Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made career bucking naysayers

May 18, 2011

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Heís the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Heís spending the offseason basking in the afterglow of the Green Bay Packersí world championship. And his team stocked up in the draft with a boatload of offensive talent.

Life canít get much better for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose popularity is soaring. During a charity fundraiser to fight childhood cancer this week in Milwaukee, dinner with Rodgers generated a $45,000 bid.

Heís got the world by the tail, and the Packers are poised to remain a Super Bowl contender for years to come.

Rodgers has thrived on adversity throughout his football career and proven to one and all that heís an elite NFL quarterback.

He has confounded the recruiters who didnít think he was good enough to play at the major-college level. He has made NFL teams that let him slide to the Packers in the 2005 draft look foolish. He has silenced the doubters who didnít think he was capable of filling the shoes of the legendary Brett Favre.

Attempting to prove others wrong is a great motivator. Rodgers, with a razor-sharp memory, has seemingly been doing that his entire life.

During an appearance on ESPN Radio (540 AM) in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Rodgers recalled with clarity an encounter with one of his professors at California who laughed at him when he said his goal was to play in the NFL.

All these years later, Rodgers had a message for that teacher: ďThank you very much. You inspire me to be the best.Ē

Rodgers remains slightly miffed that Packers coach Mike McCarthy questioned his athletic ability coming out of college. Thankfully for the Packers, McCarthy was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco at the time, and thatís one reason the 49ers chose Alex Smith instead of Rodgers in the first round of the draft.

Rodgers has proven to be a superior quarterback to Smith ó and just about every other signal caller in the NFL ó for his pinpoint passing and command of the offense, but also for his ability to use his athleticism to improvise and make something out of nothing.

But not everyone was convinced of his talent late in the 2010 season, when Rodgers was left off the NFC Pro Bowl team. Following that snub, Rodgers led the Packers to five consecutive victories, including head-to-head wins over Pro Bowl-qualifying quarterbacks Michael Vick and Matt Ryan, on the way to Super Bowl glory.

Rodgers shines brightest when his critics are howling loudest. The boos Rodgers heard after the Packers traded Favre in 2008 made a lasting impact. They only came from a tiny portion of the fan base but helped to stoke his competitive fire.

Comparing Rodgers and Favre after their first three seasons as NFL starters is telling. Rodgers is better in every major statistical category, including passer rating (99.4 to 83.0), completion percentage (64.6 to 62.4), passing yards (12,394 to 10,412), touchdowns (86 to 70), interceptions (31 to 51), average gain per attempt (8.0 to 6.6) and playoff record (4-1 to 2-2).

Rodgers has been unflappable, whether facing the daunting prospect of replacing Favre or standing up to big-game pressure.

As crazy as it sounds, his biggest problem going forward might be the disappearance of the naysayers.

Now that everyone loves him and justifiably gushes about how great he is, Rodgers must learn to deal with prosperity and find different forms of motivation.

He no doubt would welcome the suggestion that he canít handle success.

ó or follow him on Twitter @mikevandermause

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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