The Bicycle Tradition of the Green Bay Packers is one of the best traditions in professional sports and has become a significant part of the identity of the Green Bay Packers team. I’ve heard that the tradition dates back to the Lombardi Era, but that its origin is shrouded in mystery. In truth, the tradition dates to 1958, a year before Vince Lombardi arrived in Green Bay.
Scooter McLean was the Packers Head Coach. During Training Camp, the Packers were staying at St. Norberts College in De Pere and were transported to training camp in school buses driven by designated players.
My name is David Goodner. I was twelve years old in 1958 and lived at 723 Ninth Street, only a few blocks from “New City Stadium”, now Lambeau Field. My Dad, Ted Goodner, worked on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and I was the oldest of five children. Dad surprised me and my ten year old brother Dale with beautiful new Schwinn Jaguar Bicycles and that gift opened the world for us. We used our new bikes to spend every morning and every afternoon that summer at the football stadium watching the Packers practice.
My favorite player was John Symank (No. 27), a defensive back and Dale’s favorite player was Jesse Whittenton (No. 47), also a defensive back. We would pedal to the locker room entrance to the stadium and wait for the players to arrive on the buses and go into the stadium to suit up for practice. Then we’d sit on the bleachers and watch them on the practice field on Oneida.
One day, I went up to John Symank as he came out of the locker room and asked him if he’d like a ride down to the practice field. He smiled and got on my bike and handed me his helmet. I rode on the back of the bike and held onto him. Once I had delivered him, I pedaled back up and picked up as many players as I could and took them down. After that, I’d sit and watch the practices. This all happened 60 years ago, but when I watch videos of the kids today with their bicycles, I get tears in my eyes, because I know that they feel such intense pride as they connect with their heroes. I also know that these memories will never fade. I still feel great pride in having been so close to Johnny Symank and having held his helmet and ridden behind him on my bike so long ago. He is still a hero to me.
Coach MeLean saw me offering rides to his players, but didn’t seem to care, so I didn’t even ask him for his permission. But when Vince Lombardi came in 1959, I did pedal my bike up to him and ask very politely if it was alright to keep riding the players on my bike. He told me that he didn’t mind as long as nobody got hurt. So I continued to offer rides to Packers players twice a day during summer training camp. I don’t know why other kids didn’t bring their bikes to the stadium and join us, but they didn’t. My younger brother and I were the only ones doing it and on many days, my brother stayed home and it was only me.
When I look back on these times, one incident embarrasses me. It was my habit to not offer rides to players until John Symank had ridden. He was my hero and I didn’t want him to come out of the locker room and not find me waiting for him. This wasn’t a problem on most days, because he was usually the first player out. But one day Bart Starr came out first and threw his leg over my bike. I didn’t know what to do, so I politely told him that he’d have to walk, because Symank hadn’t come out yet. Bart smiled, turned red, got off and started walking. Soon after that, Symank came out and got on. I took him down to the practice field and then pedaled half way back up the hill and told Bart that he could ride now. He graciously got back on and I took him the rest of the way. Looking back, I didn’t handle that situation very well. Bart Starr was one of nicest players on the team and I loved being around him. I still regret treating him so unfairly on that day.
After graduating from Green Bay West High School in 1964, I studied Geology at the University of Wisconsin in Superior where I received a Bachelor of Science degree. Then I was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam era and was assigned to the Pentagon for two years. Following this, I received a Master of Science degree from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and then joined Mobil Oil in Dallas as an Oil Exploration Geologist and worked on my PhD degree at the same time. Mobil transferred me to offices in Houston, Stavanger Norway and Denver before I was asked to go to Russia and Kazakhstan to open new operations offices in Moscow and in Almaty, Kazakhstan. My Mobil career was followed by two years as President of Texaco International Petroleum Central Asia Division.
Looking back on some of my life’s accomplishments, several memories bring me pride, but being the kid that started the Green Bay Packers Bicycle Tradition makes me the most proud. This is my legacy to my hometown.