Explore A Rare, Behind-The-Scenes Tour Of The Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame


By Joel Waldinger | October 20, 2016

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Drive up to the iconic Lambeau Field on game day and you cannot help but feel the energy in the air. Brent Hensel gets that adrenaline rush every day after he landed his dream job with Wisconsin’s football “dream team.” 

Originally from Black River Falls, Hensel is the new curator for the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

As curator of this legendary collection, he knows the team inside and out. Included in the collection are artifacts from Vince Lombardi’s office. Hensel helped design an interactive conference table where the photos, telegrams, play diagrams and letters all come to life in a never-ending scrapbook. 

Another bizarre artifact that Hensel helped curate also came from the Lombardi Era; Ray Nitschke’s helmet.

“During practice in 1960 there was a big thunderstorm and lightning struck a tower at the stadium and a piece of metal shot down and actually hit Nitschke in the helmet,” Hensel said. “That helmet, it basically saved his life.”

Like Lombardi, Hensel used to be a high school teacher. He went back for his master’s degree and got into historical preservation. He worked at a history museum in Eau Claire before kicking off his football fortunes with an internship at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. 

Hensel then parlayed that into a job that lasted seven years with the New England Patriots as curator for their new hall of fame. He also caught the attention of the Green Bay Packers when they decided to relocate their hall of fame inside the Lambeau Field Atrium.

“I jumped at the opportunity to actually come home. It’s such a storied tradition to tell the story of the Green Bay Packers,” Hensel said. “One of the things we wanted to do is make this like a new experience every time when visitors come back. We want to constantly be updating the museum. We spent so much time researching it and getting the details right.”

Through the years the collection has grown and even the new hall of fame isn’t large enough to hold it all, requiring the construction of a Packer’s archives. Many old pieces of Packer’s equipment are stored in the archives, including a wall of retired Packers helmets.

There’s a story behind every artifact, including a nearly shredded Eddie Lacy jersey that the equipment crew tried to fix on the sidelines with a shoestring after a Minnesota defender ripped it nearly in half.

Fan favorite Clay Matthews also has a grass stained uniform resting in the archives.

“People always find it interesting to look at Clay’s jersey and look at how small it is,” Hensel said. “There are two or three guys that helped him put this jersey on. Clay actually is one of the few players on the Packers that still wears the drawstring pant.”

In Title Town it’s all about winning and back in the Packers Hall of Fame you’ll find the crown jewels in a championship gallery designed for expansion.

“We are hoping to bring another championship home to Green Bay. We have the four Super Bowl trophies, but the Packers have won 13 NFL titles and we also worked with Tiffany’s so we have replicas of those going back to 1936, so I guess you could say there is some serious bling in that room,” Hensel said.

While Packer fans may be green with envy, Hensel’s name will also go down in the record books as the very first curator for the Green Bay Packers.

“I can remember watching a Packers game when I was just a little boy. I remember asking my father at the time – what is this? This is the Green Bay Packers and I told him I wanted to work for them someday.”

That someday has arrived today.

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Coach Lombardi set the “gold standard” for Packers uniforms but there were many variations as they evolved from those early days.

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Splinters, Believe It Or Not

One of the most bizarre stories and artifacts in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame… and it involved legendary player Jerry Kramer.

Joel Waldinger

Joel Waldinger is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project and considers a sunset over the “big island” on Manson Lake to be a perfect ending to a day of fishing and fun in the Northwoods. 
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