In one seat was Jerry Kramer, a five-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL's 50th anniversary and all-1960s teams. In another was Marco Rivera, a two-time All-Pro who will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on July 23.
"It's pretty incredible," Rivera said behind the ninth green on Monday. "It started sinking in last night when we were having the dinner. I was sitting at the table with Jerry Kramer and Boyd (Dowler) and just rubbing shoulders and elbows with the legends of the past. You can appreciate what they did for the game and what they did for the Green Bay Packers and why the Green Bay Packers are such a historic franchise. You look at these guys across the table and you realize you're joining a select group of individuals. God, what an honor. It's awesome."
Rivera knew of Kramer, of course. It's impossible to not hear about and be compared to one of the finest guards in NFL history. Kramer was an anchor on one of the most powerful running games ever, with Jim Taylor — the only runner to break Jim Brown's stranglehold on the rushing title — and Paul Hornung among the star backs to run to daylight.
Likewise, Rivera was an anchor on a juggernaut rushing attack. Ahman Green broke Taylor's single-season and career rushing records and matched Taylor's record five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
"We were comparing some war stories and hitting linebackers and getting ready to play guard," Rivera said of his lengthy conversation with Kramer. "I appreciated the history lesson I got last night. It just comes down to football and just being good guys. I saw a lot of the guys in the room last night and it takes me back to the locker room. It really doesn't matter which era you played because that camaraderie that I felt is like we were all in the same locker room together. That was pretty special."
Rivera will be joined in the Hall of Fame class by fullback William Henderson and contributor Frank Jonet.
"I think that's what makes it even more special," Henderson said of being inducted with fellow blocker Rivera. "We got to see each other grow. Our kids played with each other. It's a family thing with Marco and I, and now we're able to make this next journey. My only Pro Bowl was with Marco. We made several journeys together and this is another step in life that we're taking together as teammates. I'm a fan of his and he's a fan of mine. We're just so happy to take this next journey together. It makes it even more sweet."
Rivera was a sixth-round draft choice in 1996 but did not play during the Packers' run to winning Super Bowl XXXI. After a year in the World League, Rivera emerged as a starter in 1998. He played for the Packers through 2004, when he signed a free-agent contract with the Cowboys. He spent two years in Dallas, where he and his family live. He has three sons, ages 6, 9, 11, and coaches his older boys' football teams.
"You know what? I think so," he said when asked if there were any future Marco Riveras in the family. "If my 6-year-old grows into his head, he'll be 7 feet tall. I've got three strong boys. They're good-looking kids, they're athletic. I'm not going to pressure them either way. If they want to play football, I'll teach them all the little tricks. We'll see if there's a linebacker or a lineman or maybe a wide receiver."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.