Not often do Green Bay Packers fans get the chance to compete at the same level of play as some of their favorite athletes. However, several devotees got their chance at the annual Pro vs. G.I. Joe event in the Lambeau Field Atrium Friday, Oct. 15. While the action was not on the football field, Mason Crosby, Brad Jones, Marshall Newhouse and Brett Swain met a new competitor, members of the Wisconsin National Guard in friendly video game action.
Through the use of a video conference setup, soldiers stationed in Basra and Baghdad, Iraq were able to spend a few hours with the players and battle each other online in the video games 'Call of Duty' and 'Rock Band.' And from the laughs heard throughout the Atrium, it was clear both the players and soldiers were enjoying the afternoon.
Mason Crosby has participated in the Pro vs. G.I. Joe event in the past and looks forward to it each year.
"This is really a special event," Crosby said. "I did it last year and when they said they were doing it again this year, I jumped right on it. They're (the soldiers) the reason we get to do what we do so I think it is really important to interface with them and see them overseas – just really let them have a little fun for a bit. And really, it is a lot of fun for us, too."
Crosby, who has close military ties of his own, was honored to share a few hours with the soldiers.
"I have friends that served overseas along with several family members. So this is definitely something close to my heart, and I feel very proud just to come out here and share this with them."
While it was all fun and games, Crosby couldn't help keep his competitive nature hidden.
"I was getting destroyed at 'Call of Duty,'" Crosby said. "Some of the guys we were playing with were pretty good and I haven't played in awhile, and that definitely showed. I won't lie, I'm a competitor and when I was getting beat at 'Call of Duty,' it was upsetting me, and I finally had to give up the controller because it wasn't looking too good for me."
Another competitor joining in the action was Timothy Headrick of De Pere, Wis. Headrick, who previously participated in the event from across the ocean, was glad to be invited back into the game, but this time on his home ground.
"This is my third year at the event," Headrick said. "In 2008 I was in Iraq and I got the chance to play with the Packers over Xbox Live. It was awesome. I know how much both I and the guys over there really enjoyed it. When I returned back home, they contacted me to come play here and I have been coming back ever since.
"In Iraq, I got the chance to play against Mark Tauscher, the hometown hero especially to me, and that was something I will never forget."
This year Headrick braved the microphone during a battle of 'Rock Band' while Brad Jones and Brett Swain managed the drums and guitar for the group.
Friday's event was sponsored by WPS Health Insurance as a component of Operation Fan Mail, the gameday military family recognition program where a nominated family is saluted on the field prior to the national anthem. Brian Brugger was glad to see Pro vs. G.I. Joe continue successfully and takes pride in making the event possible.
"This event is really something special," Brugger said. "It is a great opportunity to support our troops and their families and really something fun for everyone. I know all the guys here today are having a good time."
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