Aaron Rodgers: From Unknown To Unmatched
On Sunday, he did it on football's biggest stage, leading his Packers to a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
Rodgers' 304-yard, three-touchdown performance also earned him game MVP honors. Not bad for a guy who has been overlooked at every level of his career.
In 2002, when Rodgers graduated from Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, Calif. he was undersized, unheralded and unwanted.
He had options, sure, but not the ones you'd expect a future Pro Bowl quarterback to have. His choices were to walk-on at Illinois for coach Ron Turner, play at a junior college or give up football altogether.
Rodgers elected to stay close to home and attend Butte Junior College in nearby Oroville, Calif. -- just 12 miles from Pleasant Valley High.
After one year at Butte he was offered a scholarship when Cal head coach Jeff Tedford stumbled upon him. Tedford was only at the school to recruit someone else, but liked what he saw in Rodgers.
It was at Berkeley that people began to finally take notice of Rodgers. He earned All-Pac-10 honors twice. After completing his junior year, he decided to enter the 2005 NFL draft.
He was projected as the potential No. 1 overall pick, and the San Francisco 49ers -- the team Rodgers grew up rooting for -- needed a quarterback. However, San Francisco selected Alex Smith out of Utah and Rodgers slid down the draft board, falling all the way to the Packers, where he became the 24th player selected.
Rodgers, who was in the draft Green Room since it was expected he would be a high pick, waited four hours, 35 minutes before his name was finally called. ESPN cameras showed Rodgers, embarrassed and struggling to keep his composure. Once again, it seemed, he was unwanted.
In Green Bay, Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for three years before getting his chance. Today, they share the same number of Super Bowl rings.
Last night's performance was Rodgers' induction into a fraternity of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks that includes the likes of Favre, Joe Namath, Steve Young, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Kurt Warner. An impressive list, but not the list Aaron Rodgers wants to be on.
Tom Brady, Joe Montana, John Elway, Terry Bradshaw and six others are the quarterbacks who have won multiple Super Bowls. That's the fraternity Rodgers really wants to join.
Favre shaped his legacy quarterbacking the Packers for 16 seasons, so comparing Rodgers to Favre comes naturally. It's noteworthy to point out that the Super Bowl MVP trophy won by Rodgers is an award Favre never got.
Now, in just his third season as a starter, Rodgers has started to shape a lofty legacy of his own.
Rodgers is the only quarterback in league history to pass for back-to-back 4,000 yard seasons in his first two years as a starter.
Not enough? He is the currently the regular season's highest rated quarterback (98.4) in NFL history.
Need more proof? He gets better in the playoffs. Rodgers has the highest postseason QB rating ever at 112.6, besting his closest competitor by nearly eight points. Tom Brady? 85.7. Peyton Manning? 88.4.
You get the point.
The kid nobody wanted is now a guy every team would claw for to be the face of its franchise. He's proven that much.
It's time we stop comparing Aaron Rodgers to the NFL's elite, and instead start comparing the NFL's elite to Aaron Rodgers.