Tailgate Tour makes its way home

Packers travel nearly 700 miles in five-day trip

2023 Packers Tailgate Tour

After departing Minocqua, the Tailgate Tour's final day began with a stop in Rhinelander at the Habitat for Humanity Northwoods Wisconsin ReStore.

The ReStore is a nonprofit home improvement store and donation center that sells new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of retail price. Its mission is to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope, and create a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Members of the Tour took photos with fans in exchange for their donations to the organization. Donations from the Packers ($20,000) and Associated Bank ($4,000) also were presented. The funds raised will help local construction projects in Oneida and Vilas counties. More than 20 homes have been built by the Northwoods chapter.

Mark Murphy and the players spoke to fans who had gathered and answered a few questions before posing for pictures.

With the NFL Draft coming up at the end of the month, selections were on the mind of one fan who asked who the Packers are going to draft.

"The best player available," Murphy responded immediately, with a smile.

Another fan was anxious for the season to start and asked if Elgton Jenkins versatility along the line might earn him an opportunity in the offensive backfield.

"Maybe," he responded with a smile. "With a new quarterback, maybe we'll have some changes. I'd be a good option to help back there."

The Packers Tailgate Tour ended their five-day road trip in Minocqua with stops at Lakeland Aviation & the Habitat for Humanity Northwoods Wisconsin ReStore. Their final visit of the day was spent with the Green Bay Army National Guard Armory.

On the way out of the city, the Tour made a stop at the Hodag Dome at Rhinelander High School. The dome is the largest air-supported high school dome in the nation and hosts the Hodag sports teams as well as the community for a variety of activities.

Had Jenkins gone through a few pass sets, it would have become the first offseason training of sorts by a Packers player in the city since August 1935 when Curly Lambeau brought the team to Rhinelander for a week to train at the high school prior to the start of the season.

The Tour's last stop for a visit was in Green Bay at the Army National Guard Armory where the Packers expressed their gratitude for the Guard members' service, which includes serving both Wisconsin and the country.

The players and the soldiers discussed what it's like to be on a high performing team, comparing football and the armed services, and how teammates hold each other accountable so they can succeed as a team. Many of the intently listening soldiers at the armory nodded their heads in agreement as examples were shared.

A soldier asked the players about how they push through the difficult times that can come while training.

Davon House answered by sharing that he sets goals and then sticks to them.

"Whether it's fourth-and-goal in football or 130 degrees outside on deployment, trust the process," he said. "I love the process that goes in the training, even though I may not like the training at times."

Clinton-Dix added an axiom he used: "Players who want to be good at a skill practice until they get the skill right. Great players practice until they can't get the skill wrong."

Additionally, the players all spoke about the fond memories they had of bonding with their teammates.

On a somewhat different topic, a soldier asked about how it feels to score a touchdown.

"It's a great feeling to get to celebrate with your teammates," Eddie Lacy said. "The Lambeau Leap is the coolest thing because you get to jump and celebrate with the fans. Sometimes they spill popcorn on you, sometimes they may spill beer on you, but scoring touchdowns is a lot of fun."

In keeping with the miliary appreciation theme, the Tour members stopped for lunch at Mission BBQ in Ashwaubenon. The restaurant, with locations across the country, salutes the men and women heroes of the armed forces every day in how it serves its food.

After nearly 700 miles and overnights in Eau Claire, Superior, Ashland and Minocqua, the 17th edition of the Packers Tailgate Tour returned to Lambeau Field.

As the players and Mark Murphy exchanged goodbyes, they reflected on the journey, as well as the joy and advice they gave to Packers fans in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's U.P.

Jones: "It was awesome to see all the support and love the Packers have throughout the state. I also enjoyed connecting with people who were fans of me. I know now that I have a lot of love coming from northern Wisconsin.

Jenkins: "Going to the high schools and talking to the kids was great. Just being able to put smiles on their faces and just talking to them about being positive and leadership and things like that.

"The northern part of the state was fun because it's very different from Green Bay. It was great to see, and I did appreciate just being able to see the towns and just the different parts of Wisconsin, the places that I haven't been."

Lacy: "Honestly, this whole thing has been such an experience. This is my first time doing anything like this. The most nerve-wracking part, I would say, is speaking. Other than that, being able to go to different cities, meet the fans in their area and their city and just getting to sit down and look at how they look at us and see how they react to us. It's all been amazing.

Smith: "It's just reconnecting with all the players. Getting to see Eddie, Davon and then getting to meet the new guys. It's been really easy. I think we would all get along and we did.

"Getting to see the community…I thought we did a lot of really good work with great community purposes. I think that the messages that we sent out were super positive and I think it's just fun for players and everybody to experience what it's like to live in Wisconsin, to see what makes Green Bay Packers fans who they are and why everyone loves us.

"It was something I always wanted to do, and I really cherished it. It will leave a lasting impression on me. I'm glad we got to get out and talk and give the messages we did, because I think we had a positive impact this week."

Clinton-Dix: "Visiting with the different schools, being able to talk to the kids about choices and decision-making that can impact their future. The visits with veterans and guard units also. To be able to stop by some of the assisted living homes and speak with our elderly fans who motivate us and have been fans their whole entire life.

"The whole trip was awesome and being able to get back into the community and connect with the with the fans…that's what it's all about.

"Getting to know Jenks (Elgton Jenkins) and spending time with AJ again and being around House and even meeting Evan was a great time. It was a great time to get back with these guys and network and spend some time on the bus."

House: "Besides Bridge the Gap, it was a stopping at the elementary schools and high schools and delivering a positive message at the end of every speech about mental health and keeping smiles on people's faces. You never know what another kid is going through. It's not easy being a young adult in high school, so if you ever see someone that's alone, that's sad and might be having a bad day, stop by say, 'Hi,' give them a smile and just let them know things are OK. That was my message I shared after every pep rally, and it seemed like the kids took it well."

Murphy: "The best part of it is spending time, particularly with the players and seeing the interaction between current and former players. Although in previous years there's been a bigger age gap…with the alumni we had this year, they are more recent, but still, it's fun to see them interact.

"Each one of the spots was kind of special, especially the veteran's museum that we went to, to share our appreciation for what they sacrificed was great."

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