A few months a go, I wrote an article about how it was possible for the Green Bay Packers to go to the Super Bowl and for the Wisconsin Badgers to go to the Rose Bowl. Well, my prophecy has been fulfilled, and the Packers will face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Superbowl XLV. I think I speak for most Wisconsinites when I say I am really, really excited for this game, and I hope the outcome is different than the other bowl game the Badgers played in earlier this year.
I am sure by now that you have read all of the predictions, every position by position analysis and seen all of the stats. Instead of focusing on any media-manufactured controversy, I'd like to write about the single greatest factor of the game that has received very little media attention:
We want it more.
That's right, the single reason the Packers are going to win Super Bowl XLV is their motivation and desire to win this game. From the opening kickoff to the final Sam Shields interception and victory formation, it isn't going to matter who is or is not in a picture, the lack of Packers' Super Bowl experience, or whether a certain quarterback is going to cheer for the Packers or not; all of this is irrelevant.
What matters is the Packers' superior talent and motivation. Specifically, there are four players who have unmatched talent and unrivaled motivation. These four players will make the big plays and be the deciding factors in the Super Bowl.
4. Clay Matthews III
Matthews is the more relentless player on the field. He had a breakout season with 13.5 sacks and fell just two votes short of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu for the Defensive Player of the Year award. If you do not think this will be a motivating factor for Matthews, you need to think again. Both of these players will be on the same stage in front of the entire country, and Matthews has an opportunity to prove he is the most important defensive player in the league.
Additionally, he has an opportunity to define his own legacy, separate from his family. With a win on Sunday, Matthews will be the only member of his football family to have won a Super Bowl. He will have a chance to have ultimate bragging rights, which I tend to think would drive any football player.
3. Charles Woodson
Woodson went to the Super Bowl eight years ago with the Oakland Raiders. Since then, he has had a roller-coaster career. He left Oakland as his career's lowest point. He reluctantly signed with Green Bay, the only team to offer him a contract. He soon fell in love with his new city and team. The former Defensive Player of the Year allows Dom Capers to use his creativity and gives his full flexibility when calling defensive plays. He also had 105 tackles this season, which is a ridiculous amount of tackles for a corner.
He has become the emotional leader of the Packers' defense, and his presence is invaluable. Yet throughout his entire career, the Super Bowl has eluded Woodson. He led Michigan to a national championship after winning the Heisman Trophy, and he has won the Defensive Player of the Year award. With a win on Sunday, Woodson is going to be heading to Canton, Ohio when his career is over. As he mentioned after the Packers defeated the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship, he wants to win this Super Bowl, and if President Obama isn't going to watch them this weekend, he is going to go see him.
Where do I even begin? He has been through more than any other quarterback ever. His career has been well documented; he was not recruited out of high school, played at a junior college, fell to the Packers late in the first round of the draft (because then-San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator Mike McCarthy thought quarterback Alex Smith was better), and then endured four years of Brett Favre drama. Nobody in this game has more to prove than Rodgers, because he still has a chip on his shoulder for each of these situations.
He was rejected by his own fans in 2008 because he was not Favre, and he still cannot escape the Favre questions and drama. However, Rodgers has a golden opportunity to end all of this. The world knows he is a better quarterback than Smith, but with a win on Sunday, he has as many Super Bowl wins as Favre. With a Super Bowl win, he will establish himself as the best quarterback in football and create his own Packer legacy.
No pressure, right? Well, Rodgers has always handled outside drama and pressure with class and calm. He is 3-1 in playoff games, all on the road. He also has the highest quarterback rating ever, higher than Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman and, yes, Favre. Packers fans already know that he has proven his doubters wrong, but Rodgers is driven because he has always been perceived as that "other guy" or "second best." This weekend, that changes when the Packers defeat the Steelers.
1. Donald Driver
Finally, I come to the Packer with the biggest desire to win. Driver has never been to the Super Bowl, and his window for winning one is closing. Yet there is no NFL player, possibly even professional athlete, that has a better, more inspiration story than Driver.
As a kid, he grew up in extreme poverty and had to sell drugs to feed himself and his family. However, he was determined for a better life than what seemed possible for this inner city kid. He refused to be trapped by a life of poverty. So he turned to football, yet here too he had to overcome plenty of obstacles. "Quickie" was told he was too small at every level that he played, but his speed and determination overcame these challenges. Eventually, he was drafted in the seventh round by the Packers. All he did was become the leading receiver in Packers history. He has surpassed Don Hutson, James Lofton, Sterling Sharpe and Antonio Freeman in total receptions, and will soon hold the yardage record as well.
His off-the-field accomplishments may be even more noteworthy. He is a champion for anti-poverty campaigns, and the Donald Driver Foundation raises thousands of dollars to help alleviate inner-city poverty. He also gives a lot of his time to Goodwill, helping to give people with disabilities productive jobs. His story is truly inspirational, and he never forgot his humble beginnings. That's why his two children pray for their daddy every night; they pray for him to win the Super Bowl. This is why Driver is the most motivated, because it has been his life goal and entire motivation for everything he has done.
He is finally in the big game, and he will have a tremendous game as a receiver, but more importantly as a leader. He, along with the aforementioned players, want this game so badly, and they will not let this game go. They will all rise to the occasion, and the Lombardi Trophy is coming home because these guys, and the whole Packers organization, wants this game more.
Green Bay Packers 31 - Pittsburgh Steelers 20