Green Bay Packers kick off Tailgate Tour
Stops during the April 11-15 tour will include visits to retirement communities, businesses, schools, event venues and community centers. Rich Palzewic photo
Will be in Rhinelander Saturday morning, April 15
By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers’ 17th Tailgate Tour officially kicked off April 11 at Lambeau Field.
Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy, current players Aaron Jones, Elgton Jenkins and Romeo Doubs and alumni Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Eddie Lacy and Davon House boarded a Packers-themed bus outside of Lambeau and will travel to several areas throughout western and northern Wisconsin to visit Packers fans.
Stops during the April 11-15 tour will include visits to retirement communities, businesses, schools, event venues and community centers.
The alumni will surprise fans at various locations as time permits.
Stops include Ashland, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Ironwood, Minong, Rhinelander, Rice Lake, Shawano, Spooner, Superior, Wausau, Woodruff and Wittenberg.
“The Tailgate Tour highlights the uniqueness of the Packers – particularly with our connection to the fans,” Murphy said. “It’s a great way to show our fans support. One of my favorite parts of the trip is seeing how the players change from the beginning to the end. They might start a bit reserved, but they’re interacting a lot by the end.”
This is Jones’ first Tailgate Tour.
“I love going out in the community, so this is right up my alley,” he said. “It’s all about spreading our joy throughout Wisconsin where people might not get to see us as often. My mom even showed up to the sendoff party, but she’s not going on the bus.”
A first-time Tailgate Tour participant, Jenkins had kind words to say about the trip.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “We’ll get to see lots of people – kids, people who work for the government, etc. We’re excited to put smiles on everyone’s faces.”
Former player Evan Smith (formerly Dietrich-Smith) played for the Packers in the early 2010s.
“I was telling Mr. Murphy I always wanted to do this during my playing days, but I never got the opportunity to do so,” he said. “To me, it’s an honor to do it.”
Smith currently lives in Wisconsin.
“I love Wisconsin and have been up north,” he said. “I’m excited to see it again and interact with fans – this is right up my alley.”
Because of his upbringing, Smith said he feels very “Wisconsin.”
“If you look at my bio, I grew up in a farm town, I went to school in a small town – small towns are my thing,” he said. “I’ve always loved it here… it has everything I grew up with – a lake, camping, hunting. I’m doing it real Wisconsin now.”
Smith said during his playing career – which also saw stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – he soon realized Lambeau was a special place.
“I’ve been to all 32 stadiums, and this is No. 1 – it’s not even close,” he said. “This is the standard in the NFL for the game-day experience, and I don’t think anyone else can hold a candle to it. The Packers probably do the best job of giving fans everything they want. If teams want to do better, this is where they should come to figure it out.”
Clinton-Dix played for the Packers from 2014-18 and recently retired as a Packer after several stints elsewhere.
“To be a part of this organization is a blessing,” he said. “They gave me a chance to change my family’s history, so now I’m giving back to the place that gave me my start. My favorite memories are winning ball games. The Tour will be a great time to see fans and catch up with some of the guys.”
Lacy, a bruising running back who played for the Packers from 2013-16, is now living in Arizona.
“It’s a pleasure to come back and see familiar faces,” he said. “We also get to go to cities I’ve never been to and see fans in person. I’m a little nervous about it – I usually say ‘no’ to things like this, but when I got the phone call, I wanted to do this one.”
Inevitably, Murphy was also asked about the Aaron Rodgers’ situation.
Rodgers has publicly said he plans to play for the New York Jets, but a deal has yet to be completed to move the four-time NFL MVP.
“It’s been an interesting offseason,” Murphy chuckled. “I anticipate quite a few questions from fans on the situation, and I anticipate saying, ‘There’s no update.’ It’s similar to what happened 15 years ago (with Favre), which ironically, was my first Tailgate Tour.”
The Tailgate Tour stops at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Rhinelander at 9 a.m. Saturday. For a $20 donation to Habitat for Humanity, the players will take photos with kids.