Sep 10, 2018
Blitzing with Biegel
Packers linebacker talks hunting, fishing and growing up in Wisconsin’s outdoors
By Chris Carns
In a word, Vince Biegel is a “Wisconsin Guy,” I mean through and through. That cannot be debated. Starting with being raised in north central Wisconsin in Wisconsin Rapids, his early passion for fishing, hunting and the outdoors, becoming a highly recruited football player – and track star as well – on to the University of Wisconsin for a stellar career, and now playing for his favorite team in the NFL … Yes, of course, the Packers!
It turns out Biegel has a long history of all things Wisconsin. From the place he grew up spending countless hours in the Wisconsin woods, Wisconsin rivers and Wisconsin lakes. We caught up with Biegel during Packer organized team activities this summer to hit topics like fishing and hunting, the upcoming Packer season, going from UW to Green Bay, Draft Day, Packer and Badger fans and lots in between. It was clear Vince Biegel bleeds red and white, and now green and gold. In addition to a great football player, he is a great Wisconsin guy through and through.
An early start
His upbringing in Wisconsin Rapids hugely impacted who Vince Biegel is. It was there the groundwork was laid. Biegel was indoctrinated into the world of hunting and fishing from the beginning and Biegel couldn’t say enough about the life lessons he learned in the woods and on the water.
“Hunting, fishing, and really just the outdoors, taught me a ton and that all began at a young age,” Biegel said. “Things like patience, respect, accountability, and a great appreciation for nature and all that we have here in Wisconsin.”
He credits his grandpas Ken Biegel and Jim Dempsey, his dad, Rocky, and family friends Shawn Reimer and John O’Connick for getting him out in the woods and sitting in a boat. According to Biegel, “Those men really taught me proper game management and how to appreciate hunting and all that goes into it.”
Biegel told us he can still picture himself early in life, “Sitting on my dad’s lap in the deer stand both bow and gun hunting.” Then, turning 12 years old, “being able to do it myself after hunter’s safety class. I have a lot of memories growing up and being with some really great people that taught me a lot.”
Like most hunters, Biegel takes pride in every facet of hunting. From the preparation and scouting to the actual hunting, to the care and processing of his own venison, Biegel does it all. Biegel showed us a picture of him and his dad in the garage processing a deer. He had a look of sheer joy in helping his dad process the venison.
Biegel fondly remembered the first buck he harvested during the youth hunt when he was about 12. He remembered it being an 8-pointer and that he “… was finally able to get all his orange on and then really be one of the guys.”
“I was just so excited to be out hunting with a rifle and to get my first deer. That is a day I will never forget. I remember being out there with, you know, the veteran hunters after having heard all their stories over the years. And, now I knew I was going to have my own story to tell. It was a great day for sure.”
Biegel told us the funny part of that hunt: “Well, you know all those old guys were pretty cheap in those days. So they only bought so many pegs for the tree stands to save a buck or two. We used those pegs to get up in the stands, and I remember they were so far apart I had to almost jump from one peg to the next. I’m not too sure how those guys made it work, but somehow I guess they did.”
It was from that first harvest of his own deer that hunting, according to Biegel, “taught me much more about responsibility, respect for the animals and the understanding that it wasn’t just about going out to kill an animal, but to harvest it for food and appreciate the whole experience.”
Biegel is now getting into game management, food plots, and using trail cameras. He and his family have been using Antler King products for years in both Wisconsin and their farm in Iowa with great results. Biegel said, “Those guys at Antler King have really taken care of us, and using their products has helped us in management and in getting some really great deer on our property.”
While Biegel wishes he had more time to do the necessary scouting, building food plots, and setting trail cams, his dad and brother keep him in the loop on what big bucks are on their property. After a few Super Bowls and all-pro seasons, Biegel will have plenty of time for his own prep work.
We asked Biegel how he was able to slip away during football season at Wisconsin for fall hunting. We envision Biegel sneaking out in the middle of the night, stuffing his bed with dirty clothes, and putting his buddies up to telling the coaches he was sick, but that wasn’t the case.
“Right after we got back from our bowl game, I was the first one off the plane and I was going hunting,” Biegel said. “I couldn’t wait to get out in the woods. It was always late season, so it was cold weather and possibly muzzle loader season when I was at UW, but that was okay, as long as I could still get out hunting, I was gone.”
When the Badgers had a bye week, Biegel told us, “Coach (Paul) Chryst is really understanding about the guys and letting them pursue some of their passions. And, he knew one of mine is hunting. So, as long as I had my school work done and all my responsibilities were taken care of, I was free to go hunting. Coach knows that being at UW there are a lot of guys on the team that are going to want to hunt.”
On the water
As far as fishing, Biegel has chased everything from bluegill off the dock in Eagle River, to shark and barracuda off the Florida Keys. While Biegel, nowadays, loves the thrill of fishing and spearing off the Keys, he let us know, “I am a Wisconsin freshwater fisherman first and foremost. That is where my heart is.”
“Growing up fishing on the Wisconsin River chasing bass, walleye, and northern – those are the days and memories I have that I will never forget. I have really gotten into fishing in Florida, but my heart will always be fishing the Midwest lakes and rivers.” Bass are his first choice for fishing fresh water, but growing up and even now he loves to fish for all species.
Which former Packer would he most like to fish with? “That is a good question. I heard Brett Favre was a big hunter and fisherman, so I think I would pick him. I have met Brett in the past, but have never spent any time talking to him, so that would be cool to go out fishing with him. I am pretty sure he would have some good stories to tell.”
Joining the Pack
Biegel becoming a Packer was not something he saw coming.
“I really had very little contact with the Packers. I mean, I never had much conversation or seeming interest from the Packers other than a little bit at the Senior Bowl. So being drafted by them was a dream come true but not something I at all expected.”
“I was projected late second round, early third, so I had my girlfriend, Sarah, friends and family all over in Rapids for a draft party. And then to not get a call on that first day was for sure disappointing,” Biegel said. “So, the next day, it was just my girlfriend, Sarah, and my family and … the phone rings. I went outside and it was really surreal. I mean, here I was talking to Ted Thompson, Coach (Mike) McCarthy and Coach (Winston) Moss and they are asking if I am ready to be a Green Bay Packer? I couldn’t say ‘yes, I can’t wait’ fast enough. It was for sure the highlight of my football career. Now I have a locker next to Clay Matthews, who I looked up to for years playing at UW, and I have gotten some great guidance from him already.”
So what’s it like as a lifelong Packer fan and to now become a Packer? Biegel would watch the Packers as a kid at training camp and games. Many of the games he attended were through tickets from Ty Detmer, a family friend and former Packer quarterback, but all while Detmer was playing for another NFL team. Did he ever wear the opposing colors to one of those games?
“No Way! Wouldn’t let that ever happen.” Biegel also remembers, “… watching training camp and especially guys like A. J. Hawk, Ahman Green, Samkon Gado, Cory Rodgers and Greg Jennings. I was especially into watching the defense. So that was most of my focus.”
Biegel went on to tell us, “Funny story about that is one time I was getting an autograph from Aaron Rodgers and I told him, ‘One day you are going to be waaaay better than Brett Favre.’ So that is pretty funny that way back in what I think was Aaron’s first year, I said that, and now I see him in the locker room and he is playing at such a high level.”
Wisconsin football fanatics
High praise was given to both Badger and Packer fans by Biegel. He has grown up playing football in Wisconsin and knows the passion and intelligence of fans here.
“When I went to UW, there is such a standard built there now and an understanding of what is expected in terms of preparation, playing, winning and conducting yourself,” Biegel said. “I mean, football fans at both UW and now with the Packers are just so passionate about the game and follow it so closely that is seems like the same standard is there for the fans as well. And especially now, here with the Packers with the tradition and standard set here that is expected every day, I couldn’t have been better prepared than what I was at Wisconsin.”
Being a Wisconsin guy, where in the state does Biegel stand out the most – Wisconsin Rapids, Madison or Green Bay? His answer was telling.
“In Green Bay people usually know you are a football player, but they really show you respect and don’t bother you, especially if you are out with family or friends in a public place,” he said. “In Madison, I may still have some people recognize me, but the further out I get (from playing for the Badgers), the less and less that really is the case.”
“In Rapids, I think a lot more people would come up and say ‘hi,’ like when I am out for dinner and situations like that, which is really cool because they are so supportive of me and I love that. It is really cool to see the No. 45 jerseys when I am there to visit. So, I guess probably mostly in Wisconsin Rapids people would recognize me and approach me the most. But everywhere I have been, fans of UW and the Packers are really supportive and respectful of me. I think that is another aspect of fans in Wisconsin that is really unique.”
For those of you familiar with Mickey’s Dairy Bar in Madison and its fantastic, um, ah, Saturday/Sunday morning breakfast, how about this – Biegel had a standing order there!
It turns out Biegel lived close to the restaurant and, “I got to know the owner pretty well. So pretty much whenever I wanted, I would walk over and pick up my breakfast right out the back door.”
If you’re familiar with Mickey’s, it is a great place to eat, and a lot of eating it is. Any other student at UW would be looking at the freshman 50 with a standing order there, but for Biegel, it was seemingly just a regular part of his diet plan as a football player. Certainly that was one way to keep his weight up. He did have an impressive smile when he recounted the food he got there and his time at UW. Wow – I can’t tell you how jealous that little nugget made me.
In parting, we did notice the mullet is making a return as Biegel was sporting a Packer ballcap with the flowing brown locks coming out the back. So I asked about it.
“Yep, the mullet is coming back,” Biegel said. “We’ll see how it goes. I have to hold off on some of the flair I had at UW, though, until I show I have earned that kind of attention. I can’t be on the sidelines with too much goofy stuff and I haven’t done anything on the field.” With Clay Matthews’ influence, the long hair would not be far behind.
Biegel is an easy guy to talk to, and there was much more we discussed. He’s for sure a guy that would be welcomed at any deer camp, fishing trip or locker room.
He’s looking forward to a full and productive season without being hampered by injury. We as Badger and Packer fans are, too. Biegel oozes with Wisconsin and all it has to offer. He’s a fantastic guy and we wish him and the Packers yet another Super Bowl run. Go Pack Go!!
Chris Carns is life-long Packer fan, season ticket holder, and devoted hunter and fisherman. He and his Springer Spaniel Ruby, of Oshkosh, actively hunt grouse in the Newwood area outside of Merrill, Wis. He has also deer hunted the same area since the age of 12. When hunting season is closed, Chris is an avid fisherman making yearly trips to Canada and spending time on Lake Winnebago fishing for walleye and perch.