Of all of the blessings my dad received, the one I think of most often on beautiful fall Sundays, is the honorary captainship then Packer General Manager Ron Wolf awarded him in 1992.
Baffled, then touched, then unnerved by the honor, Dad spent the week before the big game wondering what he would say to the young team members when he addressed them prior to warm-ups.
“They’re not going to want to hear from some old guy who played the game 25 years ago,” he said.
But they did.
In fact, wide receiver Sterling Sharpe called out to my dad in the parking lot after the game, shook his hand and thanked him for his pre-game speech.
The success of that experience took on exponentially greater significance to our family when, five months later, my dad died unexpectedly.
So many definitions of success bloat the sports world that coaches (and honorary captains) have no shortage of people to quote when they reach for rally words. It’s ironic, really, because all sports end with a score, a winner and a loser.
Isn’t that success?
Or is it, as one of the most off-quoted definers of success, more broadly explained?
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand,” Coach Lombardi said.
With deference to one of the greatest coaches to motivate athletes in any sport, I’d like to add a word to that definition.
Ron Wolf understood that a winning tradition should be a foundation, and not a barrier, to success. He established a tradition of honorary captains, a celebration of a franchise mutually beneficial to current and retired players.
Yesterday, the Packers honored their alumni, as they do every season. Rarely are retired professional athletes offered an opportunity to run out onto a playing field to the roar of appreciative fans once their playing days end. Packer alumni get to enjoy that special glory nearly every season.
The Green Bay Hall of Fame, launched in 1967, is enjoying a major expansion this year. With increasing fervor the Packers are honoring the past, even as they seek new challenges, create fresh stars.
Listen to current Packers and you hear a common theme, respect — for teammates, coaches, the franchise, alumni, fans, community and the game itself.
With 13 world championships, the Packers hold the NFL record for most season titles. It’s a brand new season in Titletown, let’s make it another championship one. Go Pack Go!