If at first…
Perseverance pays off for favor
By Kelly O’Day
Sometimes you fret over figuring out the perfect gift, and other times a blaze of inspiration literally pops right into your head.
But what do you do when your brainstorm is flawless, but it’s going to take more than a little execution to pull it off?
Ask for a little help from a friend, of course.
That’s exactly what happened when Minocqua’s Pete Morgan realized the matchless birthday present for his granddaughter, Michaela Holmes, would be a signed Jordy Nelson jersey. He turned to his friend Randy Gilson.
After much ado, the autograph was secured and delivered to an elated Michaela, now 20 years old and living in Oconomowoc.
“I thought it was very thoughtful,” she said “I’ve always been a fan of Jordy since he started playing for the Green Bay Packers. My grandfather went through a bunch of people to get the present and he was very proud he got it for me.
“It was a lovely surprise. I was very happy.”
Morgan couldn’t be happier about the whole deal, too.
“Oh, it was wonderful,” he stated. “Randy was just definitely great.
“Randy went the extra mile to have this done. He was really good. He said something to me once, ‘It was more exciting getting the autograph than going to a (Packers) game.’ ”
From Gilson’s viewpoint, the satisfaction was the reward.
“Pete was just elated I got the autograph,” he said.
“My girlfriend, Jane, said, ‘You wouldn’t have worked this hard for an autograph for yourself.’ No, I wouldn’t have. But the fact is it was for Pete, who is such a great guy, and it was a treat and a challenge. I just wanted to make Pete and his granddaughter happy.”
But back to the process.
To pull off his great idea, Pete put the request to Gilson.
“Pete’s been a diehard Packer fan for a long time,” Gilson said. “He used to live in the Fond du Lac area when he was younger and used to go to a lot of Packer games, but now he’s not able to go to games anymore. It’s probably been 15-18 years.
“(Pete’s) a good-hearted guy. I was doing some business with him last fall and he said, ‘Hey Randy, you go to a lot of games and when it comes to the Packers, you’re kind of connected.’ I said, ‘I don’t know how connected I am.’
‘Would you be able to get me an autograph?’
‘Well, I don’t get a lot of autographs, but once in a while I go to a tailgate tour or something like that and get autographs.’
‘You think you could try?’
‘I could try.’
“He says, ‘Well, my granddaughter is such a big fan of Jordy, she even named her dog after him. If we could get her an autographed jersey, she’d be thrilled with that.’
‘Well, if you want to get me a jersey, I don’t know if it will work out, but I’d be happy to try.’
‘Next time you stop, I’ll have a jersey.’
“A couple of weeks later, I stopped and he had a jersey, a black jersey, and you don’t see too many black Packer jerseys.”
Thus, the process took its first step.
Now it was time to take Step Two.
“I have another customer named Mike, from Sleep Central, and Mike is an autograph collector,” Gilson said. “I asked him, ‘How in the world can I get Jordy’s autograph? He said, ‘You know you can get just about anybody’s autograph if you go to shows. But if you don’t want to pay for an autograph at a show, you’re going to have to get it from Jordy.’
“Then Christmas time rolled around, and my mom gave me and my girlfriend, Jane (Jacobi), tickets to go to Jordy Nelson’s softball game in Appleton. Right away, I thought, ‘Here’s my chance to get Jordy’s autograph. I’ll bring that jersey along.’ Also, Mike gave me a special pen that will work with a black jersey.
“So I had Mike’s pen and Pete’s jersey and I went to that game. Before the game, I’m running around trying to see Jordy and people were yelling, ‘Autograph this!’ but before the game he didn’t autograph for anybody. He played the game, and after the game he started autographing for about every third person on the first-base line. I unfortunately did not get one.
“Then he started walking to the third-base line and I ran there as fast as I could. This time I was able to get in the front row and I counted off the people. I was going to be the third person. But unfortunately he autographed for the person next to me, the second person, someone with a baseball. I’m holding the jersey out over the rail, and then the person with the ball said, ‘Can you also sign this jersey for my wife?’
“Jordy said, ‘Well, where’s the jersey?’
“ ‘She’s wearing it.’
“I was holding Pete’s jersey over her back and Jordy grabbed Pete’s jersey to autograph the wife’s and I’m thinking, ‘I’m in, he’s holding it.’ So he autographs her jersey, then gave me back my jersey. I’m disappointed.
“Well, my friend Jane saw that he passed me and she jumped in line, in the first row, and I threw the jersey and pen to her and she caught them. But, unfortunately, he didn’t autograph for her, either. When he got to the end of the line he said, ‘Unfortunately, I can’t autograph for everybody. Thanks for coming to the game.’
“Jordy was classy the way he autographed. If he would have stayed there and autographed for everybody, he would have been there for 24 hours. Just the fact that he put this whole softball game on and before the game there was a sponsor game and a home run hitting contest. He puts on a great show, and his wife was involved. I was impressed. He said that from his heart when he said, ‘Sorry, I can’t autograph for everybody. Thank you very much for coming to the game.’ A classy guy.”
This could have been the end of a not-so-compelling story of a try for an autograph that proved too elusive.
But Gilson had one more trick up his sleeve.
“The next day I called the Packers and got Mark Wagner with the ticket office and told him what we’re looking for: ‘We’re not looking to sell this autograph to make money, it’s just to surprise a young Packer fan,’ “ Gilson explained. “Mark completely understood, and said, ‘Send that jersey to 1265 Lombardi Avenue with Jordy’s name on it.’ He said, ‘Most of the players have gone home now, so I don’t know how long this will take, but send your story with a little note and a picture of the granddaughter along with a self-addressed envelope. There are no guarantees, but I feel really good it will happen.’
“As soon as I got off the phone, I grabbed the jersey and headed to the Minocqua post office and sent it out. Heading back to my car, who do I run into but Pete?”
Gilson sent in the package the day after Nelson’s football game, June 12. Imagine his surprise when, in late August, he checked at the post office and there was a package with a Packers’ mailing slip.
“When I saw it in my post office box, I was elated,” Gilson gushed. “It’s like I won the lottery. I took it right over to Pete, and he was thrilled.”
The whole process started due to a young girl’s fancy.
How did Michaela happen to become such a Jordy fan in the first place?
“There are couple different reasons,” Michaela said. “Everybody always has their favorite player when they’re watching the Packers play. My favorite number is also 87, which is weird, but it is. Also in high school, this is weird, too, but one of my teachers thought I looked like Jordy Nelson – the female version of him – because I have blond hair and blue eyes.
“That also kind of stuck with me. I guess that’s how I became a fan, and especially after they won a Super Bowl, too.
“I used to watch more Packer games when I was in high school – being in college it’s kind of hard to find the time – but in high school, me and my friend Andrea (Buschke), every Monday we would discuss the Packer game, what was good, what was bad. It was funny. Me and her were both big football fans.”
Being a sophomore at UW-Waukesha in dental hygiene school, while also working as a dental assistant at Johnson Creek Dental, doesn’t always leave as much Packer time.
“I’m also involved in horses, I compete on the weekends, so that really eats up my time,” she noted, before adding to her Jordy similarity list.
“We’re both kind of farm people, sort of. I think he went to Kansas State, didn’t he? When I was interested in veterinary medicine, as a sophomore in high school, I visited Kansas State. It was cool to go there and see a game, and Jordy was also a player for the Kansas State Wildcats.”
Michaela likes the character Jordy shows, too.
“In interviews, he describes things very straight forward and down-to-earth,” she explained. “And he doesn’t seem to hide things, which, I think, anybody would envy in a pro player, his honesty.
“Even if they lose a game, he takes away the positive aspects of the game. He doesn’t go straight to the negative. He seems like a very good team player.”
Now that she has her prize, what will she do with it?
“I’m not 100% sure,” Michaela said. “I’ll probably wear it for a while, then my mom wants to frame it. I’ll wear it every game day.”
Jordy, the man
“Not only is Jordy a football star, but he’s a great guy. He took time out of his busy schedule to help somebody he doesn’t know, and that’s a cool thing. We hear a lot of negatives about entertainers or athletes, but you don’t hear the good things about them.
“What’s also interesting is the picture we sent and the note, Jordy kept them. So, it meant something to him. I’m sure he shared that with somebody in his family. This was about getting an autograph for a young Packers’ fan.
“This is something Pete’s granddaughter will remember forever; Pete and I will remember forever.
“I’m a Jordy fan forever.”
Pete Morgan’s Packers Memories
“I had a friend that had four season tickets, and he and his wife and me and my wife would go to the games.
“Boy, I’ve seen a lot of games. We would go to two or three every year. Oh, gosh, back when Majkowski was quarterback. Boy, that was a long time ago. We probably went for 15 years.
“The last time we went, there was a bunch of drunks behind us and they spilled beer on my wife’s back and she didn’t want to go no more. I went up and I told the ushers, the ushers came down and stopped behind all of them. They were swearing, and the ushers ushered them right out of the game.
“We had a lot of good experiences.
“We met Reggie White. He would always go to the restaurant we went to after the games right near the stadium, the Applebee’s.
“My favorite Packer memory was when Bart Starr scored that (Ice Bowl sneak) touchdown, watching that on the television when I was about 18 years old. Everybody liked that. I could have gone to the game, but it was really cold. My friend wanted me to go to the game with him, but I stayed home and watched it on the television.
“My folks owned a tavern and another tavern-owner had season tickets, so they would go to the Packer games. They would dress up years ago, my dad in a suit and tie and my mother had her big old fur, mink coat. That’s how they did it years ago.
“They would bring me back pennants from the Packers to put on my wall in the bedroom. I gave them away to somebody. At that time you didn’t think they would be that valuable. We’ve still got my mother’s old mink coat.”
Jordy, the family man
“The fact that his wife is there (at the softball game) tells me something – that he wants his family involved.
“A couple of years ago, I was at (Jordy’s charity softball) game and somebody threw a pie in his face, and all he did was make two holes for his eyes. He was pitching then, too, and it was absolutely hilarious. Everybody that had a camera that was close was taking a picture and he didn’t care. He was laughing just as much as everybody else. He was just having a good time.
“The guy’s got a lot of heart. He’s a lot more that just a football player. It was very meaningful to a family. It’s something money can’t buy.”
“He tried several times to get Jordy to sign it and then he finally did when he sent it to him. He sent a picture of my granddaughter and the dog, I think, and finally Jordy signed it and sent it back. Jordy kept all the pictures. I tell people about that and they think, ‘Wow, that was really something!’ ”
Games people play
“When I come in (to First Weber Realty, formerly Pete Morgan’s Century 21 Realty shop in Minocqua), there’s a game we play,” Gilson said. “Pete’s got a Packer calendar, not up to date, it might say Nov., 2015. Pete will say, ‘Before you go, this wide receiver caught 62 passes for 1,361 yards,’ and I’ll say, ‘Who’s James Lofton.’ ‘Oh, yeah.’ He’ll ask me 20 questions before I go.”