"I'll tell you what Green Bay," Rodgers said it to the roaring crowd. "We're going to be right here next year doing this exact same thing."
It was a bold proclamation that rocked the sold-out stadium to its frozen core — all 56,000 of the available tickets quickly gobbled up by rabid fans. Fans came in the typical colors -- green and gold, camouflage and blaze orange – and generally were too happy to notice that it was 8 degrees with a wind chill of minus-15.
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On Monday, an approximate 35,000 fans lined the streets as the team drove back to the stadium. On Tuesday, they were treated like conquering heroes.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt spoke at the start of the celebration. Beforehand, Schmitt walked quickly to the stadium entrance, carrying a flat, rectangular piece of metal that was wrapped in paper. Under strict secrecy, he told Packer Report: "This is awesome. We're naming a new street in this city."
When he told the fans about McCarthy's Way, they erupted in a standing, flag-waving ovation. The street to be renamed has not been determined. Walker then proclaimed it Green Bay Packers Month – an event this grand deserved more than just a day.
Rodgers received the day's biggest cheers — nearly 20 seconds of "MVP" chants — with support for Charles Woodson and Donald Driver close behind after the veterans finally won their first Super Bowl ring. Woodson and Driver were injured in the Super Bowl but were vital cogs in getting the team to the game's ultimate stage. They both blew kisses to the crowd as a sign of appreciation.
"I'm never going to come down from it," Woodson said. "This is something that nobody can take from us. We had a special team all season, just the way we continued to battle with all the injuries. After the Patriot game going into the New York Giants game here at Lambeau Field, the way that this team responded, knowing that if we lost that game we were out, we still had a shot at winning it. We did. We did it."
Said Driver: "We brought the trophy where it belongs. It started here and look over there now: We're Super Bowl champs, baby. Guys believed. When you've got guys that believe that you can accomplish anything, you can do it. What we did in Dallas was extremely amazing. We've got the Vince Lombardi Trophy back in Green Bay."
Dom Capers, the architect of a defense that clinched four of the six late-season games with last-minute stands, had one of the lines of the evening. This, too, was Capers' first Super Bowl win. He was the head coach at Carolina when the Panthers lost to the Packers here in the NFC Championship Game following the 1996 season. The Packers beat New England two weeks later in Super Bowl XXXI.
"I figured, if you can't beat them, you need to join them," Capers said.
Team President Mark Murphy, general manager Ted Thompson and McCarthy led off the one-hour celebration with short speeches and interviews. "We have the best fans in the NFL," Murphy said to a roar. "This is unbelievable and we appreciate everything you've done for us. Thank you, everybody. We're proud to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to where it belongs, Green Bay."
McCarthy was the last man out of the Packers' tunnel, carrying the Lombardi Trophy along the front row of the bleachers for the fans to touch before going to the podium at midfield.
"You just keep bringing that passion and energy and we'll keep bringing the trophies home," McCarthy said as the fans roared.
After Rodgers spoke, a bare-handed Nick Collins carried the trophy as the Packers took a victory lap around the stadium. Fireworks and a highlights package capped the night.
The players then hustled into the locker room for one last time this season. Inside, they signed jerseys for each other as well as their Super Bowl locker room nameplates from Cowboys Stadium.
"A dream come true," Collins said. "It's just an awesome feeling. I'm going to cherish this moment for the rest of my life."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.
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