During his Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech last summer, Ron Wolfe referred to Lambeau Field as, "football's most storied cathedral."
I've been very blessed in that I've been able to attend a lot of Dallas Cowboys games in my life. A majority of the time I've been accompanied by my best friend - my Dad.
A year ago we decided that we'd seen Texas Stadium, we'd seen AT&T Stadium, and now it was time to explore the rest of the National Football League.
We settled on Soldier Field in Chicago and saw the Cowboys pull of a nice victory on Thursday Night Football against Da Bears.
When the 2015 schedule was released we saw that the cathedral Ron Wolfe referred to would be part of the Dallas Cowboys' tour. There was no second choice. This was Lambeau. We had to go.
We brought reinforcements this time. My Dad, his best friend, his best friend's son, and his best friend's son-in-law all accompanied us as we made our way to Green Bay, WI last weekend.
Here is a bit of our trip at what I can now say, from my own experience, is unquestionably football's most storied, historic, and illustrious cathedral.
Brett Favre's Steakhouse
We first laid eyes on perhaps the most iconic venue in sports on the night of Friday, December 11th. We were making our way towards dinner at Brett Favre's steakhouse and passed by Lambeau in all her glory.
For the time being our eyes, and stomachs, were focused on something else. Talk around the town was that Favre's put one fine piece of meat on a plate, and we had to check it out.
This thing is a living shrine to the 'Ol Gunslinger. The food is almost as manly as his style of play was.
There's a mini museum that highlights all of the accomplishments by Favre during his time in Green Bay. Magazine covers grace all of the walls and cheeshead hats are for sale in the gift shop.
There are footballs from Super Bowl XXXI, photos of Brett and his family, and just about everything Favre-related that you can dream up.
There's also food. Lots of it.
We each ordered a ribeye steak and baked potato that came with ice cream sized scoops of butter on top. One bite in we knew that the trip was already well worth it.
The only sound that came from our table for a solid ten minutes was that of satisfaction as we each feasted on what I think was a whole cow.
We raised a glass to friends, family, food, and of course the Dallas Cowboys. With a weekend of good times ahead of us... we were on top of the world. Did I mention that we were a few blocks away from Lambeau Field?
After dinner we ventured over to Lambeau. I had waited long enough, I wanted to stand in her presence.
We pulled up and got out of the car. You can't help but just stare at the stadium and let your mind wander over the course of history as you reflect how football was built here.
Right outside the stadium they have some statues. Vince Lombardi, Curly Lambeau, and a little monument to the Green Bay fans. This "statue" serves as a spot where fans can emulate the iconic "Lambeau Leap." You know that I had to get in on this.
I closed my eyes and pretended that I scored the winning touchdown during the Ice Bowl... avenging one of the most heartbreaking losses in Dallas Cowboys History. I then proceeded to find some fans in the crowd, jumped up, and soaked in the moment. They were happy... you can see it on their faces!
That wrapped up our experience for the night, but we'd be back in the morning.
Green Bay Packers Hall Of Fame
As it was Saturday there wasn't any football going on that needed to be watched. We loaded up the car and set sail to see Lambeau with some sun on her.
The stadium is incredibly large with so much going on. We wanted to check it all out, see the pro shop, but more than anything we wanted to tour the Hall of Fame.
The Packers have their own mini museum inside of Lambeau Field that is dedicated to the greatest to put on the green and gold. They also have a larger-than-life Vince Lombardi Trophy that is fifty feet tall!
Both Cowboys and Packers fans filled the line to get into the museum. Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Ray Nitschke, Troy Aikman, Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Sean Lee were just a few of the many different jerseys well represented.
The museum encompasses everything related to football. There's a portion completely dedicated to the scouting process of the NFL... you can even measure yourself at the high jump!
There's fine details concerning the NFL uniform, the Packers weekly preparation, Ron Wolfe's contributions, the rise and fall of the Packers... it's got it all.
There's a particularly great portion of the museum that has bronze footballs dedicated to each player/coach/contributor who has helped make the Packers great over the years. Once you make your way through that you find yourself in the Trophy Room.
Super Bowls I, II, XXXI, and XLV are represented by their respective Vince Lombardi Trophies.
There are smaller level trinkets in this room that stick out as well, though.
During the days of NFL Championships they didn't hand out Super Bowl Rings. Watches, pocket watches, and even lighters that were commemorations for those particular teams are on hand for you to see.
The one that I found most interesting is Aaron Rodgers' Super Bowl XLV Ring. This thing, his ring, is just sitting here!
I can't believe that Aaron wouldn't want to keep it on him at all times, but I mean... it's obviously safe in the museum.
It's pretty sweet that all Packers fans can cruise through the museum and see the exact ring that belongs to their MVP quarterback that they watch Sunday after Sunday. Nobody does things like the Green Bay Packers, that's for sure.
Our tour for the day ended and we decided to head on over to a local casino and play some slots. The real deal was only a day away.
Dallas Cowboys Vs. Green Bay Packers
Sunday, December 13th was a day circled on all of our calendars for a long time. When it finally arrived we put on all of our gear (there was 100% chance of rain) and headed out for Lambeau.
Upon arrival you can immediately sense that this place is completely different from any NFL environment. It feels like, in some ways, a high school game in terms of the excitement in the air.
I say that in the sense that it is awesome. Every fan... young and old is a complete die-hard and you can feel it in the culture of the place.
There were Christmas carolers singing, "God Bless The Packers" as we walked by the entrance gate. The electricity was tangible. It felt like, just because of where we were, a playoff game.
We got inside and went straight for our seats. At Lambeau the bottom level isn't your traditional stadium seats... it's even more traditional with bleachers!
Before I knew it kickoff was upon us and the magic of it all started to settle in.
The Dallas Cowboys. The Green Bay Packers. Lambeau Field. I don't know that I've ever seen anything like that in person.
Every sense of the stadium is incredibly rich in history... and that extends towards the Packers fans. This isn't a game for them and its not even a tradition. It's a ritual of time, family, and a deep love for their Green Bay Packers. Everything that happens there, whether on gameday or when no one is watching, is magical.
If you're looking for an NFL stadium to visit then I cannot recommend Lambeau Field enough. It was the experience of a lifetime. Go now. Take me with you. I'll show you around.
Tony Pollard is Just What the Doctor Ordered in Dallas
The Dallas Cowboys have what many believe to be the best running back in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott. However, you can never undervalue the importance of depth at any position. When the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft came around, the Cowboys added another weapon to the backfield by selecting Tony Pollard out of Memphis.
If you’re looking for a dynamic player maker with the ability to take it to the house at any given moment, Pollard is your man. The former Tiger averaged a touchdown every 13 touches in college. That’s an absolutely insane statistic when you think about it. He also tied an NCAA record with seven kick returns for touchdowns. Long story short, he can get you six points at the blink of an eye.
The versatility in his game is outrageous and undoubtedly the reason why he was drafted. In addition to running for 941 yards on 6.8 yards per rush, he also had 104 receptions for 1,292 yards. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has to be salivating about the possibilities with his new toy. Having a running back that can not only carry the load as a runner but also line up at receiver keeps the defense honest. You never know what angle the offense is going to come from.
This has to be a sigh of relief for Ezekiel Elliott. Now, the Cowboys don’t have to overexert him and can bring Pollard in on third downs if need be. Not just to give Elliott a breather but to change the pace of the offensive attack. You can hand the ball off, throw it to him or run jet sweeps when he is on the field. This sets up a potential combo at running back that could be the leagues very best shortly.
Speed, quickness, and agility are all wrapped up in the Tony Pollard package. The Cowboys now have a running back that can line up at multiple positions if need be. Also, this prevents a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the body of Ezekiel Elliott. This combination has all the potential to set the NFL on fire in 2019.
CB Byron Jones Not Expected To Return Until Week 1 Against NYG
Coming off what was clearly the best season of his career thus far, Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones underwent surgery to hopefully fix a nagging hip injury.
While he earned both his first All Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2018, his first season as a full-time cornerback, Jones still has a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Some still criticize him for his lack of interceptions, and there's no doubt his stellar play slowed down a bit towards the end of the year.
I'm willing to wager that the slight decline had a lot to do with his hip troubles, but nonetheless he must come up with his elite level play once again to earn himself a nice contract somewhere in 2020.
Oh, did I forget to mention it's also a contract year for Byron Jones? As it is for so many important Dallas Cowboys, it seems.
So when will Byron Jones be able to return to the Cowboys' lineup? Well, the initial date reportedly set by Jones and the team was late July, giving him a chance to practice and play a bit before the season opener in September. But, according to the Team Site this week, that date may be pushed back a bit, and we might not see Byron Jones until that season opening game against the Giants.
"As for Jones, all along the Cowboys have been targeting his return for the season opener, but hopefully at that. So, don’t expect to see much of Jones in training camp, and if so, certainly no more than individual and walk-through drills." - Mickey Spagnola
Ultimately, as long as Byron Jones is good to go when the regular season starts, that's all that matters, but the fear of rust when Jones returns is a real one.
It's tough to go from no live football straight to the meaningful games, but if anyone would be able to do it it would be the guy with the freakishly athletic traits. The guy who can get out of the bed in the morning and set athletic records at the Combine.
And, of course, that guy is Byron Jones.
Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure
When the 2016 NFL Draft came around the Dallas Cowboys were in search of the heir apparent to Tony Romo. Unfortunately, coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, Romo would find himself on the shelf again after suffering a broken bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seahawks. However, the Cowboys had an ace in the hole, in the form of Dak Prescott who they drafted in the fourth round.
The idea was the groom him for a few years before taking the keys to the car so to speak from Romo, but fate had another idea in mind. Prescott would be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the Cowboys most hated rivals to start the season, the New York Giants. Added to that, was the pressure of living up to Romo's stellar resume as the franchise's all-time leading passer. After struggling in a tough 20-19 loss, no surprise there for a rookie quarterback, Prescott began to take flight.
Over the next eleven games he wouldn't suffer a single loss as the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 11-1. What made this streak more impressive was the efficiency of Prescott. He threw 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions over that span. In the process, he set an NFL record for the most passing attempts to start a career without an interception with 176. This broke the previous record held by Tom Brady of 162. It didn't stop there, as he also set a rookie record for completion percentage (67.8), was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl.
The Cowboys would finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the franchise only winning two postseason games in 21 years, Prescott was definitely under the microscope. After the offense struggled to produce points in the first half and fell behind 21-3, Prescott lead a furious comeback. Helping the team storm all the way back to tie the game at 28 and again at 31. He finished with 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first playoff start against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Even though the team lost 34-31, Prescott proved how much of a gamer he was as he basically went yard for yard and point for point with one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. It was clear the Cowboys were in good hands going forward.
2017 started off well as the Cowboys were 5-3 and firmly on pace for another playoff run. Unfortunately, All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott lost his fierce battle with the NFL over domestic violence allegations, and Dak along with the offense struggled. After a 9-7 season and falling one game short of a Wild Card berth, the pressure on Prescott heading into the next season was immense.
Once 2018 came about Prescott had more pressure than ever with Elliott back for a full season. After a slow 3-4 start the Cowboys traded for Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, providing the team with it's first true number one receiver since Dez Bryant. Putting even more expectations on Prescott to turn things around, and boy did he ever.
He would complete 71.6% of his passes in the final eight games of the season, and the Cowboys won seven to finish 10-6. Now, with another division title under his belt, came a playoff matchup with Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Russell Wilson.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were hanging on to a 17-14 lead. They faced a 3rd and 14 inside the redone with just over two minutes left. After dropping back a few steps, Prescott scrambled for 16 yards setting up a first and goal from the one-yard line. The team held on for a 24-22 victory but here's why that scramble was so important.
If the Cowboys don't convert that 3rd and long that would've set up a field goal attempt. Assuming it would have been successful, that would've only put them up 20-14. Giving Seattle a chance to more than likely win with a touchdown and an extra point or two-point conversion. Prescott essentially won the game with that 3rd down run. Proving once again there's no situation he can't handle.
He's set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. No quarterback has won more games than him since 2016 except Tom Brady. No one has more game-winning drives than him since he entered the league. His 13 primetime victories are tops in the NFL over the last three seasons. Simply put, Dak Prescott is a winner and doesn't fold under pressure, instead, he embraces it. There are no bigger lights in the NFL than the ones that shine in Dallas. With those lights come huge expectations and pressure, and it's clear this young man is made of the right stuff to handle it.
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