Aaron Rodgers as pop culture was one wild ride in 2021. Buckle up for an entertaining look back
If you thought a TikTok video of Aaron Rodgers riding around in the back of a pickup with a case of beer would be his crazy moment this year, guess again.
It turns out the Green Bay Packers quarterback was just getting started.
Buckle up, because Rodgers as pop culture entertainment was a wild ride in 2021.
Jan. 7: Confesses he likes Woodman’s commercials
A jolly Rodgers jokes around with media about his appreciation for the inescapable TV ads for the Wisconsin-based grocery store chain. “Those are legendary in my mind when it comes to 16 years (living in Green Bay). There’s Packers football and then there’s the Woodman's Market commercials as far as most memorable experiences.” Not exactly the kind of sexy revelation TMZ is going to jump all over, but it resonated with residents across the state, where it sounded a lot like, “See, he’s one of us. He loves it here. He’ll never leave.” Uh, hold that thought ...
Jan. 8: Donates $500,000 to The Barstool Fund
Tells Barstool Sports founder David Portnoy to put him down for a half-million dollars for the fund established to help small businesses struggling through the pandemic. “This is the backbone of this country, small business and the middle class, that’s taking it on the chin right now, and I want to get involved,” Rodgers says during an Instagram livestream. He jumps on video calls later in the month to surprise Burger Hut in his hometown of Chico, California, and Burkel’s One Block Over near Lambeau Field with news they've been chosen to receive money.
Jan. 11: Announces he’ll guest host “Jeopardy!” before “Jeopardy!” does
He breaks the news on “The Pat McAfee Show” before the game show has a chance to make the formal announcement. The first of several bombs, shall we say, he’ll drop on the McAfee show this year.
Jan. 25: Becomes new face of Zenith watches
With a $10,000 Chronomaster Sport on his wrist, Rodgers makes his debut as the new brand ambassador for the 156-year-old luxury Swiss watchmaker. He goes on to flash the “sports chic” timepiece on “Jeopardy!” and in a Haute Living photo shoot in Malibu, California, which is all well and good, but one of the photos for the high-end campaign was taken at none other than the bleachers of the West De Pere High School football field.
Jan. 28: Shows up on TikTok taking Lambeau Field joyride
Nah, that couldn't possibly be Rodgers riding around on Mike McCarthy Way in the bed of a pickup hoisting a case of Bud Light, as captured in a TikTok video by another motorist, could it? Turns out it could, and maybe the best part, it was left tackle David Bakhtiari's GMC truck. "Ya that was me," Rodgers wrote in a tweet a day later, after the video had been viewed more than a million times and Twitter marveled at how it was "the most Wisconsin thing ever." Clue No. 1 that it would be a much different No. 12 off the field this year.
Feb. 2: Shailene Woodley enters the picture
Citing an unnamed source, E! News becomes the first to report Rodgers and the “Big Little Lies” and “Divergent” actress are in a long-distance relationship and “have kept things private and low key.” Packers fans everywhere: “Wait. What?! Who?!”
Feb. 6: Announces engagement, but not who
What, you were expecting a conventional anything, much less something involving personal news, from Rodgers? Instead, during his minute-long acceptance speech after being named 2020 NFL MVP at the virtual NFL Honors ceremony, he recaps what a crazy year 2020 was for him, casually dropping “I got engaged” between “180 straight days of having my nose hairs scraped” and “played some of the best football of my career.” To say the engagement announcement caught people by surprise is an understatement. It leads to much speculation and awkward headlines like, “Aaron Rodgers Says He’s Engaged, Seemingly to Shailene Woodley!”
Feb. 22: Shailene Woodley confirms engagement
Which everybody already knew. Kind of. OK, so not 100%. But pretty much. Maybe. During a virtual appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” Woodley makes the news official but says it’s “not new news” for the two of them, so the gushing is fairly minimal. She refers to Rodgers as “a wonderful, incredible human being,” “the nerd who wants to host ‘Jeopardy!’” and “someone who throws balls.” She also reveals (gasp!) she never watched a football game until she met him.
Feb. 28: Gets a nod from Jodie Foster during Golden Globes
During the virtual ceremony, the Oscar-winning actress and big Packers fan returns the favor of a name-drop after Rodgers thanked her for reasons unknown during his MVP speech. She makes her award speech barefoot and in her pajamas from her couch. Foster confesses during a post-ceremony interview she has never met the quarterback nor did she set him up with Woodley, her co-star in “The Mauritanian”.
March 5: Drops the F-word in an interview
No not that one, the other one: fatherhood. During a lengthy Instagram Live chat with Zenith CEO Julien Tornare, Rodgers is asked what achievements are still ahead for him. “I think the next great challenge will be being a father,” he says. “I have dreamt about what that would be like, and I’m really excited about that chapter whenever that comes.” Quick check of the Packers Pro Shop reveals, yes, they do sell those Game Bibs green and gold striped overalls in infant sizes.
March 30: Appears in first public photo with his fiancée
It’s not glamorous. It’s baggy sweatpants, backpacks and a top knot (her, not him) on the tarmac while boarding a private jet in Mexico, but there they are — together. The more couple-y photo comes the next day, taken while dining with friends in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
April 4: Shows up in a downtown Green Bay alley
Local artist Beau Thomas pays tribute to the “King of the North,” crown slightly askew, by painting a mural of Rodgers on the back of a building in the 300 block of South Broadway in Green Bay — way off the beaten path of attractions for visiting Packers fans. “Rodgers has brought us so many great moments and victories throughout his years here. This was my way to celebrate him, his success and to say ‘thank you,’” Thomas writes in an Instagram post.
April 5: Figures he can be talk-show host and Packers QB
In an interview with The Ringer, Rodgers is asked if he’d ever consider giving up football for hosting “Jeopardy!” permanently to replace the late Alex Trebek and does some quick math for the answer. “I don’t think I’d need to give up football to do it. They film 46 days a year. I worked 187 this year in Green Bay. That gives me, eh, 178 days to do ‘Jeopardy!’ So I feel like I could fit 46 into that 178 and make it work. It would be a dream job for sure, and I’m not shy at all about saying I want the job.”
April 5-9, April 12-16: Suits up as guest host of “Jeopardy!”
It's a dream gig for Rodgers. It's 10 nights of must-see TV for Packers fans, who get plenty of great little Packers-related moments, but perhaps none better than the Night 1 Final Jeopardy! jab from returning champ Scott Shewfelt. Rodgers, who prepared intensely with binge watching and stacks of notebooks, racks up mostly favorable marks for his duties among the field of 16 guest hosts.
April 13: Gets lovey-dovey at “Most Magical Place on Earth”
During a trip to Walt Disney World Resort, Rodgers and Woodley show up in a “Walt Disney World Minute” video talking about what makes them smile, his bed-making skills, her teeth brushing, how they listen to “The Lion King” soundtrack, “cuddle time” and plans to kiss in front of the Magic Kingdom. Still, it all feels like a missed opportunity to see the MVP in Mickey Mouse ears.
May 1: Shows up at Kentucky Derby ... as Turd Ferguson?
Rodgers shows up with his usual well-dressed Derby weekend entourage of Randall Cobb, AJ Hawk and Bakhtiari and their significant others, along with new invitees, actor Miles Teller and wife Keleigh Sperry Teller. No dapper pocket square as part of his suit, but there is a “Turd Ferguson” name tag on his lapel, a nod to the “Saturday Night Live” classic “Celebrity Jeopardy!” sketch.
May 12: Guest stars on "The Conners"
Reprises his duties as "Jeopardy!" host for an episode of the ABC sitcom in which Laurie Metcalf as Jackie Harris is a contestant on the game show.
Late May: Vacations in Hawaii
Keleigh Sperry Teller shares assorted photos of the Tellers, Rodgers and Woodley hiking the lush landscape and frolicking by waterfalls. There’s also a video of Rodgers singing along to Taylor Swift’s “The 1” and footage of Rodgers strumming “Wagon Wheel” on guitar as others sing along. Musically, it was a little ... awkward?
July 6: Takes on GOAT in “The Match"
Rodgers and 2020 U.S. Open champ Bryson DeChambeau defeat Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and PGA winner Phil Mickelson for the televised two-on-two charity golf match. The real winner? The sweeping, stunning shots of The Reserve at Moonlight Basin in Big Sky, Montana.
July 27: Reports to Packers training camp, turns heads with T-shirt
After an offseason dominated by talk of his reported rift with the Packers front office, Rodgers ends months of uncertainty by not just returning to the team, but returning in a T-shirt of the “Kevin’s Famous Chili” scene from Episode 98 of “The Office.” Was Rodgers trying to send some kind of message to the Packers front office with a reference to the mess made by a pot of dropped chili Kevin Malone tries to clean up at fictional Dunder Mifflin, or was Rodgers just giving a shout-out to a character played by friend Brian Baumgartner on one of his all-time favorite TV shows? Like Packers President Mark Murphy said of Rodgers this year, “He’s a complicated fella.”
July 28: Outs Green Bay as NOT a prime vacation spot. Hey, wait a second ...
There is a lot for sports writers to unpack from his first news conference with the media, all 32 minutes of it, since returning to training camp, but it’s hard for local folks to unhear this jab: “I think we can all understand Green Bay isn’t a huge vacation destination," he says. "People come here to play with me, to play with our team, and know they can win a championship here.” A slogan probably not coming anytime soon to a Discover Green Bay tourism billboard near you.
July 30: Debuts new ride from Bakhtiari
Rodgers shows off the customized golf cart given to him by Bakhtiari, who humorously made sure it had all kinds of luxurious touches, including a pink fuzzy steering wheel, a vanity license plate and Rodgers’ No. 12 stitched on the driver’s seat. It has made numerous appearances on social media since, with Rodgers zipping around behind the wheel, but sadly, without that very fluffy pink steering wheel cover.
Sept. 7: Launches Aaron Rodgers Book Club
As part of his regular Tuesday appearances on “The Pat McAfee Show” this season, Rodgers, a passionate reader, announces plans to end each segment with a book recommendation. He kicks it off with “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. If you're looking for the latest Stephen King thriller, probably not your club. His titles so far lean mostly self-help, spiritual and meditative. There are even Aaron Rodgers Book Club T-shirts, with proceeds from the $25 purchase going to an unspecified reading advocacy group of Rodgers’ choosing.
Sept. 9: Appears in new State Farm commercial
He plays it super chill in disguise as an aspiring singer-songwriter trying to fool Jake from State Farm into giving the “Rodgers rate” to “regular folks like us.” The better one comes later in the season: Rodgers as a professional dog walker trying to wrangle a gaggle of corgis.
Sept. 21: Says he’s growing hair for Halloween, guessing ensues
Rodgers tells McAfee his long hair, which he sometimes wears as a man bun, has “been a year in the making for my costume” and that he plans to go as “somebody who is a hero of mine who has longish hair.” The Dude from “The Big Lebowski,” Keanu Reeves as John Wick, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Scott Stapp and Cameron Poe in “Con-Air” quickly rise to the top as best guesses from fans.
Oct. 12: Says he’s not growing hair for Halloween, guessing continues
“For whatever reason, I didn’t grow my hair out specifically for some Halloween costume,” Rodgers tells McAfee. “I grew my hair out because I wanted to. ... It has nothing to do with the Halloween costume, except that it gives me a few more options if I so desire.”
Oct. 28: Becomes a meme
Rodgers’ facial expression after taking a late hit during the Arizona Cardinals game — eyes big, mouth open, helmet partially off his head, chinstrap pushed up over his nose — quickly goes viral. Even Rodgers is amused. “Man, the internet is undefeated,” he says after seeing the image after the game. Bakhtiari chimes in the next day with this caption gem: “When she asks for the Rodgers rate.”
Oct. 30: Channels John Wick for Halloween, dog and all
He reveals his costume in an Instagram photo that shows him as Reeves' professional hitman character from the "John Wick" film franchise. He goes so far as to recreate the "good dog" scene with Wick and his pit bull in the back of a cab in 2019's "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum." Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith supplied the dog and took the photos. New post-Halloween guessing game begins: Will Rodgers finally cut his hair now?
Nov. 6: Makes “Saturday Night Live,” as Pete Davidson spoof
Not the "SNL" debut Rodgers likely had in mind when he talked in 2012 about hosting the show someday. Davidson parodies Rodgers in the show’s cold open for a sketch in which the Packers quarterback pops up as a guest on Fox News’ “Justice w/Judge Jeanine.” “Our first guest is brave enough to say ‘Screw you, science. I know Joe Rogan.’ Please welcome NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers,” Strong says as Jeanine Pirro.
The mockery comes just days after an unvaccinated Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19, after telling reporters in August he was “immunized." He then went on “The Pat McAfee Show” and touted unproven treatments to COVID-19, ripped the NFL for their health and safety protocols and explained his reasoning for not being vaccinated.
"SNL" capped a week in which Rodgers found himself the punchline of nearly every late-night talk show.
Nov. 24: Goes full frontal toes for the camera
To dispel rumors that his fractured toe is really “COVID toe,” he sticks his bare foot to the camera for an extreme closeup of his fractured pinky toe during a press conference — quite an image the day before people will be sitting down to eat Thanksgiving dinner. Zac Brown Band’s “Toes” playing softly in the background would’ve softened the blow. In classic Rodgers fashion, he makes the toe photo his new Twitter profile picture.
Dec. 12: Gets doubled up at Lambeau Field
NBC's "Sunday Night Football" puts up side-by-side video of a fan in the stands and No. 12 on the sidelines, and Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth in the broadcast booth aren't the only ones shocked by the uncanny resemblance. Twitter goes crazy, creating yet another viral Rodgers moment in 2021. Two days later, in the Bavarian city of Munich, a man named Frank, who was at the game with his dad, gets his 15 minutes of fame.
Contact Kendra Meinert at 920-431-8347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert.