“Throw it Dad-I’m open!”
Chances are if you are a football fan, you were introduced to it at a very early age.
Parents spend their Sunday’s supporting their favorite team, with children in tow. While the adults know exactly what they are cheering at, children often follow suit, picking up the habits of their elders. These habits often turn into an obsession as the children get older, remembering where it began all those years ago.
Along with cheering hand in hand with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles is the tradition of playing catch with a football. The dawn of Fall brings a crisp relief to the air following a brutally hot Summer. Picking up the old pigskin and tossing it around the backyard is part of growing up, and something everyone has done.
If you were a Packers fan growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was very little to cheer about. The Packers were bad, and that is putting it mildly. They were so far away from being playoff contenders that being an 8-8 team was considered a major success.
Despite the lack of success in the win/loss column, the Packers were still an exciting team to watch. One of the major reasons for this was their offense, led by their vastly underrated quarterback-Lynn Dickey.
Long before Don “The Majik Man” Majkowski brought hope back to the long suffering Packer fans, there was Lynn Dickey.
Decades before Brett Favre brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay, there was Lynn Dickey.
Thirty years before Aaron Rodgers continued the success Favre brought, bringing a Lombardi Trophy of his own to the Packer faithful, there was Lynn Dickey.
Vastly underrated in the pantheon of great Packers quarterbacks, Dickey’s accomplishments are seldom mentioned because of the quarterbacks who followed him. Yet anyone who saw Dickey play knows how good he was, and how scary the Packers offense was with him operating it.
I have vivid memories of the impact Dickey had not only as a member of the Packers, but also on my life.
Many a Fall day were spent with my dad throwing around the football. In my mind, we were playing as the Packers-he as Lynn Dickey and me as James Lofton, running down the sidelines for a touchdown. It was perfection.
As I got older, and was actually able to throw the football, the roles would be changed. I would be the one doing my best impersonation of Dickey, trying to lead the Packers back to the promised land, throwing passes to my dad who would do his best impersonation of Lofton-even though he ran more like Paul Coffman.
Eventually Dickey’s time was up in Green Bay. Forrest Gregg brought a new attitude to the team, otherwise known as getting rid of all of the higher priced aging vets that filled the Packers roster. Dickey would be a casualty of this approach in 1985, thus ending his career. He retired holding numerous team passing records, most of which have since been broken. Yet there is one thing that has never been broken-the bond my father and I shared because of our love of the Packers, which was centered around Dickey and the teams he played on.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Lynn Dickey at an autograph signing. Meeting him was something that I had always wanted to do-partially because of his performance on the field, partially because of the bond he helped forge with my dad. More than meeting a Packer legend, meeting him was like taking a trip back in time, to my youth, with my entire life ahead of me.
As I stood there, talking with him, I was brought back to the countless days spent in my backyard, throwing the football around. Sprinting up and down the grass, with my dog Sandy running step for step with me, waiting for the pass to come down into my waiting arms from the best quarterback there ever was-my dad.
I could hear myself saying “Throw it Dad-I’m open!” in my head just like I used to. It was magical.
Every throw from him back then was a touchdown. Every single one.
The stories Dickey told at this signing made it even better. Looking at photos that other patrons would bring in Dickey would remember the exact game that was in the photo. Talking about his teammates, his opponents, and the teams he played on, he came across as amusing, honest, and most of all, a true gentleman.
As the event came to a conclusion, Dickey was getting ready to leave when he saw me standing by the counter. He stopped, and gave me a one armed hug, saying, “Thanks so much for coming today.” He let go, and continued on his way out the door.
No Lynn Dickey-thank you for the incredible impact you had on my life. It will be with me for all of my days.
John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com.
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio. ---------------------
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio.You can follow John on twitter at jrehor or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.