After years of unfavorable comparisons to his great predecessor, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers is a champion at last.
Rodgers threw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead his Green Bay Packers to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, 31-25.
Rodgers, who joined Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jake Delhomme as the only quarterbacks to throw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns without throwing an interception in the Super Bowl, was named game MVP.
The game marks a turning point in what had to have been a difficult, pressure-filled tenure for Rodgers, who has played in the shadow of the legendary Packer, Favre, throughout the beginning of his career. The Super Bowl victory and subsequent MVP award (which Favre never won) cements Rodgers as his own player and breaks him free from the chains of comparisons for good.
Rodger’s career began on draft day, 2005. He’d had an impressive career in college at the University of California, during which he set several school records. He was projected to be an early first-round pick and potentially the first overall. However, Rodgers had to wait an excruciating 23 picks before being drafted by the Packers at 24th overall, just the second quarterback off the board. It was a sign of things to come of what would be an initially painful career.
Rodgers then was forced to play backup to Favre for the first three years of his career, watching from the sidelines as his team suffered disappointment season after season. After the final game of the 2007 season, Favre unofficially announced his retirement to sideline reporter Andrea Kramer. After three years of waiting, it was finally Rodgers time to shine.
Favre reneged his announcement and returned as the starter for the 2007 season. Rodgers was relegated to the sidelines again as the most durable player in the game’s history started every single game of the season. In what seemed like his last hurrah, Favre’s Packers lost in the NFC Championship to the New York Giants. Favre officially announced his retirement the following spring to clear the way for the start of Rodgers’ career.
But it wasn’t over yet.
Rodgers had been given the starting job for the Packers, but news lingered during spring training that Favre wanted to come back. Rodgers had to deal with the press all summer with reporters questioning him on how he’d react if Favre decided to return as the starter. Like he has done throughout this whole process, Rodgers always responded as a true professional, repeating the mantra of “just focusing on what he has to do.”
Favre did end up returning in 2008, but he went to the New York Jets instead. Rodgers’ opportunity had finally come.
After an impressive individually statistical first season, Rodgers broke out in 2009. He led the Packers to an 11-5 record and a playoff birth in addition to being named to the Pro Bowl. It was mere foreshadowing for what would come in 2010.
This year, the Packers got off to a 9-4 start before a concussion sidelined Rodgers for Weeks 14 and 15, which both resulted in losses for the Packers. Following the injury, Rodgers led the Packers to wins in Weeks 16 and 17 and a playoff birth as a sixth seed.
Rodgers led the Packers to upsets in the Wild Card playoffs, divisional round, and NFC championship game before becoming just the second sixth seed to ever win the Super Bowl.
Rodgers has come a long way since his days in the shadow of Brett Favre. But his win in the Super Bowl doesn’t merely vindicate his troubled past; it also marks the beginning of a potential legend.