Packers, kids bond over bikes
BY GREG SEUBERT
SPECIAL TO PACKERLAND PRIDE
GREEN BAY – He didn’t get what he came for, but Blake Arntzen was still a happy camper.
Make that a happy training camper.
The 14-year-old and his family from Urbandale, Iowa, showed up at the first day of Packers training camp in Green Bay July 30 with his bicycle. His plan was to hook up with backup quarterback Scott Tolzien and let Tolzien ride the bike from the Lambeau Field parking lot to the first team practice at Ray Nitschke Field.
Another biker got to Tolzien first, however, and Arntzen had to settle for loaning his bike to rookie free agent Jermauria Rasco.
Players borrowing a bike to ride to practice is a long-standing tradition at training camp. While some players like Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb hopped on a bike, others decided to play it safe and walk the bike while chatting with its owner.
“I think this is absolutely fabulous,” Arntzen’s mother, Sherry, said while standing behind her son. “This is my first time here and my son’s second. I think it’s incredible, the connection they make with their fans. It’s awesome.”
Blake held up a sign to get Tolzien’s attention.
“My son talked so much about it when he was here last year,” Sherry said. “I had to come up and see it for myself to believe it.”
“It’s an awesome experience, one of a kind,” Blake said. “You can ride a bike with a player. You talk and get to know them. You get to see a different side of them.”
Tolzien borrowed Blake’s bike last year, as did backup tight end Justin Perillo and two other players.
“(Tolzien) actually stopped and met up with my parents and was talking to them,” Blake said. “After practice, he wanted to ride bikes back with me, so I think we made a pretty good bond.”
Perillo was the first Packer to approach Blake last year.
“That was a little scary,” Blake said. “He was a big, big boy. My bike last year was small. I borrowed one from a guy who lets people that didn’t bring bikes borrow them. Last year, there was a girl with a very small bike and (the player) was picking it up with his finger.”
Blake returned this year with his own bike and his Packers jersey had Tolzien’s autograph from last year, as well as signatures from Sam Shields, Cobb and Lacy.
A teacher in Urbandale helped turn Blake into a Packers fan.
“It was my fourth-grade teacher who converted me,” he said. “She constantly played the fight song.”
Since Iowa doesn’t have a professional sports team, fans cheer for a number of teams, according to Blake.
“Football, you’ve got the Broncos, Bears, Chiefs,” he said. “My seventh-grade math teacher was excited that I was able to ride with Scott Tolzien because she had been watching him through his college years and was excited that he was with the Packers.”
Although Blake’s stay at this year’s training camp only lasted a couple of days, he’s already looking forward to coming back.
Sherry is, too.
“Any kid has a chance to do this,” she said. “It’s so cool.”