Fan Fest: Stars of past deliver more thrills

It was a trip down memory land with Packers legends like Jerry Kramer, James Lofton and Willie Davis. Packer Report publisher Bill Huber had the good fortune of spending his Saturday hanging out with the stars of yesteryear.

While many of you were enjoying a nice, leisurely Saturday, I was hard at work.

Yeah, don't feel too sorry for me.

I was at Fan Fest for a great day of conversation with a parade of Packers stars past and present. I've been doing this long enough that there's no thrill in talking to Greg Jennings and Aaron Rodgers. But seeing Willie Davis? Now, that's another story.

And speaking of stories, here is a little of what the stars of yesteryear had to say to fans in the fourth floor of the Lambeau Field Atrium.

Lynn Dickey

Any conversation involving a former Packers quarterback eventually touches on Brett Favre, and this one was no different. While Dickey has profound respect for Favre's accomplishments and wishes he would have played with Favre's enthusiasm, he took the Packers' side in the Great Quarterback Debate of 2008.

"Brett brought all of that on himself" with the yearly back-and-forth over whether he'd return for another season," Dickey said.

Dickey said Rodgers "played fantastic" in light of the circumstances.

"If I were Aaron Rodgers and Brett and Deanna had come back here in July, if the Packers organization would have said, ‘Aaron, I'm sorry, but Brett is coming back,' I would have gone. I would have walked right out of camp."

Dickey ripped the critics — Fox's Terry Bradshaw, in particular — who pinned the Packers' 6-10 record on the team's decision to go with Rodgers over Favre.

"The defense stunk," Dickey said.

Dickey spoke from experience when saying Rodgers needs help from his running game and defense to become a championship quarterback.

"I'm here to tell you, if you're going to throw, throw, throw, you're going to lose," he said.

James Lofton

Arguably the greatest receiver in Packers history was involved in arguably the greatest game in Packers history: the famed 1983 Monday nighter against Washington. The Packers beat the Redskins — who would go on to win the Super Bowl — 48-47. Packers President Mark Murphy was a safety on that Redskins team.


James Lofton
Packer Report archives
"They had a poor secondary," Lofton said with a laugh.

Lofton was taking time off from his personnel role with the Oakland Raiders — where he's scouting Chase Coffman. He arrived in Green Bay at 6:15 a.m. and hadn't slept a wink on his redeye flight from San Francisco because he was watching "The Express."

Lofton's said his most memorable game came while he was with Buffalo. His 54-yard touchdown reception in the final moments beat the rival Jets and gave the Bills the division title. Lofton, who figured he was 34 at the time, handed the ball to his 7-year-old son, David, in hopes of keeping it as a memento.

After the game, he found David and some other boys playing in the sloppy parking lot ... with Lofton's prized ball.

Lofton, however, will never forget his days in Green Bay.

"When you come here, the memories just wash over you," he said.

Jerry Kramer and Donny Anderson

The Glory Years stars entered the stage together.

Kramer compared his time in Green Bay to the "heart" of a watermelon, which contains all of the sweetness and none of the seeds.

"My time in Green Bay was the heart of pro football," the legendary guard said.

Kramer realized he was part of something special after the Packers won a third consecutive NFL championship.

"We felt like that was an important mark to leave on the game," he said.

Anderson agreed, saying the three championships made the Packers a model franchise like today's Steelers and Patriots.

"Everybody wanted to be the Packers," he said.

Kramer remains one of the most popular figures in team history. It's not something he expected four decades ago. Then again, he said he figured he'd be "6 feet deep or have drool dripping down my chin."

"I didn't think I'd be a football player all my life," Kramer said.

Paul Coffman

No former Packer is in the news these days more than Paul Coffman. The former tight end's son, Chase, is expected to be a second- or third-round pick in next month's draft. Chase Coffman was a record-setting tight end at Missouri.

Coffman, like many of the legends on Saturday, said it's great to come back to events like Fan Fest because of the fans.

"You love us whether we win or whether we lose," he said. "There were cold games, snowy games, and that's what makes it so special to come to Green Bay, Wisconsin."

Coffman sees better times ahead for the Packers. With a little luck, he said they could have finished 10-6 this past season.

"I think that there's a lot to build on and I think you're going to see Green Bay back in the playoffs."

Not only is Chase Coffman headed to the NFL, another son is set to be the starting quarterback at Kansas State, his daughter plays volleyball for Wyoming and his youngest son just finished his sophomore year in high school and is being recruited by schools like Notre Dame.

"We spend a lot of time sitting on bleachers," he said.

William Henderson


William Henderson
Packer Report archives
Henderson was the fullback on the prolific offense that helped the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI. It was the defense, though, that impresses Henderson all these years later.

"They were and should be considered one of the all-time defensive teams in NFL history," he said.

That defense was led by Reggie White, and Henderson said the new Lambeau Field should be called "The House that Reggie Built."

"Nobody to this day has earned the respect that Reggie White truly earned through his tenure on and off the field," Henderson said. "The guy was loved by so many.

"He wasn't a god, but he was godlike."

Dorsey Levens

One of the players Henderson blocked for was Levens. Today, Levens has delved into broadcasting.

"I've had a couple meltdowns on live TV, which isn't fun," he said with a laugh.

What wasn't so funny was the Packers' loss to the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. That team, a two-touchdown favorite over Denver, had an "air of invincibility" that was crushed by John Elway and Co.

"Miserable. Just an awful feeling," he said. "Guys didn't know what to do with themselves. I was voted to the Pro Bowl that season and I didn't want to be there."

Levens saluted the fans for making the Green Bay experience so special.

"It's unlike any place I've played or been," he said. "They're sitting in the cold weather when the guys don't want to play. ... People, that's crazy!"

How much did Levens hate the cold? Before the draft, the one team he didn't want to go to was Green Bay.

"It's funny how things work out."

Willie Davis

Davis started his career as an offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns but was acquired by Vince Lombardi before the 1959 season.

Davis was stunned. He remembered Browns coach Paul Brown telling players, "If you don't like it here, I can always trade you to Green Bay, the Siberia of football."

Davis didn't want to go to Siberia. He considered playing in the CFL before Lombardi called. The rest, as they say, is history. In 1981, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the finest defensive ends in NFL history.

"They were the 10 best years of my life," Davis said. "It was never Siberia. It was never anything but great."

Davis, a successful businessman, loves coming back to Green Bay because of the fans.

"I can absolutely tell you that being a Green Bay Packer for 10 years, they were very special. I come back here and literally come back on a high. You make anybody who ever played here feel special. The respect you guys give us is unbelievable."

Davis delivered his strongest praise for his quarterback, Bart Starr. Davis recalls telling his son that he hoped he'd grow up to be like Starr.

"He's such a great example to be a respectful, engaging, decent human being," Davis said. "If you ever have a chance, chat with Bart Starr. He's a special human being."

When Davis exited, he received a standing ovation. Yeah, it was a hard day at work for this scribe.

What do you think about free agency and the draft?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum. Bill also is giving Twitter a try. Find him at twitter.com/packerreport


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