Actor Josh McDermitt, a star on "The Walking Dead," grew up in Arizona, but his ties to the Midwest go back generations. His family is from there, and with that came an NFL allegiance. Well, sort of. His family members typically rooted for Minnesota or Chicago, so to avoid picking sides -- and because it’s good family fun -- he stayed in the NFC North with another team.
As a kid, McDermitt started rooting for the Packers. He didn’t know it would become a lifelong obsession that would lead him to become a shareholder of the team -- yes, he owns stock in the NFL's only publicly owned franchise. McDermitt, 39, has become superstitious in his fandom and actually ditched a piece of clothing once because he believed it was bad luck.
The actor plays Dr. Eugene Porter on the popular AMC television series “The Walking Dead.” The combination of his shareholder status and his celebrity has led to his meeting some of his favorite players. And yes, he still geeks out about that, too.
How did you become a Packers fan?
Josh McDermitt: Most of my family is from the Midwest, and we didn’t have the Cardinals until I was, like, 12. Even then, the Cardinals had an uphill battle in Arizona. Nobody likes having someone else’s team, especially if they are not any good. If you’re not going to change the name and you’re not going to try and win, it’s really hard to build a fan base. Even when they came, I was already rooting for the Packers, because in my family you either root for the Vikings or you root for the Bears, and I didn’t want to pick one side of the family over the other, so I picked the Packers. And I didn’t pick the Lions because who would root for the Lions, really? [laughs] Also, I went to Cardinals games -- it’s 110 degrees in September and we’re sitting outside and like, "This is a stupid idea to put a team here." You know, it’s things like that. I kind of just grew up a Packers fan when they sucked, man, and then they got Brett Favre and it [all took off] from there, just full speed ahead.
What made you become an owner?
JM: It’s a rite of passage. Are you going to be a fan or are you going to be a fan? You know? Are you going to stop playing games and become an owner or just check in once in a while and look at the score once the game is over? What are you going to do? Are you going to take this seriously? So in their first stock offering that they did here -- gosh, what was it, 15 years ago -- I bought some. Well, my dad actually bought them for me as a gift. And then when they offered it again when they did the stadium renovation just a few years ago, we bought some more. If they are going to offer more stock, I’m going to buy more because right now, I’m like No. 96,000 on the season-ticket waiting list. This is all I got. Stock certificate.
What’s your in-season Sunday routine?
JM: If I’m in L.A., I personally like the games when they start airing at 10 a.m. because I roll out of bed, eat breakfast and start watching football, and then it goes all day. When I’m on the East Coast, it’s hard to wait until 1 p.m. And then if your team isn’t playing until the second game, I gotta wait until 4? Three or 4? This sucks. Then, if they are on Sunday Night Football, I go to bed before the game is even over. It’s really hard to be an NFL fan on the East Coast, I don’t know how you guys do it. On the West Coast, it’s wake up, football all day, and then, yeah.
Are you in a Packers jersey? You go to a bar?
JM: In Packers gear on my couch. Here’s my thing: I don’t like watching football with other people, so when we’re in Georgia [where much of "The Walking Dead" is filmed] and we’re going to a bar and doing that, I never go to a bar to watch a Packers game because I get so amped up and worked up because I want to be able to hear everything. I want to be able to rewind it. I want to be able to analyze all this stuff -- whoa, whoa, what did Joe Buck just say? Go back 15 seconds or whatever. What kind of bulls--- is Troy Aikman spewing about hating on the Packers now just because he didn’t want to go play for the Packers, so now he has a chip on his shoulder about them? And I have friends who are Packers fans who are like, "Hey, I want to come over." I’m like, "OK, but you’ve got to be quiet." They start talking and I’m like, "Shut up." I hate that. Hate that so much. So I literally like to sit on my couch in silence and watch the game. But if I’m watching other games, which I like to do, I’ll go to a bar. That’s fun. Then I get to be the guy that is interrupting someone else watching their team.
Do you wear a jersey? T-shirt? Favre jersey?
JM: I stopped wearing the jerseys because they don’t breathe really well and I sweat; I’m a big guy. Yeah, I got a T-shirt; I have the T-shirt that Aaron Rodgers' brother, Luke, made through his company when Aaron Rodgers said, "Relax." It has "R-E-L-A-X" and it’s got a big old face of Aaron. I got that and I got some old-school jerseys. Got some Acme Packing Company swag. It just kind of depends on what the weather is like and how I’m feeling. I did have a sweatshirt, a zip-up sweatshirt that I threw away because they lost every time I wore that.
You trashed it?
JM: Yeah, I went to Lambeau in 2011 when they played the Rams, and the first half of the game, the Packers went up like 35-7 [actually, 24-3] and I was like, "This is great. I love this." That was my first time to Lambeau ever. It was October, a little chilly, so I wore that sweatshirt and was, like, crying, planes flying overhead, playing the national anthem, Aaron Rodgers is down there, Clay Matthews with the sweaty hair, just beautiful, right? Then the second half, they didn’t score once. Neither did the Rams. I was like, "Man, that turned out to be a stinker." Such a great first half and then the second half we didn’t do anything. And so ever since then, that sweatshirt, they just haven’t done well, man. Haven’t played well. So it’s the sweatshirt, from the start, man. I’m wondering if when I was wearing it at the game, it got a little chilly so I just zipped it up, and that’s when the Packers started losing [actually struggling, but they never trailed]. I don’t know what the deal was. I got rid of that. I donated that.
What do you think of the Packers now? You were a fan during the Don Majkowski years, so what’s it like now?
JM: I’m torn. It’s frustrating. I’ll tell you this: Like last year, when we beat the Cowboys in the playoffs, it was amazing. It was so much fun. And then to follow it up with the next game, we just didn’t click. And my expectations were so high, you know, it’s like all of a sudden I have to force myself to come up with lower expectations. When they weren’t good, I knew they weren’t good. If they did something great, then, "Oh wow, look at that." But you knew what you were getting. Now with these high expectations and they don’t perform, it’s frustrating. I’m trying to detach my emotions as a fan so that I don’t take three days to recover. These dudes are badasses. They are badasses and they are playing against badasses, so someone is going to win, and so I can’t get mad at them or any individual person. There are certain players, and I don’t want to name names because what if they are fans of the show and I don’t want to call them out, but they are not on the Packers anymore for good reason. They dropped balls and things like that, and like, "Good, I’m glad you’re gone, because I don’t want that stress in my life."
So who is your favorite player?
JM: Of all time or currently? Oh boy. I mean, I don’t know, man. Everybody’s running through my mind. I loved Donald Driver. It was just something about his smile and how good he was and just a good dude. That was -- I loved that man. I loved that man. He stuck around for a long time, which was great. It was really sad, but "happy to see him go out the way he did" sort of thing. You gotta love Aaron. You know, it’s hard. What’s really hard is growing an attachment to some of these players that you know are down on the depth chart and they are coming in and cycling in because of injuries or whatever, and you love them, and then they go off and score a big contract somewhere because they have a big season and the Packers don’t want to pay them. That’s really hard, to grow an attachment to someone like that, because you’re constantly being heartbroken. So when you see someone like Donald Driver spend all the time that he spent with the Packers, that’s great. I just love him, man.
Did you ever meet Driver or Aaron?
JM: No. I met Robert Brooks once. He lived next door to my friend in Phoenix, and she’s like, "Yeah, I live next door to some guy who played for the Packers." I’m like, "You need to tell me who and I’m going to come over now." She’s like, "His name is Robert and he’s a wide receiver or something." I’m like, "Robert Brooks." I was over there the next day, played it cool, but I was like s---ing my pants. I was like, probably early 20s, right after he stopped playing. But it’s great. Like, Eddie Lacy is gone, but I loved Eddie Lacy and he showed so much promise. It just never materialized for him, so I hope that for his sake that he’s able to turn it around, but that when he plays us, we destroy him. You know what I mean? There’s so many emotions running through me and I have to keep a lid on it.