Cheesehead Apathy Ruled Kolodziej's Childhood

Vikings defensive tackle Ross Kolodziej grew up just west of Green Bay, Wis., but his family never got into the Green Bay Packers. Now the down-to-earth lineman is hoping to help defeat them.

Vikings defensive tackle Ross Kolodziej doesn't want to disagree with head coach Brad Childress, especially just days before a big game, but it appears the two simply don't see eye to eye.

"You don't live in (Wisconsin) for eight years and not know Green Bay Packers football and what the rivalry is," Childress said Friday.

What about if you lived near Green Bay for more than 20 years, like Kolodziej, who grew up in Stevens Point, Wis., then played college football for the Badgers in Madison, Wis.? By definition, shouldn't he be one of the biggest Green Bay rubes on the planet? Shouldn't he own more sizes of cheeseheads than the Packers pro shop?

Guess again, Kolodziej says.

"I wasn't a big football fan growing up," Kolodziej says, wearing his green-and-gold apathy as a badge of courage. "I didn't grow up a typical cheesehead. I grew up a fan of the Bengals and the Bills.

"I guess I would say I was an anomaly."

Kolodziej remembers growing up in northern Wisconsin, where there were really only two seasons each year – winter and Packers football season. Yet he and his family never seemed to embrace it.

"There are people with houses where in the brickwork they literally have a brick with a green ‘G' on it and there were lots of those people in Stevens Point," he said. "But our family weren't those kind of people. I guess we just weren't big football fans."

Even Thanksgiving, the most significant of football holidays, meant little to Kolodziej. "Thanksgiving was about deer hunting and eating turkey," he said. "We didn't even watch the games."

Since the Packers and football weren't even on his radar screen during his childhood days, recess was especially an eye opener for Kolodziej. "I didn't have a clue what the game was," he said. "They asked me if I knew who Joe Montana was and I had no clue."

His awareness was quickly heightened. At 6-3, nearly 300 pounds, Kolodziej quickly melded into a solid player in college. Even his family, who didn't know a football from a foot warmer began to embrace the game when he was at Madison.
"Once I went to Wisconsin it became a big deal for my parents and they started to get into it," he said. "But before then, they didn't have any interest about the game."

In his sixth season as a professional, Kolodziej has been an NFL journeyman. He started his career with the New York Giants, then after two years, went to the San Francisco 49ers. After a year there, he played two seasons in Arizona, then landed with the Vikings this year. His biggest season was last year when he recorded 23 tackles and three sacks. This season, he has just two tackles as Pat Williams' backup at nose tackle.

The Kolodziejs' lukewarm attitude to football will be on display this weekend again when the Packers play at Minnesota. Having grown up just a few hours away from the Twin Cities, you would think Kolodziej would have had to round up a few extra tickets for the border battle.

"I only had to get one extra ticket," he said. "It's not like I have to get 60 tickets. My dad has 10 brothers and sisters so it has the potential to be like that, but it isn't."

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