to the Upper Peninsula.
Some Michigan football fans asked about what led him to choose Michigan.
“Well, there was Ball State, Toledo and Michigan…,” he said with a laugh. “Rich Rodriguez was the coach then, back in the day.”
“C’mon, Jake,” interrupted Mark Murphy. “You’re too young to use that phrase.”
Other topics included what keeps you up at night (Murphy said he doesn’t worry too much because of our supportive shareholder owners and a leadership team that includes Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy), icing kickers (Longwell doesn’t believe it works; actually helped him), Aaron Rodgers as a mentor (Hundley says he’s great) and the need to get Ripkowski more carries (he’s good with that; just talk to his coaches).
Workers at the plant then gave the players a tour to see some of the custom injection molded products being manufactured.
At Bessemer Plywood, the tour had the opportunity to surprise the working crew as they were enjoying lunch on a sunny day. The players posed for photos and shared some football experiences with the appreciative workers, most of whom were Packers fans. A few Lions fans were in the mix, as well.
Members of tour spent the remainder of the afternoon enjoying a peaceful ride through the beautiful U.P. on the way to Houghton for the evening’s event to benefit Dial Help, Inc.