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New Décor Offers History Lesson


As head coach and general manager, Mike Sherman's job is to see that the Green Bay Packers succeed in the present and future. That doesn't mean however that his teams should lose sight of the past.

With roots that date back to 1919, even before the birth of the NFL, the Packers are one of football's most storied franchises. But with each passing year, as the team's history broadens, explaining the highlights of the Packers' now 84-year existence becomes a more difficult process.

The Packers are fortunate to maintain a large chunk of tradition in the form of Lambeau Field, the team's playing grounds since 1957. But they lost one link to the past last summer when they moved out of their old offices and training facilities at the stadium's north end and into the current state-of-the-art venue, constructed from scratch on the stadium's east side.

Being ever mindful of the Packers' storied past, Sherman wants to make sure that current and future Green Bay teams remain aware of their predecessors. He talks frequently of the honor involved in donning the Packers uniform.

But in the era of free agency, with massive roster turnover year to year, words only go so far. And with each passing season, the chances only increase that a Packers newcomer will practice inside the Don Hutson Center before he ever learns about its namesake.

So rather than just tell his players about Packers teams and players past, Sherman has decided to show them. Last season Sherman had installed in the Packers' new stadium tunnel, slabs of concrete from the original tunnel, formerly at the north end of the stadium.

In a similar move, this offseason the expansive walls of the Packers' new facilities were decorated with photos that offer a visual timeline of team history, creating a can't-miss link to all that has gone before.

"It was Coach Sherman's idea," said Packers director of administrative affairs Mark Schiefelbein, who worked with Z.D. Studios to create the prints. "Coach Sherman and (Packers president/CEO) Bob Harlan want everyone to be familiar with and respect the great history and tradition here. Showing it to them was a great way to start."

The experience begins once a player walks through the doors of the team's facilities at Lambeau Field.

In the first hallway, 13 panels detail in collage form many highlights of the past, broken up into eras. Placards below offer a brief history lesson.

These images lead the players to another hallway, headed toward the locker room, where each of the Packers' 20 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is recognized with an individual poster.

Elsewhere, in each of the position meeting rooms, significant players at that position are recognized on the back and side walls. Huston in the receivers room, Paul Hornung in the running backs room, Bart Starr in the quarterbacks room, just to name a few.

Just outside the meeting rooms are photos of some of the current-era players, from Brett Favre and Donald Driver to Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Darren Sharper.

Just outside the team meeting room, the Packers' four Super Bowl teams are recognized, while inside hang team photos of each of the Packers' 12 championship clubs.

In the hallway that leads to the Lambeau Field tunnel, players walk by nine posters that commemorate great games in team history, everything from the Ice Bowl, to Favre's first game as a Packer, to the Monday Night Miracle, when Antonio Freeman made the game-winning touchdown catch from his back against the Minnesota Vikings in 2000.

All together, these images have an impact on even the most veteran of players.

Since signing with the Packers last week, 37-year-old tight end Wesley Walls has made a habit of admiring the artwork. In fact, the Packers' history was one of the reasons he wanted to join the team.

"The walls tell a story," the 15th-year NFL veteran said. "Every time I walk in, I'm reading. Every time I go through, I read another one. And it's exciting."

Second-year defensive end Aaron Kampman believes the posters have enhanced the Packers' facilities beyond what they were last season.

"Before they were tremendous, but to bring some of the history in, so that every day you're reminded of the implications of being a Green Bay Packer, it makes it even better," said Kampman, who likes especially the photos of the championship teams.

"When you go into the team meeting room and you see those pictures, it really motivates you to want to get your own picture up on that wall with them."

The pictures have perhaps the greatest impact on the younger players, offering rookies their introduction to Packers tradition and lore.

"It makes you realize you're playing for something more than yourself," said linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, who was weeks away from his 12th birthday when Favre became the team's starting quarterback in September of 1992.

"There's a whole history behind this organization that not a lot of teams have, and we're reminded every day that it's an honor and privilege to be playing here."

Said wide receiver Carl Ford, "It's great to see all the old jerseys and all the pictures of the guys in the dirt and the grime. Back in the day there wasn't all the glory and the glamour that comes with playing in the NFL now. Now there's all this money and fame and flash, but it used to just be about guys going out there and working hard together and getting the job done.

"When you see those pictures, it reminds you of that. It brings out a little bit more passion for the game."

That passion should hopefully increase as the decorating process is completed.

Before the start of the season, the long corridor that leads players toward the stadium tunnel on game days will include a sign that reads 'Play Like A Champion.'

Already, a similar sign on the way out to the practice fields reminds players to practice like champions, and photos of players on the practice field, riding bikes to training camp workouts and signing autographs, soon will be added to remind players of their history with the fans.

Outside the team dining area, and on the way to the locker room, the Packers' Super Bowl trophies will be put on display.

And where the Hall of Fame posters already have been added, championship banners will hang overhead, and a new picture will be put on view, featuring an anonymous player holding a helmet over his head underneath the question, "Who's next?"

"I don't see another franchise being like this," Ford said. "Before you get here, you hear about how special Green Bay is. But now, with each passing day, you see it."

For Sherman, that was the whole idea.

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