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Mike Vandermause column: Rodgers deserves big day

Dec. 12, 2012
 
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is all smiles during practice on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, which was Aaron Rodgers Day in Wisconsin. Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is all smiles during practice on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, which was Aaron Rodgers Day in Wisconsin. Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media

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Aaron Rodgers grew up idolizing famous athletes.

There were football stars Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice, basketball greats Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and baseball standouts Kevin Mitchell and Will Clark.

“Some of these guys I had posters on my wall,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback said.

Now that Rodgers is a famous athlete himself — Wednesday was declared Aaron Rodgers Day in Wisconsin in honor of the reigning NFL MVP — he understands that young kids are looking up to him. That’s something he takes very seriously.

“I look at it as a responsibility, and an opportunity,” Rodgers said. “I do look at myself as a role model, I embrace that. It puts some extra responsibility in my decision making and some caution as well, knowing that there’s kids out there like I was looking up to (athletes) when I was growing up.”

Some in the pro sports world have shirked their responsibility as role models. Rodgers wants to make sure he never falls into that category.

“I think it’s an important role we should embrace,” he said, “and understand the things we do can have an impact on these kids both positively and negatively, and how we’re viewed and how they view adults that they look up to.”

Rodgers seemed genuinely appreciative of the gesture to celebrate Dec. 12, 2012, in his honor.

“I want to thank all of the kids out there wearing my jersey to school today,” he said.

Rodgers’ trademark No. 12 has been one of the top-selling NFL jerseys in recent years. Although Rodgers had the same number in high school, he wore No. 4 in junior college and No. 8 at California.

Rodgers had a decision to make upon arriving in Green Bay in 2005 when then-Packers kicker Ryan Longwell made him an offer.

“Longwell tried to weasel me into buying 8 off of him, but I decided to go back to 12,” Rodgers said.

Other notable Packers quarterbacks wearing No. 12 include Pro Football Hall of Famer Arnie Herber, along with Lynn Dickey and Zeke Bratkowski.

The last Packers player to wear No. 12 before Rodgers was T.J. Rubley in 1995.

Rodgers joked on his radio show this week that he was hoping Packers coach Mike McCarthy would give the veterans time off to celebrate his day. Instead, it was business as usual with the Packers preparing for their showdown against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

What pleased Rodgers most was his special day helped raise money for the MACC Fund, his favorite charity that aids children with cancer.

“I really appreciate what he’s also doing for today,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s making this a charitable opportunity to raise money.”

Putting pro athletes on a pedestal can be a risky proposition. But in his eight seasons with the Packers, Rodgers has held up his end of the bargain as a role model, on and off the field.

No one should worry about Rodgers letting success or adulation go to his head. His teammates wouldn’t allow it.

Packers players put on No. 12 jerseys Wednesday in what might be construed as a back-handed salute.

“Hey man, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said guard T.J. Lang, with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “You’ve got to celebrate Aaron Rodgers as much as you can around here. He doesn’t get very much credit for what he does. I guess to give him his own day, it’s pretty special.”

Rodgers took the ribbing good-naturedly.

“He laughed,” Lang said. “He got a kick out of it. It was just something we had a little bit of fun with. We like to poke at him as much as we can — not very many opportunities for that, for him being as sensitive as he usually is. So we had some fun with it.”

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him @MikeVandermause.

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