While the players in the Green Bay Packers locker room love playing at Lambeau Field in front of some of the most loyal and supportive fans in all of sports, most of them don't enjoy winters in the Wisconsin.
In fact for the most part, when February rolls around and the NFL football season is over, most players that work in cold weather cities seek warmer temperatures or return to their hometowns.
One exception is Packers guard Marco Rivera. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native remains in Wisconsin all year long and he couldn't be happier. "I like living in a cold weather climate," he stated. "I have two younger boys who also love it up there and there are a lot of things to do in the snow."
Another advantage to living so close to Lambeau Field is the chance to use the team's tremendous weight room and other training equipment. "All the facilities are there and you can work out all off-season," Rivera said. "It's also a great place to raise a family."
Residing in Oneida, just 15 minutes from the Packers' Lambeau Field locker room, Rivera, 30, gets the full winter treatment each year, which makes it easier to prepare when it comes time to play in those conditions.
"We pride ourselves on playing in that frigid temperature," he said. "Just in watching the last few weeks of the playoffs, especially the NFC Championship Game, I realized that if that game was in Green Bay, it was about four degrees out that day. That's perfect football weather. It's a great town to play football in and the fans really love the team. The weather is just part of the mystique."
An avid outdoorsman, Wisconsin provides the perfect balance of distraction and hard work for Rivera's off-season. "I do some ice fishing on the lake," he said. "It hasn't frozen yet to where we can go out there and feel safe but I'll do a little of that. Workout a little bit at the facilities and just try to relax and get away from football for two or three months and try to re-energize and re-focus for next season."
Embracing the chilly climate has endeared Rivera to fans, teammates, and coaches alike. "I like to refer to this guy as Mr. Packer," commented Packers offensive line coach Larry Beightol, who has coached Rivera the last four seasons. "He epitomizes what I think it means to be a Green Bay Packer. He loves his teammates, he loves his team, and he's a guy that lives here year-round and trains in the off-season. He's a terrific leader for the offensive line."
Originally drafted by Green Bay in the sixth round of the 1996 NFL Draft, Rivera surprised many by earning a roster spot on a team that went to the Super Bowl that season. He was inactive for all 16 games in 1996 but after honing his talents with the Scottish Claymores of the then-World League, Rivera played in 14 games with the Packers in 1997, mostly on special teams. "I went to the World League to play some more and just develop my skills," he recalled. "I came back and became a starter and have been a starter ever since."
Since that 1997 season and the trip to Europe, Rivera has started 82 of the last 83 games for Green Bay, including 67 in a row dating back to 1998.
This season, he earned his first Pro Bowl berth and enjoyed a trip to Hawaii on the league.
"It means that everything in that my career has come full circle," he said of the selection to the NFL's annual all-star game held last Sunday in Honolulu. "All the hard work, the World League, all the off-seasons working out, it's great to finally have the respect of my peers and be selected to the Pro Bowl. It's important because it means you've reached a level in your profession where you're considered one of the best and that's what we strive for. Not just to play football but to be one of the best."