Dallas – Aaron Rodgers has spent much of his life trying to prove the doubters wrong. So, where do you go from here, when you’ve finally made it to the top of the sports world?
“I guess I ran out of motivations, huh?” Rodgers quipped this morning when he was introduced at a news conference, not even 12 hours after winning MVP honors in the Packers’ 31-25 win over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. “I always look for challenges. The challenge goes to repeating. We’ve got one, so now what? Let’s go get another one.”
Rodgers led the Packers to three straight road wins before throwing for 304 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense. He helped a Packers team that had lost 16 players to injured reserve get to the top of the NFL in a dazzling playoff performance.
Rodgers wasn’t recruited by any big-time time college football teams coming out of high school in Chico, Calif., and the only reason he got an opportunity to attend the University of California-Berkeley was because Cal coach Jeff Tedford was recruiting another player at Butte Junior College.
On draft day in 2005, Rodgers was hoping to be picked No. 1 overall by the 49ers, the team he grew up cheering for. San Francisco instead chose Alex Smith, who has turned out to be a major disappointment. Rodgers nearly dropped out of the first round entirely; he was picked 24th by the Packers, who already had Brett 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 took over for Favre after the 2007 season, when Favre announced his retirement. After Favre changed his mind and decided to play again, the Packers stuck to their plan of going with Rodgers, and then traded Favre to the Jets in August, 2008.
Interestingly enough, it was Packers coach Mike McCarthy who stayed with Rodgers; as the 49ers’ offensive coordinator in 2005, McCarthy cast his vote with Smith as the team’s quarterback of the future. But Rodgers couldn’t ask for a better coach after proving to McCarthy that he could get the job done.
“Mike is a player’s coach,” Rodgers said. “He allows input from his players. He allows input in the schedule and the way we do things and he sets up a routine that allows players to be successful, and allowing the coaches to coach.”
And just in case you think Rodgers believes there’s nothing left to prove, think again. He and his quarterbacks coach, former CFL quarterback Tom Clements, are both self-described perfectionists.
“Being a perfectionist,” he said, “there are plenty of things to work on and plenty of time to work on them.”
That’s why Rodgers thinks this may not be the last time these Packers contend for a championship.
“I think the core and nucleus of this team is intact to make a run like this for a few years.”