Fans line up early for Rodgers autograph
GREEN BAY – Mark Stelzl was barely through the door after a trip to Milwaukee on Sunday before wife Sheila wanted to know when they were going to leave for Lambeau Field to line up for Aaron Rodgers' autograph.
Stelzl didn't take a lot of convincing. The Appleton couple got to Lambeau Field at 2:30 a.m. Monday and were first in line for the autograph session that started at 6 p.m. in the Lambeau Field Atrium. The session, which was limited to 200 autographs, ended after 50 minutes.
"He's just the heartbeat of the team, and he's doing something good for the community," Mark Stelzl said.
Rodgers signed autographs for a minimum donation of $100 each to raise money for The Salvation Army of Greater Green Bay's Red Kettle campaign. The donations added up $21,236, the organization announced Monday night.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback pledged to match that amount, bringing the total for Monday's event to $42,472, plus money raised at the other holiday season autograph sessions at Lambeau. A final session is scheduled for Dec. 19. Packers players for that session have not been named. Autographs for those sessions are $20 each.
Rodgers further endeared himself to the fans who patiently waited most of the day to get his autograph by buying them pizza. Several boxes were delivered from Glass Nickel Pizza Co. to the autograph waiting area on the main floor of the Atrium before Rodgers arrived.
Fans then made their way through the autograph line in orderly fashion. Rodgers signed Packers helmets, footballs and other memorabilia. One fan had Rodgers sign a large photo of the two-time NFL MVP with Justin Timberlake, which already included the autograph of the music star.
After Monday's event, Packers autograph signings have raised more than $30,000, not including the match by Rodgers, with one week remaining, said Major Bob Mueller, local coordinator for The Salvation Army. The autograph signings raised $9,838 before Monday's session, compared to $8,040 for all of last year. The Packers this year made donations a requirement of getting an autograph.
The Salvation Army goal for its Christmas Campaign, which includes donations made at red kettles, is $1 million, as it was last year, when $920,000 was raised. Mueller said they were at 48 percent of the goal at the end of last week, which is on pace with last year.
All Packers players who volunteer to sign make the autograph fundraiser successful, Mueller said.
"Every team needs a quarterback, but it takes a team of players to succeed," he said. "I can't tell you how much that benefits families in need."
By sunrise Monday, the Stelzls weren't alone. About 50 people had gathered in the Lambeau parking lot and the team opened the Atrium doors an hour early to allow them in out of the cold.
"That was very much appreciated," Mark Stelzl said.
Chris Adams of Green Bay arrived at Lambeau Field eight hours after the Stelzls. He was about 80th in line. He wasn't even there for his benefit. He planned to have Rodgers sign a Packers helmet owned by his father-in-law that already has signatures of Bart Starr and Brett Favre.
"We were trying to surprise him for Christmas, but he noticed the helmet was missing," Adams said. "We had to cave and tell him to keep him from going crazy."
Adams said he had a protein bar and an apple to get him through lunch. Also, 1919 Kitchen & Tap was to his left and public restrooms were to his right.
"There are worst places to spend a day," Adams said. "At least we're not outside."
Brad Seufzer drove from Milwaukee with friends after learning about the session on Twitter. They had some photos for Rodgers to sign. It will be his first Packers autograph.
"I'll keep it. I'm a big Packers fan," he said.
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