West Bend West High School was the site of the Tailgate Tour's final party, this one benefitting Threshold Inc., whose mission is to create opportunities for people with disabilities so they have the choices and support to live a fulfilling life. Programs are available for adults, youth and families.
The Packers wrapped up the 13th annual Tailgate Tour in West Bend with a party to benefit Threshold, Inc., a non-profit that helps individuals of all ages with disabilities. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com
Partiers provided a spirited welcome to the players as they entered the gym
Often a topic during Q&A sessions are the players' favorite plays, with Antonio Freeman's "Monday Night Miracle" a favorite among the fans to revere. Freeman definitely doesn't tire of recounting the unbelievable, falling-down, in-the-rain, overtime, game-winning, Al Michaels said, "He did what?" catch to beat the Vikings in November of 2000.
"I'll never forget the feeling of being carried by my teammates," he said with a smile.
A fan asked Bubba Franks not about one of his 32 career Packers touchdown receptions, but about his one touchdown pass, a 31-yarder to Donald Driver off a lateral pass from Brett Favre, that helped the Packers defeat the Carolina Panthers, 17-14, Sept. 29, 2002.
"I always felt I was a better quarterback than Brett," he said with a laugh. "It felt better than any touchdown I caught. I still have best passer rating"
Back on the road, as the motor coach ticked off the last of the 719 total miles from the tour through the snowstorm that struck the state, the players and Murphy reflected on their experience.
Rob Davis: "It was a great opportunity to spend time with the guys. I was not surprised at the turnout by fans. They give great support and were thrilled we came.
"We had smooth logistics. Cathy (Dworak) and Tony (Fisher) did a great job determining where fans would want to come out. Compared to 13 years ago (when he also was a participant), it's progressed nicely to where we are today.
"The Amazon tour was impressive.
"Great to see the older fans come out; many supporting the team since Lombardi. They're giving support to the younger players now. The younger players can use this trip to build on their brand – I told them this – to become more well-known through the state."
Bubba Franks: "So many great memories. I got some good recipes from the fans…they know I like to cook…many brought some for me. It was fun being back since I hadn't been back since 2008. Great to reminisce, learn about the new guys and their experiences.
"It was great to see the fans. We have a special fan base. Hard to explain, but it's like an extension of the family, like a long lost cousin that you are happy to see.
"It was great to get to know Mark (Murphy). He's great for the franchise.
"All in all, a great trip."
The Packers threw a surprise birthday party in Jackson, Wis., for Culvers employee Penny Nerdahl on Day 5 of the Tailgate Tour. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com
Antonio Freeman: "The surprise stops in the restaurants were fun. The excitement of the fans at the events was fun to feel.
"I enjoyed meeting the current players, the new stars of the team. I also enjoyed the camaraderie with the guys. I miss that. It feels like the locker room again."
"I was very happy we were able to help the charities raise funds for their various needs."
Kenny Clark: "The tour was good. I enjoyed surprising the kids and meeting different people and families and putting smiles on faces. It's pretty cool that we can affect people's lives the way we do, to make people smile. It's a blessing we should never take for granted.
"I especially enjoyed Milwaukee, and supporting the Boys & Girls Club. It felt like I had good connection with kids and families."
Ty Montgomery: "Overall, it was a good trip. I enjoyed meeting the alumni and hanging out with them. It was great to bond with everyone on the trip with the dinners.
"It was great to get out around the state, and I'll never forget the lady in Milwaukee. I definitely gained a further appreciation of the fans."
Blake Martinez: "Overall, I felt it went really well. My favorite part were visiting the high schools and hearing their questions and what they're thinking about and going through. I wish I had someone visit me like that in high school, to share some advice on what could help with my future.
"The trip solidified that we have the greatest fans. They have our backs. The people we met are truly genuine, and it added another motivation for me…to play for them. It keeps growing every day.
The Tailgate Tour crew surprised 11-year-old Ryan at his home to deliver the news that he'll be going to a 2018 game at Lambeau & meeting Packers players through the Make A Wish Foundation. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com
"It was a great experience to hang with the alumni and Mark. Getting to know them better was great for me."
Mark Murphy: "Well, the snow at end of trip is certainly memorable.
"The Iowa portion was great. To be there a second time and have a good turnout shows we have a good base of fans there. I enjoyed seeing Camp Courageous. It's not often we're at the site of the charity. The 300 acres, the trails and train were impressive.
"It was nice to get to know the current players better. To hear Blake discuss the issues he faced in high school, it's a credit to him to succeed and make it to Stanford, graduate and be in the NFL now. It was fun to see the alumni and current players interact. I think they realize they have a lot in common. Nice to get to know Bubba, having known Rob and Antonio already.
"And Amazon was really impressive."
Overall, the trip was a success. In 13 years, the Tailgate Tour has raised nearly $3 million for charity. But beyond the fundraising, fans who might not be able to attend a game, or take in a training camp practice, had the opportunity to experience the Packers in person.