Aaron Rodgers

A Quiet Path to Excellence

Sitting in the Green Room of Radio City Music Hall in April of 2005 was a quarterback who had just led his college team to a 10-1 regular season record, a Holiday Bowl berth and also shattered many Cal Bear Football records in a single season. Players continued to walk to the podium, but the cameras remained focused on him as he slid. To onlookers, it was a tough situation for Aaron Rodgers. As we found out; it was yet another obstacle conquered in a brilliant career.

He had been overlooked before, but it was by many more than 23 teams. Rodgers wasn’t offered a scholarship out of high school and attended Butte Community College instead where he quickly showed off his golden arm – passing for 26 touchdowns as a freshman. Jeff Tedford from Cal took him away immediately, but only for people to question that “Tedford release” years later at the draft. Taking over for future NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre was the next step and while the thought of the rookie ever filling those shoes was out of the question; Rodgers has continued to play that underdog role perfectly.

Let us fast forward to February 6, 2011 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Rodgers takes a snap on 2nd and Goal from the 8-yard line just like any other day, except today he’s facing the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. As he scans the field, dependable No. 85 breaks open and the signal caller smacks him with a pass to put the Pack up 28-17. It was the game’s defining play. Rodgers had been sacked on the previous play by Lamarr Woodley, just as he had been put down many times before in his career, only to stand back up and stand triumphant. This time it was at the highest level of his profession.

Aaron Rodgers, Super Bowl XLV MVP. For writers, it was a convenient story of a Wild Card team making it to the grandest of sporting events and coming out victorious, however there had to be some sort of catharsis in that victory for the young Chico native. Of course, it only proved to be a launching point.

Rodgers is now a two-time Pro Bowl participant, was just voted the 2011 NFL MVP and of course, has a Super Bowl under his belt – which has also become very popular as it’s on television in his State Farm commercials every time we turn on the television.

The Packers went 15-1 in the regular season in 2011, starting off the season a perfect 13-0. Watching Rodgers run the offense was a thing of beauty as he set the all-time NFL single season passer rating record and earned NFC Offensive Player of the Month Awards three straight times. His 4,643 yards passing was a tremendous feat, as was a touchdown to interception ratio of 45 to 6.

Still, analysts and fans have brought up that Rodgers seems quite unchanged by his success and perhaps it’s summed up best by what’s he’s been through so far in his career and by a former teammate.

“He’s got a perspective on life that football is his profession, it’s not his life. It doesn’t define ultimately who he is. I think he grasps and understands that. It’s a key component to who he is.” – Aaron Kampman (former Packer teammate)

Rodgers appears to like to remain low key in a world where social media has made contact with star athletes as easy as a click of a button. For instance, his charity work is known about, but you have to dig to get details of what he does behind the scenes.

Perhaps like when a member of the local Boys & Girls Club in Green Bay lets people know that when they contacted the Packer organization for help at Christmas, they were told by Packer officials to bring 100 children with them much to their surprise.

When the boys and girls showed up at a bowling alley in Howard, they were treated to soda, pizza and free bowling. A second treat came in the form of 15 Packer players to hang out with the children; which I’m sure the child in any of us would agree is a dream in itself.

It was interesting to find out that at the conclusion on this event, every child was given $100 to go Christmas shopping along with those players. The benefactor you ask? Aaron Rodgers. No television crews, no cameras, not even a mention of it in the newspaper – just Aaron and his teammates having fun with kids and making their Holidays special.

Aaron can also be seen working staunchly to raise money for cancer, especially for younger people. He works with the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer) regularly which has contributed tens of millions of dollars for pediatric cancer and blood disorder research.

For Rodgers, he can directly sit down and meet the families he is impacting and it seems to mean a great deal to him.

“To know that there are children suffering is a very sad and painful thing,” Rodgers told ESPN’s Anna McDonald in an interview. “My hope is that no child would have to endure any suffering.” In fact, he also told one of the children that he was helping, Brandon Novack, that the child was “an inspiration to him.”

McDonald noted that it was “fitting for Rodgers to be staring down an impossible goal off the field as it’s what we’ve seen throughout his NFL career.”

Well said, Anna. Of course, what seemed like impossible goals to all of us now look like just another hurdle to climb in the life of Aaron Rodgers. Whether personally or professionally; Rodgers has shown us all that hard work and remaining true to one’s self is a key to success. While everyone else worried about what the “quarterback” couldn’t do, he seemed to simply focus on what could be done. With so much time left to accomplish greatness on and off the gridiron I’m sure Aaron Rodgers will be giving us a few more surprises about what indeed is possible when you don’t put limits on yourself.

Award Profile

Winner: Bert Bell Award – 2011

Green Bay Packers