Close your eyes and imagine if you can: It’s 2005 and the top NFL prospects are all crowded into Radio City Music Hall in New York waiting to find out where they would begin chasing their NFL dreams. One by one, players come off the board: Alex Smith, Ronnie Brown, Braylon Edwards, Pacman Jones….23 players are drafted before a proud, and now embarrassed young quarterback from California, Aaron Rodgers, is taken by the Green Bay Packers with the 24th pick of the first round. Rodgers had been considered a top pick during all of the pre-draft hoopla, and as the cameras focused on Rodgers’ stoic countenance, his face told the story: He was angry.
Many NFL analysts were shocked by his precipitous fall, and Rodgers was absolutely livid, though he did his best to conceal the anger welling up inside of him. Being drafted by the Packers would be a death sentence for Rodgers, many thought. With future Hall of Famer Brett Favre at the helm, Rodgers wouldn’t get any snaps and he would become a career clipboard-holder on the sidelines for the Packers. What experts weren’t counting on, however, was the size of the chip that Aaron Rodgers carried on his shoulder.
Passed over out of high school by the majority of major Division 1 schools, Rodgers arrived on campus at Cal determined to compete every day and to prove his doubters wrong. By 2005, the Golden Bears’ Quarterback had grown leaps and bounds physically, but it was the insatiable drive to be great which had grown even stronger. As he entered his first season in the NFL, Rodgers decided that his time behind Favre in Green Bay could go one of two ways: He could be angry and bitter about being passed over in the draft, or he could watch and learn from one of the all-time greats so that when his chance did come, he would be ready.
The competitor in Rodgers would not allow him to waste his first few years in the NFL, so he chose to watch Favre and learn everything he could, and in 2008, when his first real opportunity came, Rodgers did not disappoint. He looked like anything but a clipboard-holder, throwing for over 4,000 yard and 28 touchdowns in his first full year at the helm of Green Bay’s offense. Despite a disappointing 6-10 record, Rodgers showed incredible promise and the Packers began to put the right pieces in place around him.
All Rodgers has done over the last 5 years is become the top quarterback in the NFL. A fiery leader, who still carries that chip on his shoulder from the 2005 draft slight, Rodgers is now the standard by which all other NFL quarterbacks are measured. With an MVP & Super Bowl title under his belt already, Green Bay’s young signal caller has accomplished more in 8 professional seasons than many do in a career, but make no mistake: He is far from finished. Rodgers recently parlayed that chip on his shoulder into the richest contract in NFL history, but there is no amount of money which can squelch the fire to compete that burns inside #12.
Any year the Packers don’t win the Super Bowl is a disappointment as far as Aaron Rodgers is concerned, and it has been 2 years since Green Bay’s last championship. If we’ve learned anything about Rodgers since that night in New York 8 years ago, its that disappointments only fuel his fire to compete. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but don’t be surprised if you look up in February and see #12 hoisting the Lombardi Trophy overhead once again.