SHEBOYGAN — For Rick Burgard, being a Packers fan was a birthright, he said.
His entire family and much of his extended family were Green Bay Packers Fans. As a boy in the mid-1960s, he met part of the team while accompanying his uncle, who filmed the team’s practices.
Other kids at school first thought Burgard was lying about his uncle and stalking players – so he still remembers swelling with pride when, on a tour of Lambeau field with his troop of Boy Scouts, legendary quarterback and former coach Bart Star greeted him by name.
“Man, I was walking on air for about two weeks,” Burgard recalled.
Burgard, born, raised and still living in Sheboygan, now aims to become a Packers Fan Hall of Fame honored. After his daughter nominated Burgard for the award last fall, the Packers FAN Hall of Fame Selection Committee chose him as one of 10 finalists for 2021. Voting for the final winner is open until January 31.
“To say Rick Burgard is a Packers fan is an understatement.”
Burgard’s dedication to the team started early.
He remembers winning his first football (a Packers football) by collecting soda pods. At that time, the bottoms of bottle caps had plastic slips depicting Packers players that kids could hand in to the soda company for prizes, he said.
After graduating from North Sheboygan High School, Burgard spent many years serving in the Air Force, catching broadcast matches when he could. When he returned to Sheboygan in the 1990s, he wanted to get more involved.
“One year while on tour in Lambeau he asked how he could volunteer with the team. Well that question led to 20+ years as an usher,” Jennifer Quaranta wrote- Burgard in his nomination essay for his father.
Connecting with other fans is what makes the grand opening special, Burgard said.
“My very first day, I was in my section and this girl showed up – it was her 13th birthday,” Burgard said. “I saw her finish high school, graduate school and now she’s moved to Australia. She came home for Christmas and…came to a game to say hello.”
Another great groundbreaking memory came when Burgard returned to the post after undergoing knee replacement surgery and had to take a few years off.
A man Burgard had known for eight or nine years, who had an intellectual disability and usually didn’t speak much, looked up, saw him, and said, “RICK! I missed you ! says Burgard.
“It just took my heart out,” Burgard said. “I’m just an usher, but yet these people feel a strong connection (to me) – they’re like my second family.”
Burgard, who sings in a barbershop choir, has songs he sings for special fan occasions like birthdays, engagements and weddings.
“I admit it, the more I open the door, the less I pay attention to the game and the more I pay attention to the fans and watch the fans having fun,” he said with a laugh.
Inaugurating isn’t the only way Burgard shows his love for the team.
“Packer’s schedule plays an important role in Rick’s life. Family celebrations are planned so they don’t conflict with any games,” Quaranta-Burgard wrote. “Although he doesn’t like shoveling snow at home, Rick showed his dedication to the team by driving over an hour to Lambeau to help clear the snow on game day.”
“To say Rick Burgard is a Packers fan is an understatement,” Quaranta-Burgard said.
Burgard also has shares in the Packers and passed on his love for the team to his children and grandchildren.
His daughter did her football letters at Sheboygan North, and one of his granddaughters, born the day before a Packers game, wore a Packers cap even before leaving the hospital, he said declared.
Burgard also started a tradition of adding her grandchildren to the subscription waiting list at birth so the tradition will continue, Quaranta-Burgard wrote.
How to Vote for the Packers FAN Hall of Fame
Voting for the 10 FAN Hall of Fame finalists is live until January 31.
People can vote once a day, every day, by visiting the Green Bay Packers webpage.
The total votes for each nominee contribute to the FAN Hall of Fame Selection Committee’s choice of the next inductee. The committee will announce a winner at the end of next month.
The winner will have their name added to the list of FAN Hall of Fame winners and will receive four club seats for a 2022 Packers home game, a $500 Packers Pro Shop gift certificate, a road trip for two to one game 2022 Packers Road Trip (including game tickets, airfare and hotel accommodations) and a one-year Packers Plus membership.