Exactly how did a radio caller help ESPN Wisconsin’s ‘Kyle, Brust and Nortman’ raise more than $52,000 for Garding Against Cancer?
“If I am wrong, I will jump in Lake Michigan at the end of the season.”
That was the declaration by Ben Brust on Nov. 21 after a caller on his sports radio show predicted that the Green Bay Packers would make the playoffs.
Jordan Love and company were 4-6 at the time, with a Thanksgiving road game against the first-place Detroit Lions looming.
The Green Bay Playoff Plunge was officially born.
“Obviously I wanted the Packers to make the playoffs, I just didn’t think it was very realistic at the time,” Brust said. “But, if I was going to jump into a frozen lake, and convince some of my teammates to do it with me, I needed to incorporate a charitable component.”
Brust, who was a starter on the Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball Final Four team in 2014, is an active board member for Garding Against Cancer. Current head coach of Wisconsin, Greg Gard, joined the show on ‘Giving Tuesday’ and ‘Touchdowns for Love’ took flight.
Brust pledged $100 to Garding Against Cancer for every touchdown scored by Love – passing or rushing – for the remainder of the season. Instantly, friends, fans and advertising partners started reaching out to make matching pledges of their own.
KBN co-host Kyle Wallace was vacationing in a tropical paradise when Brust initially announced the plunge on their show, and his mom actually let him know that his co-hosts were going to propose the chilling idea. Naturally, he was initially skeptical of jumping into ice cold water, but raising money for a cause near and dear to so many made it a no-brainer to get involved.
“Football is fun to watch, but this made watching the rise of Jordan Love and the Packers finish the season strong even more meaningful,” Wallace said. “Great job to Ben for having the idea and getting so many great people invested in it for an important cause.”
Pledgers totaled $2500 for each touchdown, and Love subsequently scored 20 of them.
“Receiving texts and tweets every time Love scored was really special,” Brust added. “Of course we were all cheering for the Packers, but there was just a little extra excitement once we knew that every time he scored another a substantial amount of money was going to GAC.”
Brad Nortman, who punted in the NFL for six seasons, including a Super Bowl and multiple cold weather games, agreed to join the plunge as well, making it a full team event.
“I can’t thank our team, partners, and fans enough for all their efforts to raise more than $50,000 for Garding Against Cancer and Touchdowns for Love,” he said. “As proud as I am of the Packers for their success this season, I am exceedingly more proud of the legacy of lives saved through this funding for cancer research.
“NFL seasons come and go, but the impact of this (donation) will last through generosity of all of those who took part in this initiative.”
Love’s playoff performances alone tallied up $12,500.
“Brust stealing the hearts of Packers fans nationwide really is a redemption story,” said ESPN Milwaukee Director of Content Bryan Dee. “Ben infamously wore a New York Jets Aaron Rodgers jersey to Packers training camp in July, paying homage to a player he loved watching on Sunday’s.
“Our entire team is always ready and willing to go above and beyond to support great causes in our community and throughout our state. We couldn’t be more proud of what Kyle, Brust, Nortman and the KBN Nation accomplished for Garding Against Cancer.”
That jersey Dee mentioned was infamously autographed by head coach Matt LaFleur, and fans were less than pleased with Brust at the time.
All has since been forgiven.
“Watching Jordan play his best football, watching him be so humble and grow and lead a team that a lot of people lost faith in, it really made it unbelievably easy to root for him.” Brust added.
Just in case you had any doubts, promises were kept and debts paid as the Green Bay Playoff plunge was successfully completed by everyone involved.