ARLINGTON, Texas Ė The Lombardi Trophy was being passed around a jubilant Green Bay Packers locker room late Sunday night, and smiling players were taking turns posing for pictures and kissing the gleaming silver piece of hardware.
The Super Bowl championship trophy, named after legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi, had finally returned to its rightful place after 14 long years.
It was an arduous journey for the Packers, who held off the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV to claim their league-best 13th overall championship and fourth Super Bowl crown.
It was only fitting that this resilient group, which had overcome so much adversity over the course of the season, would need to dig down deep one more time to claim the victory.
When veterans Charles Woodson and Donald Driver went down with injuries in the first half and couldnít return, and when the Steelers cut an 18-point deficit to three points in the second half, this Packers team did what it has done best all season.
It never wavered, never lost confidence, and never took its eyes off the ultimate prize.
This was a team on a mission, and absolutely nothing would keep these Packers from their appointed goal. No opponent and no twist of fate was going to deny them what they believed was rightfully theirs.
Inside the locker room there was living, breathing evidence of the Packersí glorious past, including Bart Starr, Ron Wolf and Bob Harlan. Like a family that passes its traditions from one generation to the next, those well-known figures from the Packersí past expressed pride in the latest championship.
While thereís no way to quantify or compare titles, what the 2010 Packers achieved could go down as the most impressive performance in the 90-year history of the franchise.
This Packers team didnít have the best record or the most victories. But no team in the Packersí storied past likely endured as much hardship, or bounced back from so many setbacks.
Itís well documented that six starters were lost during the course of the season and 15 players landed on season-ending injured reserve. They weathered six losses by four points or fewer. They didnít even win their division and struggled to qualify for the final NFC playoff berth. And they withstood a difficult three-game road playoff gauntlet just to make it to the Super Bowl.
So when adversity struck once more in the Super Bowl, the Packers seemed ready for anything.
During an emotional halftime, Woodson tried to offer some motivation but broke down in tears, so Driver implored his teammates to go out and claim the championship trophy. There was no way these Packers, who had been through so much, were going to let their wounded comrades or themselves down.
This championship was also about validation for General Manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, who were heavily criticized in some corners when they handed the starting quarterback job to Aaron Rodgers in 2008.
The Packers leaders stuck to their convictions and were rewarded for their vision and sound football principles.
Elevating Rodgers was the correct move back then, and Sundayís Super Bowl triumph and Rodgersí MVP performance only confirmed it.
This championship was also about Rodgers establishing his own identity as one of the great quarterbacks in Packers history. No longer can anyone attempt to cast him in Brett Favreís shadow. Rodgers has one championship under his belt in just his third season as a starter, and at 27 is in position to win some more.
There wasnít a wild celebration in the locker room after the game or a lot of hooting and hollering. Instead, in keeping with the character of this team, there were huge smiles, hugs and knowing nods.
Itís as if these players knew they were capable of greatness, and now the rest of the world knows too.
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette.