The Green Bay Packers may have just defeated the Tennessee Titans 21-17, but long snapper Rob Davis felt a lump in his heart. Worried about the devestation inflicted by Hurricane Katrina, he went through the locker room, looking for volunteers to aid the relief effort.
"We just wanted to make sure we had a presence from the Packers," Davis said. "We're trying to help out as best as we can."
The Packers helped out indeed.
In conjunction with the American Red Cross, several Packers players signed autographs on Sunday at Bay Park Square Mall in Green Bay, Wis., raising over $16,000 in just two hours to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Any monetary contribution entitled patrons to an autograph on one item. For a $100 donation, they could visit each of the three autograph tables. They were also encouraged to donate blood at the Red Cross blood drive in the mall.
By 12:30p.m., Red Cross officials estimated 500 people had already arrived for autographs and the blood drive had a three-hour wait.
"The crowd has blown me away," said Steve Maricque, executive director of the American Red Cross' Lakeland chapter. "I'm amazed especially on a Labor Day weekend."
Scott Wells, Grey Ruegamer, Bubba Franks, Najeh Davenport, Craig Nall, Kenny Peterson, Tony Fisher, Joey Thomas, Paris Lenon, Ben Steele, Chad Clifton, Aaron Rodgers, Mark Roman, Aaron Kampman, Robert Ferguson, Grady Jackson, Mike Hawkins, Terrence Murphy, Marviel Underwood and Davis participated.
For the players, using their fame to raise donations was the next best thing to being in the Gulf Coast.
"This is one way to help out," Ruegamer said. "People wanted to help out physically, but because of security issues, transportation, gas, food and all the shortages they're having, we'd just get in the way and be another mouth to feed."
Mike Seavert of New Berlin, a suburb of Milwaukee, Wis., donated $100 to receive autographs from each table. He arrived at the mall at 9:30 after driving from two hours away and clutched an autographed cheesehead for his efforts.
"It's important to support the people from the hurricane," he said. "Plus I'm a huge Packers fan."
When Davis approached Packers manager of community relations Cathy Dworak regarding his desire to aid Katrina's victims, she contacted the Red Cross, which already had a blood drive set up for Sunday. The residents of Green Bay and surrounding cities did the rest, coming in droves to receive autographs and donate money and blood.
"I knew the turnout would be like this," Ferguson said. "It's a great town, a great city."