No one will underestimate Rodgers again
Super Bowl pregame jitters for Aaron Rodgers? Are you kidding? Slept like a baby the night before.
Rodgers was much more relaxed than one would have expected, given that he was about to play in the biggest game of his life.
"I stayed pretty focused and was able to get myself to Saturday night, where I really slept great," Rodgers said yesterday morning, less than 12 hours after joining Bart Starr and Brett Favre as Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks for the Packers. "I slept eight hours."
And why was he able to sleep so well before playing on pro football's biggest stage?
"I think I slept so well because I was just confident in my game plan and in my preparation," he said.
Monday, Rodgers was about as sleep-deprived as you can get. And delightfully so. Barely closing his eyes during a night of celebrating the Packers' fourth Super Bowl championship and first in 14 years, Rodgers exulted in the greatest accomplishment of his career.
The kid from Chico, Calif., who has been feeding off that gigantic chip on his shoulder from years of being overlooked and underappreciated, made it to the top of his profession by playing the game of his life.
In a 31-25 win over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, Rodgers won MVP honors by throwing for 304 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against a defense considered by many to be the NFL's best.
Though it's easy to make sweeping proclamations and snapshot judgments so soon after the Super Bowl, it doesn't feel like a stretch to say it won't be surprising to see Rodgers back here again before too long.
At 27, and with a strong cast of players and coaches around him, Rodgers thinks this won't be the last time he wins a Super Bowl ring.
No argument there.
"I'm always looking for challenges," he said. "I think the challenge now goes to repeating, scrutinizing this season, finding ways to get better. Being a perfectionist and having a quarterback coach who is as well, there's going to be plenty of time to work on things and plenty of things to work on."
Watch out, NFL. A young quarterback who's just coming off a Super Bowl win and thinks he can get even better? Whoa.
But perhaps no one should be surprised at Rodgers' drive. He still feels as if he needs to prove himself, a residual effect of his formative years.
Rodgers wasn't recruited by any major colleges out of high school, and the only reason he got an opportunity to go to Berkeley was because coach Jeff Tedford was recruiting another player at Butte (Calif.) Junior College and noticed him.
On draft day in 2005, Rodgers hoped to be picked No. 1 overall by the 49ers, the team he grew up cheering for. Instead, they chose Alex Smith, who has been a major disappointment. Rodgers fell all the way to being taken 24th by the Packers, who already had Favre.
"That's kind of been my career journey," Rodgers said, "waiting for opportunities and then making the most of it."
He certainly has done that. Rodgers overcame the difficult task of following in Favre's footsteps and endured the withering criticism directed at the Packers after they decided to spurn Favre when he came out of retirement in 2008. Besides Steve Young, who won a Super Bowl after the 49ers traded Joe Montana, can you think of any other quarterback to take over for a legend and win it all?
Rodgers already has equaled Favre's number of championships. And with time on his side and a roster that still is young and vibrant - and figures to be much healthier next year after the return of most of the 15 players who finished the season on injured reserve - you have to figure Rodgers will have another chance at another Super Bowl ring. Or two.
Rodgers still has to be sized for this year's ring because he was taking a shower when coach Mike McCarthy told the players to get fitted Saturday night. The motivational ploy was as good as it gets, even if Rodgers didn't take part.
But we suspect Rodgers will be able to enjoy other pre-Super Bowl gimmicks before long. A player this exceptional and this young has every reason to believe this won't be the last of his Super Bowl moments.
Welcome to your moment, Aaron Rodgers. We'll look forward to your next one, too.