Aaron Rodgers: Green Bay Packers QB Is the NFL's Anti-Superstar
He sports a handlebar mustache in the preseason, drives a Ford pickup truck and plays in arguably the most blue-collar market in sports.
He also went to UC Berkley and plays the most mentally demanding position in sports.
Aaron Rodgers is an NFL MVP, a Super Bowl MVP and a walking contradiction. He's also the modern anti-superstar.
Jay-Z once famously said, "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man," indicating that he was not part of market, but rather was the market.
Dwight Howard and other NBA superstars have talked about "creating a brand," the type of narcissistic self-aggrandizement that we expect from modern athletes.
Having been raised in a working-class family, gone to junior college before playing major BCS-level college football and falling to the end of the first round, Rodgers understands the opportunity he has to be set for life financially.
Aaron, for his part, seems to understand the expectations he's created from having one of the all-time great NFL seasons. But it's clear if you listen to him that he truly believes in the responsibility that comes with fame and fortune.
His first partnership wasn't with Coca-Cola or Nike. It was with a non-profit called the MACC Fund, a Milwaukee organization that raises money to help find a cure for childhood cancers.
Rodgers became close with Jack Bartosz, a young boy with Neuroblastoma. Their relationship would come to define both of their lives with the MACC Fund.
On ESPN Milwaukee, Rodgers recently described his favorite memory of Jack, who has passed away. Aaron recalls Jack wanting to invite Rodgers to his birthday party, not because he was the quarterback of the Packers, but because the two were friends.
Jason Wilde, with whom Aaron has a weekly talk show, asked him if the likelihood made it harder for the quarterback to support this charity.
Rodgers, who sounded noticeably upset over the passing of Jack, replied that in fact, it strengthened his support for the group. The ability to save families from going through a similar fate was driving his desire to be a part of the MACC Fund.
There's nothing gimmicky about the way Rodgers conducts himself. The "Discount Double Check" even left Rodgers' on-field repertoire about the same time the State Farm ads hit TV.
What's more, there's no pretense or false-humility about the way he speaks.
On that same radio show with Jason Wilde, Rodgers talked about the wide-open touchdown pass he threw to Donald Driver.
The throw, he said, was the easy part, but unless Jordy Nelson and James Jones get the proper depth and outside releases on their routes, the safeties can shade to the middle and squeeze both routes.
This wasn't, "Well, everyone has to do their jobs or we don't win."
Rodgers isn't being benevolent in his praise of his team, but pragmatic. He has seen too many plays where 10 of 11 guys execute and the difference is a turnover versus a touchdown.
That kind of perspective doesn't come from elite-level athletes.
Look at the best quarterbacks in the game: Tom Brady is an Uggs spokesman, is married to a model and has an illegitimate child with another. Drew Brees just held out for a gazillion dollars despite his team going through the biggest turmoil since Katrina. Eli and Peyton Manning dress like fairies in DirecTV commercials and pretend to eat Oreos together.
Aaron Rodgers wouldn't be caught dead doing any of the above. In fact, he spent the offseason with his friend, Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun, doing a set of clever ads promoting the Brewers.
When his offseason routines were questioned before last season, Rodgers was acerbic and subversive in his candor with the media, particularly after they hung half a hundred on the Saints to open the season.
His aforementioned handlebar mustache in the preseason is to lighten up his team, the same way his belt touchdown dance started.
There's no prancing or primping, posing or posturing. It's Rodgers being Rodgers. And while Aaron doesn't seem to quite be himself this season, he has a chance on Monday night to get back on track.
For the NFL's sake, it should hope he does. The NFL needs more players like Aaron Rodgers. It needs more superstars like Aaron Rodgers.
Most importantly, the NFL needs more men like Aaron Rodgers.
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