TALES FROM TRAINING CAMP
THE MIKE HOLMGREN STORY
I was standing on a chair telling a story when the eyes of my audience appeared wider. Their mouths dropped agape, and I turned and saw Coach Mike Holmgren standing behind me.
Now again... I'm 19 years old at this point. I'm working Packer Training Camp at St. Norbert College, where I was about to become a sophomore. I did a lot of different tasks at training camp, but my primary responsibilities were in food prep, and transportation.
Food workers set up, served, and cleaned up after 3 meals a day and a late night snack all offered in the student union building on campus. In transportation, I would drive some players between the College and Lambeau Field for practice.
So I'm working food prep one day and we've got some down time before cleaning up. Among the people working on the crew that year was Emily Holmgren, Coach Holmgren's daughter. She was in high school, and one of the nicest people you'd ever meet. She worked hard. She was cool to everyone, and unless you knew better, you wouldn't have known her dad was the boss.
So she was one of the guys, so to speak, and was present in this side room next to the dining hall, as I'm in full story telling mode. I wish I remember what story it was, because I was into it. You know... throwing my hands around... voice raised... working the room, and everybody is loving it.
Feeling the moment, I get up on a chair and continue performing my story. All of a sudden the laughter ceases. Laughter silenced. Smiling faces turn to stone, and the room seemed to get cold.
We were told a lot of things about expected behavior when we were initiated into the Camp staff. One of the first things was... no goofin' off. Coach Holmgren runs a tight camp, and wants it to be business like at all times... and that includes the staff.
We were told of camps past where food was tossed, pranks were played, and rookies were made to sing for their meals. There was even an old piano near the dining hall that was reportedly used for those singing escapades. Apparently, meal time used to be a real circus. Not under Holmgren.
So imagine my shock, and fear when I stopped my story telling mid-sentence, turned, and saw the massive Mike Holmgren standing in the door... taking it all in.
I'm thinking... this guy might whack me right here. Dream job... done. Turn in your shirt and cap. The Packers thank you for your service, but will no longer require your assistance at training camp. I just got cut.
The guy then cracks a smile and says, "I didn't mean to interrupt. It sounds like a great story."
He says he was just looking for Emily. "Could I see you for a second please?"
Out they go. Petrified with fear I stand... still on the chair mind you. Emily comes back in, and we wait for the verdict.
Not mad, she said. Mildly amused.
You'd think that woulda learned me... but I was later busted by Coach goofing off again. That story in a future installment.