An initial version of this story appeared in "Packers in Our Communities" in December of 2015.
How many people turned off the TV on Dec. 3?
The Thursday night battle with Detroit was not going well, and the Green Bay Packers tailspin looked like it was about to extend to a fifth loss in six games. But in the final second – technically, the moments AFTER the final second – quarterback Aaron Rodgers found Richard Rodgers for a Hail-Mary touchdown that will be remembered for years as the moment that turned the tide in the 2015 football season.
The Packers won the game, 27-23, at a point when it was looking bleak. Muskego resident Paul Kollmorgen did what a lot of Packers fans did; he stopped watching. Unfortunately for him, that meant leaving Detroit's Ford Field – and the end zone where the pass was completed – with 16 seconds on the clock.
"We got up and left just before the 2-minute warning when Detroit got an easy first down, but I saw there were 16 seconds left as we left the stadium on one of the tiny concessions TVs," said Kollmorgen, a teacher at Martin Luther High School in Greendale. "My friend got us the tickets and he really wanted to beat traffic, so we went along with it. He had about an hour drive that we didn't want to turn into two hours."
Kollmorgen's seats were in the lower section of the end zone, right in the corner where Aaron Rodgers had run in a 20-yard touchdown earlier in the second half.
"Our seats would have been perfect to see the Hail Mary," Kollmorgen said.
Kollmorgen heard official news of the win while traveling on Interstate 94 heading back to the hotel.
"My wife sent a text that just said 'They won!!!' and then 'Hail Mary' and we all jumped on our phones to figure out the details. At first we, were just excited that the Packers won, but as we learned details like Aaron Rodgers saying it was the greatest game he has been a part of, that was pretty rough to think we could have witnessed it. It was the longest game-winning, game-ending Hail Mary in NFL history. It was the longest air-yards touchdown in the last 10 years. It almost hit the roof. And we missed it."
Kollmorgen said his buddy felt bad for making the crew leave early.
"Looking back, I guess it's better to be a Packers fan who missed seeing the win than being a Lions fan watching your team choke away a game in historically bad fashion. Their fans had to be crushed. At least I have a good story to tell for the rest of my life."
Kollmorgen said it seemed there were Packers fans in every part of the stadium, located in downtown Detroit. At one point, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford tried to quiet the crowd, only to hear an audible increase in volume.
"Several times, the Packers players waved their arms to pump up the crowd, and it got loud," Kollmorgen said. "The Lions fans tried to boo louder, but during the fourth quarter, they got quieter and quieter. I bet it was all Packer fans after the Hail Mary.
"Oh, and we heard the 'Discount Doublecheck' guy was there outside the stadium yelling, 'Rodgers! Tame the Lions!' That is the other regret I have. Getting a picture with him would have been amazing."