GREEN BAY – Temperatures hovered in the teens, as Tom Grossi sprinted out from his college dorm and into the New York night air to properly celebrate the Packers' 13th NFL championship on Feb. 6, 2011.
What began as a lighthearted way to spite his father's love of the Dallas Cowboys morphed into an indominable passion for Grossi, whose fandom came full circle during Green Bay's 31-25 triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
A sophomore at the time, Grossi arrived on the campus of the State University of New York at New Paltz wearing a black leather jacket with a Packers helmet on the back that might as well have been a bullseye in a sea of Giants blue and Gotham green.
But Grossi didn't care. He loved football and he loved the Packers… and he made certain every corner of his college's 257-acre campus heard about it the night his team won it all.
"I was the only Packers fan in New Paltz, and everyone knows I'm a Packers fan because I'm the only one there and I'm loud," Grossi said. "I'm losing my voice screaming.
"It was just pure ecstasy. It's freezing cold. I think it was 12 degrees out and I just ran around outside. I'm 1,000 miles away from Lambeau Field and celebrating in New Paltz that the Packers won the Super Bowl."
For almost a decade, the Packers have been the Tesseract to the football universe Grossi has created. The team has steered him through life's challenges, forged the framework for his popular "Packast" podcast, and helped Grossi cultivate a YouTube channel with more than 600,000 subscribers.
But most of all, Grossi's love of the Packers served as the stimulus for extensive charitable work, including his viral "30 in 30" campaign that raised more than $500,000 for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital last summer.
That background set the perfect backdrop to Grossi – wearing his much-loved Packers jacket – visiting the NFL's New York offices last week for what was originally billed as a project chronicling the history of the Packers and their loyal fans.
Instead, league commissioner Roger Goodell was there to surprise Grossi with the news he'd been chosen from a pool of 61,000 nominees and 32 finalists as the 2023 NFL Fan of the Year, which was officially announced during NFL Honors in Las Vegas on Thursday night.
"I immediately was just filled with so much gratitude for the fans because they took the time to go out, nominate me and fill out of the form, the whole nine yards," Grossi said.
"I was also really grateful for the Packers because at the same time they didn't have to pick me. The Packers, of course, being literally my favorite thing since I've been 6 years old, to get a call from my favorite team and say that you're going to represent our team this year as our fan – nothing gets better than that."
This has never been about notoriety or recognition for Grossi, whose voyage into YouTube influencer began organically – and painfully – following Green Bay's loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the 2014 NFC Championship Game.
A high school social studies teacher, Grossi unknowingly signed on for a second job the day he set up a folding table in his basement, constructed a makeshift lighting unit out of PVC piping and started generating video content about his favorite team.
Over time, weekly videos turned to daily, and the focus of Grossi's content shifted from only the Packers to every NFL team. Friday Q&As went from Grossi posing questions to himself on viewer-less steams to hundreds of fans joining him to discuss their love of the Packers and all things football. Since 2016, he's also traveled to Green Bay each summer to interview President/CEO Mark Murphy.
Packers nominee Tom Grossi won the 2023 NFL Fan of the Year Award and was recently presented the award by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the league offices in New York.
It took Grossi three years to make any money off his content and nearly six to gain 100,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel. But once he did, Grossi immediately looked for ways to give back. That idea was spurred in 2015 when Grossi asked a guest if there was anything he wanted to plug as a means of thanking him for the interview.
"He told me I don't have social media or anything but there is this charity I support that gives service dogs to wounded veterans," Grossi said. "I thought that's amazing. I had zero dollars, but I put together $50 and donated it to that charity. After that, I was like, 'OK, if I ever get large enough – if I ever get a platform, I'm using it to give back.'"
Following his "chaotic good" mantra – an homage to the role-playing game, "Dungeon and Dragons" – Grossi's charitable efforts have been far-reaching and all-encompassing. What started with a few pop-up fundraisers now includes a yearly eight-hour stream the Saturday before Christmas to raise money for a nonprofit.
While Grossi carefully vets every organization, he doesn't tell the nonprofit what he's doing until the final check is presented to them. In recent years, he's raised $51,000 for the Sunshine Kids Foundation and $62,000 for Friends of Animals.
Last Valentine's Day, Grossi formulated an idea to take things to the next level. His plan was to travel to all 30 NFL stadiums in 30 days to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, whose mission is to advances cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment.
The project required a sizeable personal investment, with Grossi spending $50,000 of his own money, previously allocated for a house, to travel to each NFL city with a videographer, Johnny Barks, who documented the journey and all its perils. Fittingly, Grossi kicked it off at Lambeau Field.
"I fly to Green Bay in June and I'm sitting there like 'OK, let's see what happens,'" said Grossi, who also held meetups with fans in every city he visited. "Obviously, I'm going to take a huge risk and I'm gonna put my house money on this, literally, and see if this could work. But I'm thinking if we raise even $100,000, it's worth it. Because that's the goal. If we can raise $100,000 for charity, then we've crushed this."
Grossi wound up raising more than $500,000. Of course, there were pitfalls, including Grossi having an allergic reaction in Chicago and busting his elbow in Buffalo, but the caravan continued through overslept alarms, lost IDs, and a few other curveballs.
St. Jude's only became aware of the venture after Grossi injured his elbow jumping through a table in Buffalo, a donation incentive for raising $50,000 through the first six days. That video also caught the attention of Pat McAfee, who brought Grossi on his show in Indianapolis and donated $25,000 himself.
The marathon wrapped in Los Angeles, which included an interview on NFL Network with Rich Eisen. Once it was over, Grossi went down to the Pacific Ocean for the first time and reflected on everything he and Barks had just accomplished.
"I just stood there and was like, 'We did something pretty incredible,'" Grossi said. "'30 in 30' was a life-changing experience for me and I mean that with every fiber of my being. It was the happiest I've ever been, and it happened because of this community and fanbase. That showed me whatever I decide to do, I have built up enough trust and loyalty from the community that we have that I can take larger risks."
Grossi took the biggest risk of all on June 25, 2021, when he retired from teaching to dedicate himself to promoting positivity and happiness through football. As his platform grows, Grossi has even bigger plans for the future – including a second "30 in 30" after reaching 1 million subscribers.
Being honored as NFL Fan of the Year was a gratifying achievement on a number of fronts, but what it the most special was how invested Packers fans were to vote for Grossi after it was announced in November that he'd been selected as the team's nominee for the award.
That's a gift Grossi can never repay…but he'll darn-sure try.
"Being Packers Fan of the Year, that made me feel as close as I've ever been with my team," said Grossi earlier this week. "This kid from New York, who had a folding table in his basement and talked into the void about how much he loved this team, is now gonna be on stage, in front of millions of people at the NFL Honors.
"Yeah, dude, that's pretty fricking incredible."