Tailgate Tour allows alumni to ‘see what Wisconsin is really about’

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GREEN BAY – They come from all walks of post-football life.

Scott Wells is teaching senior economics, and coaching football and wrestling. Earl Dotson is down to around 220 pounds after changing his lifestyle, trading out red meat for fish and salads.

Aaron Kampman is raising four kids and running a leadership development business. Nick Barnett served as a coaching intern with the Packers last summer, while Ryan Grant and Bernardo Harris continue to keep up on the team from afar.

Over the next five days, those six Packers alumni will get reacquainted with one another as they and President/CEO Mark Murphy travel across Wisconsin for the 14th annual Tailgate Tour.

This year’s tour includes stops in Marshfield (April 9), Sparta (April 10), New Richmond (April 11), Chippewa Falls (April 12) and Antigo (April 13), plus surprise stops at schools, hospitals, military locations and community recreational facilities along the way.

“When they asked me to come do this, I said absolutely,” said Wells, who played center for Green Bay from 2004-11. “I wasn’t able to do it as a player, so I’m excited to come back as an alumni and to be able to come out and see the fans, and tour the state.”

Barnett actually has participated in the week-long event once before. He was part of the Packers’ second Tailgate Tour back in 2007, with former President/CEO Bob Harlan, Mark Tauscher and eventual two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The 14th annual Packers Tailgate Tour pulled out of the Lambeau Field parking lot on Tuesday morning to begin its five-day journey.

Glancing at the customized motor coach with the six alumni pictured on the side, Barnett joked the biggest difference he already noticed from his debut was “our buses didn’t have our faces on it” 12 years ago.

When he was approached about going on the tour again, Barnett jumped at the opportunity.

“When you live here, you don’t really get to go see all the cool parts of Wisconsin because you’re working,” said Barnett, a former first-round pick who played linebacker for eight seasons with the Packers. “After doing that first one, we went to so many cool places that we didn’t know existed. It was awesome to see all the fans and community that supports the Packers. You get to see what Wisconsin is really about.”

The Marshfield, Sparta, New Richmond and Chippewa Falls tailgate parties will welcome the tour celebrities at 6 p.m., and festivities will run until 8:30 p.m. The Antigo tailgate party will welcome the tour celebrities at 1 p.m., and festivities will run until 3:30 p.m. One hundred percent of Tailgate Tour proceeds will benefit the hosting organizations.

This year’s event doesn’t include current players due to the early start of the offseason program. The silver lining is it provides the participating Packers alumni a unique opportunity to reunite with a fan base that helped create a lifetime of memories.

“Packers fans are like no other (fan base),” Grant said. “Every single Packers fan, there’s a little part of their world that revolves around the Packers. I always tell people you can’t go to the state of Wisconsin and go the entire day without seeing something Packers. I’m looking forward to it.”

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