It’s finally starting to sink in for many Green Bay Packers players that they are the football champions of the world.
For anyone having trouble grasping that concept, a stadium packed with adoring fans on Tuesday in below-zero wind chill temperatures brought the point home loud and clear.
“It’s starting to hit more and more,” Cornerback Tramon Williams said.
The charming picture of a small-town community deeply in love with its football team was unmistakable at a sold-out Lambeau Field on a work-day afternoon. Packers fans showed up early and stayed late and despite the bitterly cold weather, savored every moment of the Super Bowl XLV championship celebration.
The feeling was mutual for the players, who thanked their faithful followers with high-fives and a victory lap as fireworks lit up the sky above the stadium.
These glorious moments will be frozen in time, and the players won’t soon forget the experience.
“It was electric,” said defensive back Jarrett Bush in the locker room afterward. “I feel ’em. I feel their passion. I feel their heart. I feel the way they love the game, the cold, everything about it. That’s what makes Green Bay Green Bay. Special.”
It’s a city that has loved the Packers for all 92 years of their existence, through good times and bad.
But there is nothing quite like the sweet satisfaction and unbridled joy generated by a championship season.
“It’s an honor to say you’re part of the Packers for the 2010 season and won a world championship,” said fullback John Kuhn, who was greeted by the familiar chants of “Kuuuuuhn” from fans at the event. “No matter what happens from here on out, nobody can ever take that away from us. We’re all very proud of that.”
Several players, coaches and other members of the organization spoke and were frequently interrupted by cheers during the hour-long outdoor victory party.
“It’s cool and it’s awesome for them to get to celebrate,” guard Josh Sitton said. “It’s funny, no matter what you said they cheered out there. You could say, ‘You suck’ and they’d be cheering. It was pretty cool.”
One of the loudest ovations was reserved for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Super Bowl MVP who has endured a whirlwind two days. On Monday he received a Camaro convertible for his game-winning performance, then jetted to Disney World in Florida and the David Letterman Show in New York City before returning to Green Bay for Tuesday’s bash.
Fans greeted him with deafening chants of “MVP.” His popularity has never been greater, and he played to the crowd and brought down the house with this proclamation: “We’re going to be right here next year doing this exact same thing.”
But before work begins on a repeat championship, players and fans alike wanted to bask in the afterglow of this one.
“I still can’t believe it,” Safety Nick Collins said. “It’s like it’s unreal. I’m just numb all over.
“I’m just glad to be part of it. This is a great city, a great organization. This has just been a blessing.”
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.