February 03, 2011
If a Lambeau Leap isn't done at Lambeau Field, is it still a Lambeau Leap?
The Green Bay Packers will find out on Sunday when they take the field at Cowboys Stadium in Super Bowl XLV. Despite being away from home, there's a good chance (5-4 are the current odds) that a player in green will seek out some supportive fans in the first row of the end zone and do the celebratory leap.
How did it all get started? The Leap began the day after Christmas in 1993 on a frigid day at Lambeau (the third-coldest ever at the stadium). The 8-6 Packers were looking to clinch a playoff berth for the first time in a full season since 1972 and were in good shape, holding a 14-0 lead. While on defense against the visiting Los Angeles Raiders, LeRoy Butler forced a fumble that was picked up by the late Hall of Famer, Reggie White. After running for 10 yards with the ball, White lateraled to Butler, who went 25 yards for the touchdown. When he reached the end zone, Butler says he spontaneously jumped into the crowd in celebration. A new tradition was born.
He later described the moment in his autobiography:
"Because I had pointed, the fans knew what they had to do. I go up into the green padding ... and when I'm halfway up, a guy starts pulling me up the rest of the way. Everyone right behind him grabs on. Everyone is screaming and yelling. Some are complimenting me with 'Awesome' or 'Good job.' It only lasts 2 or 3 seconds, and I'm back down.
"It's an incredible feeling as I run back to the bench. Dorsey Levens and a lot of other teammates keep telling me how cool that moment was. It took off from there. Ever since, every time we make a big play, there's the Lambeau Leap."
Watch Butler's inaugural Lambeau Leap:
Since then, the Lambeau Leap has become a staple of Packers' home games. Receivers Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman helped popularize the celebration. Freeman was fond of telling a story about how he spilled one woman's beer during a Leap and told her he'd buy her another. When he walked outside after the game, there she was, drenched and thirsty, and he fulfilled his promise and bought her a drink across the street.
Brett Favre(notes) wasn't much of a leaper, though. He didn't perform a Lambeau Leap until 2006, his 15th year with the team. (Granted, he had only scored four rushing touchdowns at home before then.) "I should have found a lower spot," Favre said after the jump, which he said would be his last. "I'm not real savvy in the stands-jumping department."
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers(notes) didn't wait as long. The Packers' current star talked about how he was waiting three years to do the Leap while backing up Favre. When he finally got a chance to get on the field, he didn't have to wait long. Rodgers scored on a game-winning sneak in his first game as a starter and the first thing he did was run to the stands.
Bonus: How does the Lambeau Leap live on despite the NFL's strict anti-celebration rules? It's considered a celebration between a single player and fans, not a group of players.
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