Thursday, November 10, 2011

It Started With A Name

Matthew Woodfin along with Zac
His name is Matt, he's just recently had his thirteenth birthday and his last name is Woodfin.  Nope, no relation to my son-in-law or the other Woodfins from the South land as far as I know.  He lives near Detroit with his mom and dad and maybe some siblings.  I'm not really sure about that part.  He also happens to be a huge Packer fan.

It was Saturday morning and Fawn wanted to take us to Kavarna, the coffee house that she had discovered right after moving to Green Bay.  Zac had gone on ahead as he'd made arrangements to meet someone there.  It turns out it was birthday boy Matt and a few of his family members.  They'd all come in for the game, Matt's first, and a great way to celebrate this milestone birthday.  After all, turning thirteen is a big deal.

I'm not all that sure how the family had made contact with Zac in the first place.  I imagine they probably follow the Packers pretty religiously and saw that the team had hired a new strength coach whose last name just happened to be the same as theirs.  Who made the initial contact isn't all that important to the story anyways.  The thing that does matter is that a young assistant coach was making time to meet a kid who loves a certain football team and had traveled 300 miles to see them play.

As we pushed through the front door, we immediately saw Zac near the entrance sitting across from a kid in a Packer's sweatshirt and a middle-aged guy, obviously his dad.  An older cousin and uncle were seated at the end of the table. We ordered our drinks then pulled up some chairs to listen as he talked with them about the team and answered what questions he could.  They weren't missing a word.  To commemorate the occasion Fawn ordered a brownie and set it down in front of Matthew as we sang to him.  The whole experience must have been a bit overwhelming,  he asked his dad if he could save it for later.

Fawn and I were the first to leave.  She had dinner guests coming later and we had a couple of errands to run.  I'd also promised her that I'd make some sauce out of the apples we'd brought from New York to add to the meal.  So we said our goodbyes, not expecting to see any of them again of course. The stadium holds almost eighty-thousand people.  The chances of running into them the next day was highly unlikely.

We'd only planned to stop at the Pro Shop at Lambeau just long enough to pick out a couple of shirts to wear to the game the next day.  The place was crowded, wall-to-wall with excited Packer fans who had come in from all over the country.  Between checking out the racks and waiting in line for a dressing room, we had already spent more time there than expected.  Also mingled there among the crowd of shoppers were several families of players and staff members who had traveled in for the game just like we had. Every few minutes we were being introduced to another mom or cousin or grandparent and it was during one of those chance meetings that we were told the training area was going to be open to family members that afternoon.  All we needed was a player or staff member to take us through.  And for us, that would be Zac.

We hadn't expected to see where he worked.  We were cool with it, but now that I knew we were going to see the facility, I was stoked.  The applesauce could wait. As we congregated outside the Pro Shop,  I was surprised to see that someone else had joined us.  Zac had received permission to invite a few extras to come along, three men and a thirteen-year-old boy who had come from Detroit to see his first Packer game.  I would have loved to have been there when those guys got that call.

After the elevator had descended into the belly of Lambeau,  I had a sense of anticipation as we stepped off and followed behind our newly-appointed guide.  I enjoyed the sense of privilege I felt while checking out the rooms full of exercise equipment, seeing the team dining hall, visiting the locker room, taking in names like Woodson, Matthews, Rodgers and standing just feet away from their gear.  It was fun trying out the recliners in the theater and standing just feet away from Bart Starr as he passed us in one of the hallways.  Finally, walking through the tunnel, imagining the roar of the home crowd as we approached the  field, looking up and seeing the size and beauty of the place from that vantage point, it was all very cool.

Larry, Matthew, Nathan, Me, Steve and Bob in the theater

But of everything I remember about that afternoon, the thing that stands out most for me were the smiles that never left the faces of Matthew and his family.  This special tour, being in that part of Lambeau that many never get to see, this was something they hadn't anticipated a few hours earlier.  When I saw a player out of uniform, I didn't usually know who it was.  People look a lot different without helmets on their heads and don't usually wear names on their backs so people like me can identify them.   But it was obvious that these three men and a boy seemed to know just about everything and everybody connected to the Green Bay team.

Matthew and Steve Woodfin in the locker room

That was the last we saw Matthew and his three companions though a couple weeks later his dad sent me the pictures of their trip.  He also wrote a letter to Zac, thanking him for his part in making his son's birthday so special.  Actually, I think the whole story is pretty special.   And just think, it all started with a name.

Cousin Nathan, Uncle Bob, Matthew, Dad Steve and Zac at Lambeau Field  


Fawn said...

love this mommy! come back here now!!!

Steve Woodfin said...

Marcy, I have tears in my eyes, just as I did when Zac pulled us aside in the Pro Shop and told us that he was going to take us into the locker room. Thank you for bringing this experience alive again for us, and for your readers, and thanks for being a part of that very special experience at Lambeau Field! God's blessings.