My Dad took the podium at his induction into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame in February of 1989, looked down at the highlighted transcript of speech he and I had carefully written together, glanced out an audience full of family members, teammates, Packer fans, media and the ghosts of the people who had led him to this honor, and he completely abandoned script.
He spoke eloquently and emotionally about honor, tradition and the truly unique experience of being a member of the World Champion Green Bay Packers.
Later, he apologized for not using the speech he and I had spent so much time to prepare. I told him the speech he gave was much, much better than the one we had written because it so clearly came from his heart.
Swept up in the tremendous emotion of the evening, I did not record my Dad’s speech that night. But, I do have the one we prepared together, complete with his jottings, and I’d like to share a few paragraphs:
“What do I miss about the game of football?
My shoulders ache for the feeling of that last thrust as I go for the quarterback sack.
I also miss the chess game. To me, the chess game is the mental contest that is played in the split second when the ball is snapped and that offensive man is coming towards you. You move towards him, and he looks at you and whole battles are fought in those few seconds…
I also miss the singleness of purpose that we develop as members of the Packers. The only thing we lived for was to play for the Green Bay Packers and to win football games. How simple that life seems to me now. Each week we practiced for a football game and our goal was to win. By Sunday night we knew whether we had achieved our goal or not, and we moved on. Unfortunately, life after football involves goals that are more complex and accomplishments not as immediate.
One of the greatest things about playing for Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers was our confidence. We went into every football game knowing that we were going to win. And knowing at half-time, even if we were down by two touchdowns, we were going to win. And knowing in the fourth quarter, if we were down by two touchdowns, that we were going to win. Somehow, that miraculous offense was going to score. And we were going to win. It was just a question of the defense holding.”
I knew even as he was abandoning those carefully crafted pages, that my dad had given me a special gift in allowing me to work with him to prepare them. I enjoyed the opportunity to see inside the mind of Ron Kostelnik the football player, as I honored Ron Kostelnik the man.