Fall Crunch Time

Mason Crosby 

Crunch Time 

By: Chris Carns

On any given fall Sunday in Wisconsin (and across Packer Nation everywhere), it can happen.  “It” is the moment when all green and gold faithful take a collective breath and a pause from whatever it is they are doing-THIS IS IMPORTANT. Eating and drinking stop, plates are held in mid-air, and silence is golden…  the pressure is tangible as it emanates from 1265 Lombardi Ave in Green Bay…3 clicks left on the clock, the stadium is packed but is eerily silent…   

All we need is a good snap, a good hold, and a good kick. The outcome falls on ‘ol number 2.  Mason Crosby stands tall in the middle of the field, takes a hard look toward the back of the end zone, lines it up with his right hand, takes 3 steps back-and two to the left.  With a confident nod, he’s set.  

Snap. Hold. “Thunk!” End over end, sailing straight and true- 

“Packers Win! Packers Win! Packers Win!” 

We Packer fans, bleeding green and gold, have felt, heard, and witnessed that familiar scenario for the past 11 years as dedicated Packer fans.  Mason Crosby has been our “go-to” in crunch time as the Packer kicker and we have all been fortunate to have such a consistent and confident presence when it comes down to “The Kick” to close out an opponent.   Not only has Crosby been, and will be for the foreseeable future-lights out when it comes to sneaking out games for the Pack, he (like many fans) is a lifelong sportsman both on the water and in the woods.  

Crosby began his love for the outdoors at a very young age growing up in Texas.  He told us, “I grew up in Texas and got my first BB gun when I was about 6 or 7.  I used to go all over the yard and chase after anything I could.  I used to drive my parents crazy with that BB gun.”  Much of Crosby’s love for the outdoors, similar to many Wisconsinites, came from both his dad and Grandfather Hayles or “Papa” as Crosby grew up calling him.   

Crosby spent a lot of time fishing on the lake at his grandparents.   The funny thing he told us about the time he spent there is, “…I never saw my grandpa catch a fish.  I mean, we fished together A LOT and every time we went, me, my brother, my sister, we all caught fish-whether it was catfish, bass, panfish, whatever-we were all catching ‘em and he never caught a thing.  And, it wasn’t like he wasn’t trying-he just never caught anything. That is one really crazy memory I have of fishing with Papa.  He never did get mad or frustrated-I just don’t remember him ever catching ANYTHING.”  It is a good thing for us Packer fans that Grandpa’s bad luck ended with him and didn’t rub off on Mason.  

Growing up, Crosby also spent numerous hours in the woods with his dad and younger brother, Rees, hunting.  Most of the hunting was for whitetails.  His first deer hunt with his dad, while successful, was an eye opener for Crosby.   As the story goes, “We were headed out to the stand, pretty early in the morning.  Of course, I’m about 10 or 11 so I am excited, nervous, fidgety all of that stuff you would expect.  So, we are walking down this road heading out to the stand, being quiet and taking our time when…out steps this deer-to me a MONSTER, but was really about a 6 point… just down the road in front of us.  All the sudden, WHAM, there he is.”   

So, my dad says, “Are you ready?”  

“I think I may have nodded or grunted or something, I’m not sure.  I raised up my gun and you can imagine how steady that was? Free hand, the gun was going up, down, to the side and all over the place. ‘Buck Fever.’  I was soooo unsteady and really all over the place. My dad put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘It’s ok, just breathe.’ After that, I shot. But who knows where that bullet went?  I must have missed by at least 10 feet. My dad told me, ‘It’s ok.’ But I was miserable. Just crushed. I thought that was it.  ‘Buck Fever.’”   

We are pretty sure that just about every deer hunter can sympathize with what Crosby went through on that morning.  

But all wasn’t lost that day.  The story continues… “So, we finally get to the stand and I am pretty bummed.  I mean, that was my chance.  We’re sitting there, it’s quiet, and I am not really thinking about too much, feeling overall pretty crushed when my ears perk up and I hear something moving… crunch, crunch, crunch…  I look hard-and unbelievably, there is a deer moving toward us.  It is a nice deer about a 6 or 7 pointer.  Here it comes again, my heart racing, I start trembling and all of the sudden I am FREEZING which is absurd-I mean this is Texas, so it isn’t cold by any means. It’s probably 55 or 60 degrees.  ‘Buck Fever’ again…. So, my dad leans over, tells me, ‘just breathe’ but I was frozen.  I couldn’t do it.  My dad realized what was happening, so he took the shot-and we did get the deer.”  

“So, now I am thinking, that has to be it. I mean, what are the odds ANOTHER deer will come by?  That’s two in one day.  But, that’s what happened.  Unbelievably, about an hour or so later I hear something. Something is moving through the trees.  I can’t believe it.  It is a nice 7-point buck.  I tell myself, ‘just calm down.’  And my dad tells me, ‘You got this.’  Now, that was just the boost of confidence I needed.  He motioned for me to lay my gun across the rail for a rest and steady the gun into my shoulder so I would make a good shot. I took a breath. Breathed out and BOOM!” 

“The deer didn’t go too far, maybe seventy-five yards.  We pretty much knew I got it but we waited about 30 minutes or so anyway.”  

“That was an unbelievable day. I went from twice thinking I totally blew it, to being on top of the world.  I have always loved to be in the outdoors whether hunting, fishing, hiking or whatever and that was for sure one day I will never forget.” 

We asked Crosby to compare the adrenaline rush of that moment hunting to being a kicker in the NFL. Crosby said, “Yeah, it is very similar. It’s about being in that moment. Both of the two are really surreal moments and you have to be locked in for both of them.  In both cases, I have to be totally in that moment.  When I line up for a kick, I am ‘inside my facemask.’ Everything outside doesn’t matter and I block it out.  I go through my routine, take my steps back and to the left, breathe, and then I tell myself, ‘just go.’ And I go.  It is all in that moment.  Especially when I know I have to execute on an important kick.  It is just about being in that moment, focused and locked in.”   

So, there are really quite a bit of similar aspects to being in the moment of a game deciding or momentum changing kick for the Packers and being locked in to that moment when a hunter has to execute a clean and accurate shot on an animal.   Both surreal moments that take clear focus, steadiness, and being “locked in.” 

Crosby went on to mention that there are a number of guys on the Packers who also love to fish and hunt-which of course is perfectly fitting for our state.  As Crosby said, “It’s good to have guys on the team with like interests.  I just makes things a lot more fun and easy to be around.”   

Crosby mentioned a successful trip out West elk hunting with Jordy Nelson and swapping stories with Jeff Janis. Seems that he does like to give Janis a hard time as he told us that Janis puts trail cams up all over the place and is constantly looking at pictures. Crosby noted, “I think he puts one on every tree in his neighborhood and backyard. He’s got ‘em all over the place. The guy just loves it.”   

Being that Crosby is from Texas and is pretty busy during the season, he hasn’t had as much time as he would like to enjoy the outdoors in Wisconsin.  But, he has gone out a few times on Lake Michigan with both friends and family and has gotten out bowhunting on occasion during his time here.   He also let us know that he has a strong interest in, “Catching a musky. Those things are HUGE!  That is one fish I would love to get after some time.” We wish him well on the fish of 10,000 casts, and we hope his arm is as strong as his leg.   

As a Packer, Crosby’s time here started in 2007 when he took over for Dave Rayner.  He came in from Colorado as the third of three picks that the Packers had in the sixth round. As Crosby recalls, “I was home with family and friends in Texas watching the draft.  I didn’t know when, where, or if I was going to be drafted.  But, I was hopeful.  The phone rings and it’s Mike Stock who was the Special Teams coach at the time.  This was really out of the blue as I didn’t think I was even on the Packers’ radar.  I couldn’t believe it when he told me the Packers were going to take me with the third pick they had in round 6.  It was an unbelievable feeling.  It was, to that point, the coolest moment in my life.   Everybody looked at me and my brother Rees, who was and is a huge Packer fan, ran and grabbed his Packer gear.  He was totally pumped for me.”   

Crosby expressed clear gratitude for all of his friends and family; his wife, Molly, and kids, Nolan, Charlotte, Elizabeth, and twins, Felicity and Christine, and parents, Jim and Karen, sister, Ashley, and brother, Rees, who are very important to him and who have stood by him through thick and thin.  He can appreciate how fortunate he has been with his career and having people around him to share it with.  It is impressive to hear and see in him the understanding and value he has with what he is doing and the joy in being able to share it with those people that are closest to him.  Having the ability to live in the moment and understand that what he has is truly unique and not something to be taken for granted is clearly an important aspect of who Mason Crosby is.  

While being able to see his good fortune, Crosby has had some rather funny experiences and observations during his time as a Packer in Green Bay.  He relayed to us how sometimes just going to the store can be an experience.  Crosby noted that, “For the most part, Packer fans and people in Green Bay are really very respectful of him and his family and don’t really give him too much unwanted attention when he is out in the community.” But, there was an incident while he was out grocery shopping during training camp that was humorous.  

“So, I am walking around Festival Foods shopping which is really usually not any big deal.  Fans see players out regularly so they have become accustomed to us being out in the area.  But there was one time I was out that was kind of funny.  I see this family seemingly in awe from around a corner almost like they are in shock. They continue to peek around corners and kind of hide which is weird. This goes on for a while.  And then they seem to be trailing behind me.  I hear a lot of whispering and it’s really just kind of creepy.  But, after awhile, it wasn’t too tough to figure what was going on. I say, ‘Hey. Come on over.’  I say hello, give some autographs and pictures and it’s all fine.  Turns out they were in town to watch practice and were surprised to see a Packer player at the store.  So, not really a big deal but kind of funny the feeling of being stalked during the day at the grocery store.” 

One important lesson that Crosby learned early on in his career relates to his clothing choices in Green Bay. It really boils down to two options, “…well what I have come to understand, and it didn’t take me too long, is that if you go out to a nice place like a restaurant, country club or formal dinner reception- you can either dress up with you know-a button down type shirt, tie, dress pants, sport coat, or… wear Packer clothes.  Either one is acceptable.”   

Crosby did tell us what separates Packer fans from other football fans in different cities.  He told us, “Packer fans are really knowledgeable about the game of football.  I mean, they love their team and truly see the importance of having them in Green Bay.  But, they are really different in that they don’t just come to the game screaming, making noise, being rude and being obnoxious.  I mean, Packer fans cheer and cheer loud, they get Lambeau really going, but they also really know what is happening on the field.  They are just much more in tune with the game of football and really appreciate what they have here in Green Bay.  There is a cohesive feel between the fans and the team that just isn’t the same in other places.”  Smart, dedicated, and connected to the team, sounds about right.  

Mason Crosby, avid outdoorsman, dedicated family man, and the all-time leader in points scored for the Packers has overcome hurdles and has accomplished much success as a Packer player.  He, like many of his teammates, is also very involved in a number of charities and fundraising events.  And we, as fans, are very fortunate that he was selected by the Packers in 2007.  We look forward to many more “crunch time” successes and Lombardi Trophies throughout his career with the Packers. GO PACK GO!!  

Chase Larson