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Mother’s, Gainesville, FL

Three blocks from the University of Florida campus is Mother’s Pub & Grill, a Packers’ outpost in sun-drenched Gainesville famous for its Wisconsin burger, die-hard Green Bay fans that stream in on Sundays and crowds that can swell past the fire code for big games.

In the shadow of the Florida Gators’ famed Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Mother’s owner Pat Schaller has brought a touch of green and gold to “The Swamp.” The establishment pulls in 40-to-50 Packers’ fans a week during the regular season, but for particularly big games that number multiplies considerably.

Schaller believes that a small part of the reason his bar and restaurant has become a regular hangout for followers of the Packers has been because of his influence. He’s a huge fan of the club and spent part of his youth in West Bend, Wis. The establishment has 20 huge flat screen TVs, and the games always have the sound on over the speakers, in his mind a key ingredient. He also serves the only fried cheese curds within several counties.

But in Schaller’s estimation, it is the Packers’ standing as the lone NFL club that is community-owned that drives the deep loyalty of the team’s fans.

 “When you graduate from a college, you are a fan for life and you feel like a part of it, and Packers’ fans are the same way,” he said. “Fans of the Packers take ownership of the club. Some really are, but most just feel that way. That’s a different feeling.”

There have never been more people within the walls of Mother’s than in 2007, when the Packers and Cowboys met in a late November shootout on Thursday Night, with both teams entering the contest with just one loss.

“That was the busiest we’ve ever been,” Schaller said. “You couldn’t move. Our fire capacity is 178. We had about 500 people in there that night. If you weren’t inside 30 minutes before kickoff, you couldn’t get in.”

Schaller has a legion of fans from the Midwest, including misplaced Wisconsin natives. Several arrive looking for the hamburger named in their honor. It’s a health-minded creation that includes a bun slathered in butter and toasted, an eight-ounce patty, brown mayonnaise, grilled sauerkraut, sliced bratwurst, jalapenos and Colby jack cheese.

As usual for a Packers’ game, Mother’s had a good crowd for Super Bowl XLV. That’s what Schaller was told.

“I can’t say how many, but we were probably pretty busy,” he said, beginning to really show his colors. “I was actually at the Super Bowl.”