With the beginning of another NFL season around the corner, I find myself thinking back to a few of my favorite memories from the tough days in August. One that comes to mind involves a famous tradition in Green Bay that dates to the Lombardi Era, where kids from all over the state patiently wait to offer their bikes for players to ride to practice.
The vision that plays in their mind as they wait is the hope that they will be able to tell their friends that Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre or Reggie White rode their bike. Unfortunately, most are stuck with rookies and other unknown players.
As I walked out of the locker room for the first time my rookie year, I was quickly rejected by the first two kids I approached. They already had secured a skilled position player -- a much better story to tell their friends. Nervous that I wouldn't have a bike to ride, I was forced to basically beg a kid into lending me his bike so I could get to practice on time.
Looking to avoid that scenario from occurring for the rest of camp, I tried to extend the partnership, but the kid's family was going up to Door County for the rest of his trip and could only commit for two more days. This would only cover me until the veterans showed up, which would bring better-known players but also more bikers to offer their wheels.
Four days into camp, my bike-riding adventure was going pretty well until an event occurred that forever shaped my training camp bike-riding practice.
While riding next to a second-year offensive lineman who I was competing with for a position on the 53-man roster, I witnessed him accidentally bend one of the axles on the wheel. The bike was basically ruined, and I decided to start looking for a stronger bike.
The very next day, while that same lineman and I searched for rides that would hold our bigger frames, we noticed the kid whose bike was destroyed the day before quickly approaching the unnamed lineman with paper in hand. But he wasn't looking for an autograph.
Heading to a stress-filled practice where he was competing for limited jobs in a very competitive environment, the unnamed lineman instead received a $150 bill from an 8-year-old boy for mangling his mode of transportation. It was something we didn't let the lineman forget for as long as he was in Green Bay, which wasn't as long as he had hoped.
The lesson I took for the remainder of my career: Find a sturdy bike, or leave a little earlier and walk.