Junior college player picks off Aaron Rodgers pass in charity game, then taunts Packers QB in viral video
GREEN BAY - Darius Maxwell is a proud Florida native. Broward County to be precise, where football players are molded by the thousands in the swampy mud and emerge protective of the land that raised them. So on a Southern California day in March, when Maxwell found himself surrounded by quarterbacks who were forged in the Cali sun, he drew a line in the sand.
It resulted in a moment, and subsequent video that has gone viral this week, showing Maxwell intercepting Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, then reveling in the moment by handing the back-to-back MVP the ball as he ran by in celebration. As Maxwell continued down the field, Rodgers laughed and launched the ball back toward Maxwell in jest.
The Fort Lauderdale native now can boast of an achievement that even NFL defensive backs don’t get to experience very often. In Rodgers' 17-year NFL career, the four-time MVP has thrown only 93 interceptions. That’s an average of 5.4 per season.
Maxwell arrived at the annual RX3 charity flag football game with his teammates from Saddleback College (of Mission Viejo, California) just wanting to have some fun. The junior college wide receiver was placed with his friends on a team featuring Carson Palmer, the longtime NFL quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner.
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Palmer and his brother, Jordan, help organize the event that is put on by RX3, an investment group that lists Rodgers as a partner. The Palmer brothers, Rodgers, Mark Sanchez, Sam Darnold, Matt Leinart and Josh Allen, among others, made up the roster of California-native passers who were quarterbacking the teams that day at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano.
California and Florida, along with Texas, take turns producing the most lauded high school, college and NFL football talent. Unsurprisingly, it’s a transcontinental battle as to who is best each time these players are pitted against one another. Maxwell has been in California for two years playing football, but still finds himself representing the Sunshine State every time he steps on the field.
“Every day at practice I go through that, every day, it don’t fail," said Maxwell, speaking with PackersNews this week. "Everything I do out here, I (represent Florida).”
So when his team took on Sanchez’s squad and things got heated, Maxwell flipped a switch.
“They're like, ‘Oh, if we was in pads we’d beat y’all.’ It was just a lot of talking. It was intense," Maxwell said. "So that game, that game was very intense. I had three picks that game.”
The three picks were impressive given that Maxwell doesn’t play defensive back. The small rosters put the receiver on the defensive side as well that day and smack talk from the Sanchez team lit a fire.
The next game, Team Palmer faced Rodgers, another California quarterback. Early in the game, Maxwell set the tone with his pick.
“The whole day I was playing zone. I wasn’t trying to play too much man 'cause I don’t play DB,” Maxwell said. “So I was just backing up in my zone, I saw the corner route coming. 'Cause I play receiver, so I know when they’re in certain positions, what route they’re running.”
Maxwell jumped the ball, baiting Rodgers and taking what should have been a soft toss the other way.
“They ran a bunch play, I was like ‘watch the corner route, watch the out route, then watch the crossing route.’ I literally called it out," Maxwell said. "So I just backed up on the corner, came back to the pivot route then came back to the corner. I just knew it, I hid behind the receiver. I didn’t fully go to him, I just sat behind him a little bit, played him … just, the IQ, just been playing football my whole life.”
Maxwell giggled when describing what he did after the interception: He immediately handed the ball to Rodgers with just the right amount of pettiness to rub it in the quarterbacks face. It was something Maxwell said he didn’t even think about in the moment; he just reacted, in the most Florida way possible.
“I’m telling you, I’m from Florida so when we play 7-on-7, we hand the ball back, we punt the ball after an interception. We throw the ball to the other side. ... In that moment, I can’t tell you why I did it, I was just excited. ‘Here you go, thank you for the ball.’”
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The young receiver, who is transferring to Division II Wheeling University in West Virginia this fall, got a taste of his own medicine soon. Reminding everyone on the field who he was, Rodgers torched Maxwell on the next series with a deep, no-look pass.
“It was nice, it was very nice. Pure (Aaron Rodgers). You can’t stop it. It was nice,” Maxwell said.
The game ended in a tie, thanks to another classic Rodgers sequence in which he moved down the field and threw a touchdown pass with seconds remaining.
“It was very intense,"Maxwell said. "We didn’t think we was gonna be in that game like that, I ain’t gonna lie to you, playing Aaron Rodgers. You never know with him.”
While Maxwell didn’t walk away with a win against Rodgers, he joined an exclusive club: those who have picked off and shown up the future Hall of Fame QB.