Why An Arizona Cardinals Wide Receiver Got A Key To The City Of Green Bay

For centuries, according to Brown University, individuals have been honored with a key to a city after providing exemplary service of just doing a great thing for the place in question. Back in the medieval period, when the tradition first started, cities were walled, meaning that someone having a key to it was, by necessity, imbued with trust and honor, as the university describes it.

Few American cities, if any, have ever been walled, of course, so the honor means slightly less -– at least, in a practical sense -– than it did several centuries ago. Regardless, some American cities, such as Springfield, Missouri, have given out metaphorical keys to honor individuals who have done the town a solid in one way or another.

In 2004, according to ESPN, Green Bay, Wisconsin, awarded a key to the city to a man who, by all rights, would have been extremely unlikely to ever be awarded one. Green Bay is, of course, home to a famous and storied NFL franchise –- the Green Bay Packers –- and the recipient had done the team and the city a great favor on the field. Never mind that he played for an opposing team.

Nathan Poole

Nathan Poole (above) was, according to the Milwaukee Record, a marginal player whose brief career in the NFL was limited to a handful of lackluster appearances in a few games, none of which were for the Green Bay Packers. In fact, he was with the Arizona Cardinals for a time, and it was in a Cardinals uniform that he did the thing that would make him a hero in Green Bay, hundreds of miles away.

The 2003 season was a dismal one for the Cardinals — as the team approached the final regular-season game, they were 3-12 and didn't really have any hope or prospect to end the season on a high note or a win. Their final game was to be against the Minnesota Vikings, who were in playoff contention. Also in playoff contention were the Packers, who needed to win their own game that day and needed a Vikings loss.

The Packers did their part by winning their game against the Broncos, but things weren't looking good for the team over in Phoenix. As the final seconds ticked away on the clock, the Vikings were leading 17-12. In the final play of the game, the clock ticked down to zero -– and Cardinals quarterback Josh McCown threw a touchdown pass to Poole to give the Cardinals the game –- and give the Packers a playoff berth.

'I've Never Been Treated Like This Anywhere'

Nathan Poole suddenly became the Man of the Hour in Green Bay, and the city invited him to be the guest of honor at their January 4, 2004, playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, as ESPN reported. Mayor Jim Schmitt presented Poole with the key to the city, and the Packers arranged primo seats on the 50-yard line for Poole as well. Gamely, Poole –- dressed in his Cardinals cap, no less -– took in the first half of the game in the biting Green Bay January cold before retreating to the warmth of a press box.

"This is great. I've never been treated like this anywhere," Poole said after the game. He also noted the hospitality of the Green Bay fans, who enthusiastically greeted him and, referencing Wisconsin's dairy industry and Packers fans' "cheese heads" nickname, offered him cheese.

The Packers went on to win that game 33-27 but fell in the next round of the playoffs, according to Pro Football Reference. Nate Poole's NFL career fizzled out, and in 2018, as Wingate University reported, he was hired as the wide receivers coach for the university's Bulldogs.