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Alumni Enjoy 'Reunion' Of Fan Fest


TE Paul Coffman makes a catch in the famous 'Snow Bowl' game against Tampa Bay in 1985.

When former Packers tight end Paul Coffman is asked about Green Bay fans, he likes to tell a story.

It was in the late 1980s or early '90s, shortly after Coffman's 11-year playing career had ended, when he and former teammates Greg Koch and David Whitehurst were coming back to town for a game.

With just two or three wins to their credit on the season, the Packers were playing out the string during a truly down season on a December Sunday featuring single-digit temperatures.

"It was 9:30 in the morning, the parking lot was packed and the smell of brats was in the air," Coffman said. "All of us were done playing, and we never really got to experience what the parking lot was like before a game, and to be in that parking lot for a team that had that kind of record and see people holding up signs saying 'I need 4 tickets' - not 'I want to sell 4 tickets,' but 'I need 4 tickets' - it was unbelievable. You don't see that anywhere else.

"The fans up there have an unconditional love for their team. To experience that after I retired, it just really kind of hit home what kind of fans the Packers have."

Those are the kind of fans Coffman loves to meet when he returns for Fan Fest, which he'll be attending again March 13-14 in the Lambeau Field Atrium. He enjoys the annual event as not only a chance to be face-to-face with some of the team's most avid fans, but also an opportunity to catch up with some old teammates.

Two of them will be joining Coffman at this year's Fan Fest for a somewhat historic reunion. Quarterback Lynn Dickey, a regular Fan Fest attendee, and receiver James Lofton, who will be making his first Fan Fest appearance, joined Coffman in the late 1970s and early '80s to form a prolific Packers offensive trio, and none can recall all three being together in Green Bay since their playing days ended.

"Green Bay is a very special place and it's always great to come back and see some of my old teammates and friends," said Lofton, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. "It should be a fun weekend."

The three certainly have stayed connected as best they can. Coffman and Dickey both live in Kansas City and see each other fairly regularly. While Lofton was a coach with the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders in recent years, the three did get together for dinner when either of the AFC West rivals visited the Chiefs.

Their conversations and memories are sure to be interesting when back within the walls of Lambeau again. From 1980-85 when all three were starters together, Lofton was Dickey's top receiver and Coffman was his top tight end every year.

The trio combined for a couple of dynamite years statistically in 1983 and 1984. In those two seasons, Dickey passed for 7,653 yards, Lofton caught 120 passes for 2,661 yards and 15 touchdowns, and Coffman had 97 receptions for 1,376 yards and 20 TDs.

"It's amazing how much better we get as time goes on," said Dickey, describing how the discussions go when they get together. "The stories grow and grow, and the older I get the better I was. It's a little bit of everything because you catch up with all the families, too."

At Fan Fest, Dickey also enjoys getting to meet some of the current players, which is hard to do when not connected to the team on a regular basis, and meeting Packers fans from all over.

"Every year that I go back for this, I tend to ask people, 'Where are you from?'" Dickey said. "And very few of the people are from Wisconsin. I've heard people come from Hawaii, from San Diego to Washington state to New York to Florida. They come from all corners of the country to come to this, because it's been a lifetime dream of theirs to go to Lambeau Field."

{sportsad300}Alumni from the Lombardi years often hear the same thing, and even when it's been three or four decades since they last played, connecting with the fans never gets old for some players.

"It's a unique feeling and experience anytime you have a chance to be a part of the Green Bay Packer fans, because they seem so interested and so honest," said Hall of Fame defensive end Willie Davis, a member of all five championship teams of the 1960s. "I was back here a couple years ago to an event and they said, 'Hey, we like you old guys because it's almost like you make us feel special.' Well, I can tell you, they make us feel special when they relate back to when we played."

For Packers from any era, that feeling extends to their teammates as well. Running back Donny Anderson and guard Jerry Kramer are among the '60s greats scheduled to appear this year along with Davis.

"Someone said there is that love affair, and it's really true," Davis said. "I remember very much when we were quoted in the papers saying we love each other, and it kind of sounded (odd), guys loving each other. But I can tell you we really do and did love each other during our Green Bay Packer days and that love still exists."

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