Friday, February 25, 2011

The Russ Young Banquet (feat. Jerry Kramer)

When Green Bay Packers all-time great and iconic legend Jerry Kramer speaks, people listen.

On Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Russ Young Award Banquet at the Hilton Garden Inn in Oshkosh, Kramer stepped to the microphone and captivated the audience.

His speech defined the event.

Kramer not only shared fond memories of his time playing under former Packers’ head coach Vince Lombardi, with players such as Paul Hornung, Bart Starr, Max McGee and winning numerous championships, but he also described what it takes to achieve success.

“Aristotle said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do, and excellence is not an occasional act, it’s a habit.’ ” Kramer said. “I am the master of my fate, and I am the captain of my soul. You decide what your life is going to be. You decide how successful you’re going to be, and you decide what kind of an impact you’re going to have on the people around you.”

Dave Hochtritt is one individual who made excellence a lifelong habit.

For his leadership, commitment and lasting impact within the community of UW Oshkosh, Hochtritt was presented with the 2011 Russ Young Leadership and Achievement Award.

Sponsored by the UW Oshkosh Titan Touchdown Club and hosted by Burke Griffin, Sports Anchor for WFRV-TV and 1995 UW Oshkosh graduate, the banquet took place to honor coach Hochtritt.

Senior football players for Oshkosh were also recognized and commended for their accomplishments as Titans.

The Russ Young Award was established in 2009 in honor of Russ Young, head football coach at UW Oshkosh from 1963 to 1976. 

Coach Young left a legacy of leadership and commitment to excellence, both on and off the playing field.

The award recognizes an individual who has exhibited the ideals of Russ Young’s legacy throughout their career, community involvement, character and immense contributions to Titan athletics.

In the midst of renowned Green Bay Packers Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston and Kramer, current and former Titans’ coaches, the senior football players, friends and family alike, Hochtritt accepted the award graciously.

“Russ was a good friend of mine, and I can’t think of anybody I cared for more,” Hochtritt said. “He was a good man, and I am really proud to accept this award on his behalf. Thank you.”

Hochtritt’s daughter Lisa also shared her appreciation for both Young and her father.

“Football has been a huge part of my dad’s life for as long as I can remember, and Russ Young was instrumental in teaching him about coaching life at UW Oshkosh,” she said. “Russ’s mentorship helped to shape my dad into the great coach and person he is today.”

Young took over control of the Titans’ football program in 1963, following four years as an assistant to Bob Kolf.

During his 14 years as head coach, Young’s teams won three Wisconsin State University Conference Championships (1968, 1972 and 1976), stockpiling a 68-63-2 overall record.

Hochtritt took over following Young’s departure and is the second most winning coach in Titans’ history behind his predecessor.

In addition to his exceptional coaching career, Hochtritt also spent 30 years as a professor for UW Oshkosh.

Hochtritt was a part of Titan football for 17 years, 10 with Young, but his career also includes coaching in the Canadian Football League and even working as a professional scout for a multitude of teams in the National Football League.

Russ Young played a large role in sculpting the career of his dear friend and colleague, but the allies were separated in January of 1983 when Young passed away after battling a long illness.

Before Young passed on, he made one final request of Hochtritt.

“Coach Young made a wish,” Hochtritt said. “He said, ‘I want my ashes sprinkled over Titan Stadium.’ ”

Hochtritt fulfilled his friend’s last request, and Young’s legacy to this day has stood as a beacon for UW Oshkosh Athletics.

What few understand, however, is Hochtritt almost gave up his dream before ever finding his niche in Oshkosh.

“I was coaching at a small liberal arts school over in Minnesota, with not much of a future,” Hochtritt said. “In fact, I was considering getting out of coaching and even investigated a truck driving job.”

Hochtritt traveled to Oshkosh soon thereafter to visit a former teammate, and it was then he met Russ Young.

Young offered Hochtritt a job as assistant coach of the Titans, and needless to say, he opted against a career in truck driving.

“That was the best decision of my life, accepting Russ’s offer,” Hochtritt said. “I had the best 10 years of my life coaching with Russ Young.”

Kramer illustrated an eerily similar situation, in which adversity nearly crippled his career with the Green Bay Packers.

The bruising offensive lineman was selected by the Packers in the 1958 NFL Draft, but the early stages of Kramer’s playing days were far from excellent.

Following a team scrimmage in which Kramer committed several penalties and missed a key block, he received a tongue-lashing from the immortal coach Lombardi and felt all hope of success in the NFL slipping away.

“I go up to the locker room, shuck my shoulder pads off and put my head in my hands,” Kramer recalled. “I wondered what I was going to do with the rest of my life, and I thought maybe it’s time for me to get out of football. Maybe it’s time to find a different profession.”

Lombardi’s intent was not to belittle one of his best players, rather to instill a hunger for success that he knew lie within Kramer.

“He walks over, slaps me on the back of the neck and says, ‘son, one of these days you are going to be the best guard in football,’” Kramer said. “Boom, filled me up. Something started a fire in me and warmth was created inside my body. [Lombardi] had the wonderful ability to paint pictures of what is possible if you really want something, and so I worked my tail off from that point on.”

Both Kramer and Hochtritt nearly abandoned their passion in life for something far less demanding, but both found the will to persevere and strive for excellence.

Kramer garnered five NFL Championships and two Superbowl victories as a player for the Green Bay Packers, while Hochtritt is a member of the UW Oshkosh Titan Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000.

The two men have led very different lives, each with ample success in their own right, but their achievements stem from a fire that was once planted within.

This hunger developed into action, and actions transformed them into beloved legends not only on the football field but in the hearts of those they touched.

This is what Russ Young stood for, and this is what the Russ Young Leadership and Achievement Award represents.

On an evening filled with bright, shining stars from the past, present and unconquerable potential of the future and during an event that recognized all included in making the night possible, current Titans’ head coach Pat Cerroni placed it all in perfect perspective.

“This night has been very, very special,” Cerroni affirmed.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Need a New Pin Cushion

Show of hands…who doesn’t point the finger at someone else when there’s an argument, accident or even disastrous oil spill? It’s their fault, he did it, she started it, not me. In almost every situation, we seek a way to take the spotlight off ourselves. Me? When I’m having a rough day, Jeffrey Suppan is my punching bag. When I need someone to lay blame on, it’s that man. The Brewers’ woes, Jeff Suppan’s fault. Financial problems, Suppan’s fault. Dead car battery, Suppan’s fault…Death of a pet, Suppan!

Rather than continue to toss darts at his picture or burn my Suppan jersey (yes I actually bought one), I’ve been considering treatment for my undeniable and blatant hatred. I would like to completely let go of this disdain, but it’s a daily struggle. Thankfully the Brewers’ higher-ups have finally filed Suppan’s “get the F out” papers. For 31 innings pitched and a svelte 7.84 earned run average, Jeff Suppan earned (stole) the entire $14.5 million his contract promised him in 2010. Suppan is gone though; it’s time move on. So who can be our scapegoat? Who is that one person we can unite behind as the sole cause for every single trouble in our daily lives?

Michael Redd’s knees

Michael Redd has been a member of the Milwaukee Bucks for all 10 of his NBA seasons, and as far as we know, he’s been a comendable athlete in the Milwaukee organization. For the past 5 summers, he has hosted the Michael Redd basketball camp for Ohio-area youth. He has participated in charity events including the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, the House of Need and the YMCA, among others. During Thanksgiving a couple years past, Redd spent his day donating 300+ turkeys to families in need. Dang it…Despite his paper-thin knees, missed games (seasons) and 2010 salary of $17 mil per, I can’t hate this guy. I want to hate you Michael, but you deserve better. Where’s the “dislike” button?

Brett Favre

Too easy.

John Clay

Purely hypothetical. John Clay is, by many, a clear Heisman candidate this coming season. If Clay can follow up his 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award, 1,517 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns with similar numbers, the Badgers have a chance to be very good in 2010. Elite good. NBC Sports has already entrenched Wisconsin as #10 in their preseason rankings. Scott Tolzien should be more mature than last year, especially with Lance Kendricks returning as a target. The entire offensive line will be back as well. On the other side of the ball, the defense ranked #1 in the Big Ten in rushing yards given up per game with only 88.2 Yes, there is little reason to believe this 10-3 squad won’t be a Big Ten title contender in 2010. But…

John Clay is coming off troublesome ankle surgeries, and he has always struggled to keep his weight down. He is listed at 6’1” 248, although his weight hit at least 260 a year ago. That’s the type of back John Clay his. He runs hard and heavy, seemingly looking to take off the head of anyone in his path. Clay helped lead the Badgers to the #1 ranked rushing game in the Big Ten last season, and the expectations have only grown since. The hype is building, and no other player holds the fate of the Badgers’ success on their shoulders like Johnny Clay.

He has the chance to surpass 2,000 yards rushing and establish himself as one of the Wisconsin greats. High praise sure, but the chance is there. He has the chance to parlay 2010 into becoming a draft prospect and extending the Wisconsin Badger brand further into the NFL. Can his already top-heavy body carry those expectations? If Clay shows up in the fall, out of shape and unconditioned, the Badgers will fail. If the “lazy” tag continues to be applied next to Clay’s name, his NFL future will fall apart. The fate of Badger Nation rests on his legs, and whether justifiably so or not, the Badgers’ failures will be his. The blame, his.

Johnny Jolly

I think we may have a leader in the clubhouse. Johnny Jolly was a model of consistency on the Packers’ defensive line during the 2009 season. He flashed brilliancy at times with plays a man that big should not dream of making. Last year was Jolly’s best season yet, and he compiled very respectable numbers, including 39 total tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception and 10 pass deflections. The stats aren’t overwhelming, but Jolly was a mainstay on Green Bay’s line. On top of that, Jolly’s 6′ 3” 325 pound frame is only 27 years old and seemingly in its prime.

However, Jolly was recently suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Apparently possession and use of illegal prescription Codeine syrup is not okay with commissioner Roger Goodell. Also, according to Greg Bedard’s report, Jolly is still facing charges for buying, selling, funding, transporting and aiding…(deep breath)…in the buying, selling, funding and transportation of illegal drugs including cocaine and marijuana in Harris County in 2008. That’s all? Johnny Jolly’s future in the Green and Gold looks to be in doubt, and the defense will almost assuredly take a hit without his presence. He has let down his teammates, coaches and many fans. Perhaps I’ve found a winner.


I’m grasping at air. Sigh, slow day. Thankfully the weekend is within reach, and the Green Bay Packers’ Training Camp begins tomorrow. And lucky for Wisconsinites, we really don’t possess too many despised professional personalities. There isn’t a Dan Gilbert, Carlos Zambrano or JarMarcus Russel. For the most part, there isn’t a universally hated athlete or coach. Of course Jarrett Bush, Ken Macha and even Ted Thompson could be thrown into the mix, depending on personal opinion, but I’m not sure the discord is strong enough. I’m sure I have missed the most obvious of nominees, so if you have any who’s and why’s lay them on me. I need someone to blame!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Is it Football Season Yet?

In America's wide world of sports, especially Packer Nation, the NFL reigns supreme. The NFL is a monopoly, with houses and hotels on every street. The NFL runs the playground and bullies the smaller kids. The NFL drives a Hummer, with all other sports stuck in clown cars. The NFL is king, and everything else is merely a temporary distraction.

2010 has been filled with thrilling sports’ headlines. The Yankees are attempting to repeat, and Kobe’s Lakers already have. Tiger Woods is struggling to control his putter, eh hem, and seeking to regain his former dominance. And the 2010 World Cup has made its glorious return, with team U.S.A. set to spring board our country into international “futbol” relevancy.

Oh come on. Admit it, you couldn’t name a third of the starting lineup from the U.S. squad, let alone the champion Dutch. Or was it Spain who won the Cup? Brazil? Exactly. The only memorable World Cup moments that have any hope of surviving the summer sun are Landon Donovan’s game winning goal and those God-awful vuvuzelas. Even the former will fade to obscurity with the first sniff of training camp.

But wait, this is the summer of Lebron! James flipped the sports’ world on its head when Jim Gray, who set Journalism back at least a decade, asked Lebron “do you still bite your nails?” Please. “The Decision” was a farce. Even King James himself, the super hero who vaulted the Cavalier franchise to nearly double its former net worth, is reduced to court jester when rumors circulate about JaMarcus Russel toasting “purple drank” glasses with (sigh) Johnny Jolly. If a report surfaces about #4 slinging Nerf balls to the locals down in Hattiesburg, the sports’ ticker blows up. An undrafted free agent could sneeze, and we would sprint to the nearest computer, television or radio to learn whether or not he reached the tissue box in time.

But John Isner battled through an 11 hour tennis match! Who? But Northern Iowa upset overall No. 1 seed Kansas, and Butler shocked their way into the NCAA Tournament championship game! Sorry, you lost me at “busted bracket.” But NASCAR! (giggle) They all fail in comparison.

Our local Wisconsin sports though, they are on par with the NFL. Really? Let’s be honest with each other. Milwaukee is home to two franchises with incredibly bright futures (too generous I know). The ride Johnny Salmons, Andrew Bogut and friends took us on this past season was a blast. Even being under .500, the potential of the Brewers' core is undeniable. But anyone who wouldn’t bolt from the 9th inning of any 1-1 ball game to catch a glimpse of Jarrett Bush, even him, running laps around the Don Hutson Center is a bold-faced liar. I love the Brewers, the Bucks and even our home grown PGA member Steve Stricker, but the Packers completely dwarf their instate neighbors.

Maybe it’s ignorance or narrow-mindedness. Maybe being bathed in Green and Gold as a child has skewed my fanhood to an epic homerism. Or, maybe I am just desperate for the mind-bending adrenaline rush that is the NFL season. That first update on Mason Crosby’s newfound accuracy (let’s hope), that first glimpse of 4th stringers fighting for their NFL lives during the preseason, that first sack, interception, touchdown and “W” are all enchanting moments impossible to duplicate. Heck I’m even excited to learn what color pen Mike McCarthy will be sporting in his baseball cap this year. Sports in general are great, but there is no rival to the National Football League.

For now I’ll wave my American Flag celebrating the U.S. soccer team. I’ll enjoy the banter regarding Lebron James and whether or not “South Beach” was the correct choice. I’ll probably even flip on the golf channel to see John Daly’s latest wardrobe choice. And of course I’ll faithfully follow both Milwaukee franchises, but the second Mike McCarthy and company are back in business, all else will cease to exist.

My anticipation for the 2010 season has reached a breaking point, and my optimism is probably unfounded. I’m not sure if Jermichael Finley can achieve elite status this season. I have no idea if Clay Matthews can match his stellar rookie campaign. My guess is as good as yours whether or not Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers can establish themselves as legitimate Superbowl contenders. But there is one thing I know for a fact…I am sure as heck ready to enjoy the ride and find out!

(Cue the Monday Night Football intro)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Cause for Optimism

The Green Bay Packers were 11-5 last season, and they very easily could have ended up 13-3. Two late game losses, one being a near miracle pass by the now infamous Ben Roethlisberger, were the only reasons Mike McCarthy and company did not finish with 13 wins. With everyone returning and a couple newly added pieces, there is no reason not to believe the Packers will be a better team in 2010.

When someone gives me a present, I don't look them in the eye and say "what a terrible gift!" No, when you are given a gift without having to pay back anything in return, you accept it gladly.

That's how I view this draft/offseason. Every significant piece of this team is back, and the newly added additions can only make them better. Green Bay might not have won the Powerball Jackpot, but that 500 bucks from the local lottery will still help in the long run.

I think the defense will be just fine, so long as they continue to force turnovers. And we all know how deadly the offense already is. Aaron Rodgers will be an MVP candidate this year, and JerMichael Finley, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver should be absolutely electric once again. Oh yeah, and their 1250+ yard, 11 touchdown running back, Ryan Grant, he's returning as well.

If the team that went 11-5 last season and lost an overtime heart breaker in the playoffs is still intact, then the offseason acquisitions are a welcomed gratuity. It might not be a shiny new car, but that scooter can still be put to profitable use. Yes, there is definitely cause to be optimistic as a Packer fan.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sweatpants...Great Invention, or Greatest?

An interesting question is raised here. Are sweatpants one of the greatest, if not the greatest, inventions of all time? You say the wheel, electricity, or the Internet, but I say a good 'ol pair of sweats.

Whether heading to class, work, a sporting event, or simply to bed, sweatpants provide maximum comfort. While their are factors such as weather that must be taken into account, the answer is obvious. If it's too hot, roll them up. If it's too cold, roll them down. Can you roll your shorts down? No, you have to take the time to change into jeans. Jeans equal wasted time.

Another important issue is eating. The primary reason I bring this up is because holidays are times when we eat, usually overeat. The guilt of loosening your belt a notch or popping a button can cripple anyones' self-esteem. With sweatpants however, the waist band magically expands. Undeterred, we can now all attack that holiday buffet with no regard to our own expanding waistline.

Lastly, what exactly are "sweat-pants"? After countless hours of research, I think I may have pinpointed the perfect explanation.

Sweatpants are an informal variety of trousers intended for comfort or athletic purposes. Many jails or juvenile institutions use sweatpants for their main uniform because of comfort, loose fitting, and ease of washing. In the United Kingdom they are varyingly known as track suit bottoms or the more informal jogging bottoms. In Australia and New Zealand they are know as track pants or "trakky daks". Also they can, in Ireland, be known as 'Fatman Trousers'.

That settles the debate. Sweats are in fact the greatest creation by man to this point in time. What the future holds I do not know. For now though, you keep your gizmos and gadgets and please, just hand me a pair of trakky daks.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Munch Madness

March Madness is officially upon us. Now is time to start our endless research, pine over our blank brackets, and pencil in who we believe will be the final team standing for the title of NCAA Basketball Champion. There is no question March is an excellent month for the avid sports fan, but I believe it is about time we change the term “Bracketology” up a bit. Who does not love chocolate? If there is a person out there who claims to not crave a bite of product created from the seed of the tropical Theobroma Cacao tree every so often, let those liars be pointed out. Because of the world’s love for sugar, and mine of course, my March Madness brackets will be consisting of a winner-take-all tournament of the most sweet, succulent, and delightful chocolate candies. Let March, or rather Munch Madness begin!

While the NCAA tournament officially includes 64 basketball teams, mine for the sake of everyone’s sanity, will involved simply the elite eight. Eight of the most knee-buckling, mind-numbing, sugar-packed, chocolate bars on the market today will be pitted against each other in the official tournament to determine a candy bar king.

After the stressful event of seeding my top eight taste bud teasers, battle is set to begin. Round one faces off heavy weight favorite Snickers(1) up against the more original and well known, yet still delightful Hershey Bar(8). To the utter dismay of the faithful fans and founder late great Milton S. Hershey, the all time best seller Snickers easily dominates this matchup. Next we have another hyped contender, the Twix(2), battling the 3 Musketeers(7). Even being named after the famous novel and a number of well-received movies could not save this nougat, and the Twix simply overwhelmed the light and fluffy chocolateers. Who could deny a blend of rich caramel and crunchy cookie center? In this instance, I could not. Known by many countries in the past as the Raider, the Twix bar marches on.

Other news verifies the upsets of the Whatchamacallit(5) over Bart Simpson’s old fashioned Butterfinger(4). Also, the often described as “so good I’d rather eat it than spend it,” the 100 Grand Bar(6) squeaks a close victory over our baby, the Baby Ruth(3). Long live the Babe, but he was not meant to proceed on this day.

Heading into the semifinals, 100 Grand’s own strength became its undoing. Size does in fact matter as Snickers smothers the all bark and just not enough bite 100 Grand Bar. I love Grand, but to be named after an incredible amount of money, you had better be worth your weight in gold or rather, chocolate. Lastly, in another clash of chocolate powers, the Twix out lasts the dark horse Whatch. As much as I enjoy a chocolate dipped, peanut flavored crisp Who-sa-muh-wotsie, the caramel rich Twix stuck in my memory, and my teeth, much longer.

Ladies and gentleman, the time has finally come for the grand daddy of all main events. Come Hershey, come Nestle, come Cadbury and Mars. In this epic showdown of Goliath versus Goliath, caramel versus caramel, and best seller versus best seller, who will sugar rush their way to victory? In the left corner we have the official King. Made by Mars and selling over two billion dollars per year across the world, lift your cheers for your champion, and my afternoon snack the one and only Snickers Bar! Please, please save some energy. In the right corner we have the heavy (belly) hitter and fan favorite. Hailing from the United Kingdom, raise your voices as you “chew it over,” and welcome the Twix Bar!

Unfortunately there can only be one winner, and if I may draw from the immortal author J.R.R. Tolkien, “one [candy bar] to rule them all.” Wait a second, this is my tournament. I appreciate you all for gracing me with your time through the stand off of oh so sweet confection, but the results are in. Both Snickers and Twix will have their arms raised and be awarded the gold. Two champions might be unfathomable, perhaps I have ruined my dinner, and maybe this sugar rush followed by an inevitable crash will bring about a restless night’s sleep, but if the world of sports can continue to change their rules each and every year, I most certainly hold the right to declare two favorites. Oh Henry I may suffer the results later, but my two friends and I will be taking our leave on the Milky Way. Here, I bid you adieu with a quote from my co-candy champ Twix, “two for me, none for you.”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fire the Critic

Awful, atrocious, a waste of time. Television, movies, political speeches, whatever the content, critics are always waiting in the wings to lecture us as to why what we just witnessed was terrible. Why? Sadly, it's because we have become a nation of pessimists. Case and point, Fashion Police. So called "fashion experts" invade our televisions after each award show explaining to us in dumbed down terms why each celebrity must have dressed themselves in the dark that day. Instead of discussing a gorgeous smile, happy couple, or sparkling personality, we hear only the ugly. It's a shame.

Sadly, I might be the biggest hypocrite. My cup is always half empty with a crack
in the glass slowly draining my optimism. Put me in an uncomfortable or "different" situation, and I instantly see 100 negatives. I will gladly bang home my point as to why Brett Favre isn't a top 5 quarterback of all time before I will take into consideration why he might just be the greatest.

We've become cynical, pessimistic, and unwavering. It's time for a pact. Right hand held high, speak with me. I will strip away the rust and search for gold in every movie, piece of literature, situation, and most importantly every person before I allow the critic inside to see only rotten tomatoes.

In the future when you stare in the mirror and ponder whether you should take responsibility for certain negative thoughts or feelings, chances are you will simply turn away and point your finger elsewhere. Why, because critics have engrained in our hard drive the idea that the good should follow the bad. We could very well continue to take the easy road, and blame the critic...Or, make a change.