Splash: Packers 101 from a Green Lake guy who knows football

A glass case displays some artifacts from this ancient era, some of which have connections to Green Laker country. The shoe, for instance, belonged to Kramer, but first made its way to Green Lake after local gal Sue Eggleston’s husband — some other footballer named Fuzzy — donated used Packers equipment to Green Lake High School. The shoe fell into the hands of Joel Schultz of Green Lake, who eventually gave the shoe to the Packers museum. submitted photos

by Maic D’Agostino

I’m one of those people who never hesitates to tell you where I’m from.

“I grew up in Cleveland,” I tell everyone.

Actually, it’s not precisely true, as I grew up in the small college town of Oberlin, Ohio, about a 45-minute drive west of Cleveland, but most people in northeast Ohio are “from Cleveland” to non-Ohioans.

This means I grew up a fan of the Cleveland Browns, which legends say once were not the most laughably dysfunctional organization in North American sports.

This also means I tried to pretend football didn’t exist, for in Cleveland it’s a painful exercise in futility, ennui and existential anguish, fueled by Sunday afternoons of pizza and beer.

So I merrily skipped through life, ignoring football for the most part (other than the pizza and beer parts).

Then I moved to Wisconsin.

I’d heard about these “Green Bay Packers” before, a team that always seemed to be winning something.

“Winning” is not a word in Cleveland sports lovers’ vocabulary, so I was filled with curiosity.

Who are these magical Packers?

At the very end of July, I visited the lovely Green Lake home of a man who has made acquaintances with Packers personnel and even a few players.

Ostensibly, I went to talk to Joel Schultz about Jerry Kramer’s shoe.

Don’t ask me who Jerry Kramer is; ask Joel.

Kramer is a guy who should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Joel told me, because he was such a great offensive lineman; but he also was a kicker.

Years ago, Joel wound up with Kramer’s old kicking shoe when a man named Fuzzy brought used Packers equipment to hand out to Green Lake High School football players in 1969.

“Oh, Fuzzy Thompson!” I said brightly, smug that I could pretend like I knew what I was talking about.

“Fuzzy Thurston,” Joel corrected me gently.

You see, Fuzzy was married to a local gal by the name of Sue, and she was the daughter of the high school’s coach, Gordon Eggleston.

That’s how Fuzzy was connected to Green Lake.

“The Packers in the ’60s, Lombardi’s Packers, in Green Lake were a pretty big deal,” Joel said. “Fuzzy would come to our basketball games and athletics banquets.”

(“Lombardi” is Vince Lombardi, whose name I know because I’ve seen attached to inspirational quotes on the internet.)

“Mondays were their days off, and so he’d bring a bunch of guys to [The Golf Courses of] Lawsonia and play golf or go [boating],” Joel continued. “… Mike Norton’s dad would take the Packers out.”

Rubbing shoulder pads with Packer players was an amazing experience, but Joel didn’t realize until later just how special it was.

“I try to liken it to the kids now, ‘What if one of the Packer linemen was in Green Lake all the time and giving stuff away?’” he said.

I didn’t tell him that I wouldn’t recognize any Packer linemen on the street, although I guess their sheer size could be a hint.

Joel, meanwhile, reminisced back to his days as the kicker for the Green Lake High School football team.

His nickname was “Joel the Toe,” in reference to Browns’ great, Lou Groza (another name I knew!)

“I kicked the way men kick: With their toe,” Joel said. “Not this sissy sideways stuff.”

Sometimes, over the years, he’d even put on Kramer’s shoe and kick footballs out in fields for fun.

He finally met Kramer face-to-face, and eventually donated the shoe to the Packers Hall of Fame.

He even got to visit it in a private tour last month.

Throughout his life, Joel feels all these connections and experiences are not of his doing.

“I feel like Forrest Gump,” he said to me. “It seems like somehow I’m involved with so many different things. Not by my doing; it just happens.”

I kind of feel the same way. I only get to know Joel and people like him in Green Lake country because of my job.

And now I know more about the Packers and Green Lake than I every thought I’d know.

I suppose the next step is to learn about the Chicago Bears next, since so many in the area have Chicago connections.

Then again, maybe I’m already too familiar with football ineptitude.