Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon
SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

There's a new Pack Man in town: Rodgers

MVP Aaron Rodgers celebrates after winning Super Bowl

MVP Aaron Rodgers celebrates after winning Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Feb. 6, 2011) Credit: Getty Images


Ignored out of high school by every major-college football program in the country.

Got a chance to play big-time college ball only because the coach was on a recruiting trip looking for someone else.

Almost dropped completely out of the first round of the 2005 draft. The team that took him was the one whose quarterback was the most indestructible in NFL history.

You want a quarterback who has had to earn it every single step of the way? Aaron Rodgers, say hello to the top of the world, young man. You deserve everything you get.

The quarterback from Chico, Calif., once snubbed by his beloved 49ers and their offensive coordinator - a guy named Mike McCarthy - endured life behind Brett Favre. Then he stepped out of that gigantic shadow to lead the Packers to the team's fourth Super Bowl championship Sunday night, their first since the Favre era.

Rodgers proved himself to McCarthy, who became his head coach in Green Bay the year after the 49ers chose Alex Smith instead of Rodgers. Now he has proven himself to the rest of the football world with a brilliant run to this moment: a transcendent performance in the Super Bowl and all the glory that goes along with it.

Rodgers won for the fourth straight time in this year's playoffs, going 24-for-39 for 304 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against a defense considered by many to be the best in the NFL. The Packers beat the Steelers, 31-25, and Rodgers finished off a remarkable ascension from unknown and unwanted quarterback to the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player.

After it was over, teammate Clay Matthews put a championship belt over Rodgers' shoulder, a fitting tribute to the quarterback who first endeared himself to his teammates when he'd do the championship belt celebration after throwing touchdown passes in practice.

Not surprisingly, Rodgers chose to share the moment with his teammates, not exult in his personal moment of triumph.

"This is a great group of men," Rodgers said. "A lot of character. We've been through a lot together. It's great to share it with them."

It has been three years since Rodgers took over for Favre, and the rise has been dramatic. A 4,000-yard season in Year 1, a playoff berth in Year 2, and a Super Bowl championship and Super Bowl MVP award in Year 3.

"It's a dream come true," he said. "It's what I dreamed about as a kid watching Joe Montana and Steve Young, and we just won the Super Bowl."

This looked so easy, so methodical for the Packers early on. Rodgers was putting on a clinic from the pocket, eluding rushers and throwing darts to his receivers in effortless fashion.

On his second possession, Rodgers stunned the Steelers' defense on third-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 29 by hitting Jordy Nelson to his right for the game's first touchdown. Ben Roethlisberger made a huge mistake on the next play from scrimmage, throwing up a prayer that was grabbed by safety Nick Collins and returned 37 yards for a 14-0 lead with 3:20 to play in the first quarter.

And then it was Rodgers again on a clinical drive, going 53 yards in four plays and finishing it off with a thread-the-needle 21-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings over the middle between three defenders. With the Packers leading 21-3 with 2:24 left in the half - and knowing they'd get the ball to start the second half - this one looked pretty comfortable.

But the Steelers, ever the resourceful team, were unfazed by the early deficit, cutting it to 21-10 with a touchdown drive late in the first half and then another to make it 21-17 on their first possession of the third quarter. With Green Bay's secondary ravaged by game-ending injuries to Charles Woodson (collarbone) and Sam Shields (shoulder), Roethlisberger took advantage and made it a game.

Rodgers finally reinvigorated the Packers' offense after a fumble by Rashard Mendenhall. Matthews forced the turnover, and the Packers went up 28-17 early in the fourth quarter. Rodgers hit Nelson on a 38-yard pass play over the middle and then finished off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jennings in the right corner of the end zone.

"The defense was incredible tonight," Rodgers said. "They've been great all season, carrying us, getting us turnovers, scoring off turnovers. Unbelievable."

No more unbelievable than Rodgers' own journey.

The kid whom no one wanted turned into the man who delivered one more championship for the place they call Titletown.

From Starr to Favre to Rodgers. Welcome.

New York Sports