Jeff Padon paid his dues as a Green Bay Packers fan, climbing aboard the Green and Gold train just as it was about to careen off the track.
Introduced to the Packers by his dad in 1971, the former Beloiter barely missed the Glory Days and the first two Super Bowls, arriving in time to see a playoff team in 1972 and then a rapid decline at Lambeau Field.
The Packers missed the playoffs for 10 straight seasons and after a postseason bid in 1982 they followed with 11 more years without.
It didn’t matter. Jeff had caught Packer fever and like every other afflicted fan “The Pack Will be Back” became his annual mantra, until they finally were in the 1990s.
Today, Jeff is one of 10 devoted Packer backers being considered for 2021 induction into the Packer Fan Hall of Fame. Not to sound like his press agent, but there are a lot of reasons Jeff may just be the frontrunner.
First, a little background. Jeff grew up on Liberty Avenue in Beloit across from Royce Elementary School. He came from a hearing impaired family.
“My parents and two sisters are also deaf,” said Jeff, who currently lives in Severn, Maryland.
Jeff attended Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan and it was a former basketball and football coach and eventual superintendent at WSD, Alex Slappey, who nominated him for the Packer Fan Hall.
When it comes to the Packers, Jeff says he’s always been an eternal optimist.
“Oh yeah, I went through the dark days for the Packers in the 1970s and it was kinda frustrating, but I knew bright days were ahead,” he said. “My uncles took me to an exhibition game in Green Bay against the Buffalo Bills in 1973 and I got to see my first favorite Packer play, John Brockington.
“Years later I got a chance to meet him at the Green & Gold Gala at the Lambeau Field atrium. I feel bad for him playing in only one winning season in 1972. He was really a Super Bowl type running back.”
After graduating from WSD, Jeff attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
“It’s the only deaf liberal arts college in the world,” he said. “While I was a senior there, I started working for the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in D.C. as an intern. After graduation, I ended up working a full-time job as a civilian budget analyst there for 27 years. The past four years I’ve been a financial analyst at another Coast Guard unit near Baltimore. I’ve got 31 years in as a Federal employee and I don’t plan on retiring anytime soon.
“My flesh may be in Maryland, but my soul will always be in Wisconsin.”
So is his favorite team. He became a Packers stockholder in 1998 and he’s now a season ticket holder. It took 23 years on the waiting list, but he finally got his Gold Package of season tickets in 2013.
He attends as many games as he can and he’s easy to spot. He used American Sign Language (ASL) finger numbers on his Packers jersey and used ASL fingerspelling instead of print for his last name on the back of his jersey. He also used ASL fingerspelling on his cheese wedge hat to spell out Green Bay Packers.
“I had seen a lot of ultimate fans with their outfits and I thought I should have one,” he said. “I got the idea of using sign language and fingerspelling on my jersey and wedge and I’ve got a lot of positive reactions from fans.”
One fan at Lambeau spotted his Packers outfit from many rows above his seat and came down to ask him about it. She turned out to be a co-worker with his oldest step-daughter Bonnie at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf.
Selected as the Die-Hard Packers Fan of the Month in July 2016 by the Die-Hard Packer Fan Organization, Jeff’s face can be seen on a banner in Lot 1 parking, which is one of the most popular tailgate spots.
When he’s not making new friends at Lambeau, Jeff is a committee planning member on the Maryland Cheeseheads organization in the DC and Baltimore area. His primary responsibility is to make reservations to use four large screen TVs for Packers games at the All-American Steakhouse in Odenton, Maryland.
Jeff hopes his ability to link ASL and Deaf Culture with being a fanatic Packer fan puts him over the top in the Hall voting. His biggest fan is his wife of 16 years, Lorrey, who accompanies him to games. He has three grown stepchildren. His mother also lives in Maryland, moving in with his sister after his dad passed away.
“My other sister also lives close by in DC,” he said. “I don’t have immediate family in Beloit anymore, but I do have some relatives and friends who still live in Beloit. I keep in touch with my hometown. I can’t wait to see that new downtown stadium when it’s completed. I’m looking forward to seeing it when I visit Beloit this summer.”
If you want to help Jeff out, you can vote for him on Packers.com through Jan. 31. The nominee receiving the most votes is not only inducted into the FAN Hall of Fame, but also receives four club seats to a Packers home game, a $500 Packers Pro Shop gift certificate; a road trip for two to a Packers away game, including game tickets, airfare and hotel accommodations and a one-year subscription to Packer Plus.