Leader Of The Pack: Super Bowl XLV Cements Aaron Rodgers' Future Legacy

Louis MustoContributor IIIFebruary 13, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after winning Super Bowl XLV 31-25 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In the 2005 NFL Draft, NFL scouts and analysts dubbed Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as a “system quarterback” and were unsure whether or not he could compete at the NFL level.

The San Francisco 49ers, holding the first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, chose to pick Utah standout quarterback Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers subsequently fell all the way to the 24th pick, right into the Green Bay Packers’ laps.

Unfortunately, besides numerous doubts on his potential, there was a big obstacle standing in his way of success— Brett Favre.

Aaron Rodgers now had some great shoes to fill, but it was unknown when that might be. Brett Favre had already teased with retirement for a couple off-seasons, but he did not appear ready to hang them up any time soon.

Boy was that the case.

After three long seasons spent sitting and learning behind one of the best quarterbacks to play the game, the Packers were forced to trade Brett Favre to the New York Jets after he once again chose not to retire from the NFL.

Finally, the doors were opened for Aaron Rodgers to step in and show why he was a first-round draft pick. But how could he ever fill the shoes of the NFL’s all-time leading passer and future Hall of Famer, Brett Favre? Few players before him have ever been able to fill the shoes of the cornerstone quarterback that had come before them.

Troy Aikman and Quincy Carter. Terry Bradshaw and Mark Malone. Dan Marino and Jay Fiedler. John Elway and Brian Griese. The odds were stacked against him.

All the doubts and questions surrounding his potential now had the opportunity to be answered. The Green Bay Packers were his team to lead and he was happy to take the reins. Three seasons later, Aaron Rodgers is arguably one of the top 3 quarterbacks in the league and a Super Bowl MVP, following a 304-yard passing day with 3 touchdowns.

Over these last three seasons, Rodgers has thrown for 12,394 yards with 86 touchdown passes. He is outstanding, efficient, and widely regarded as a danger for all NFL defenses.

But that is not the beauty of Aaron Rodgers’ young, spectacular career: it’s the journey we cannot help but grow fond of.

Long before Aaron Rodgers would be stuck sitting behind Favre, wishing and waiting, Rodgers was already fighting for his football career.

Rodgers’ undersized frame garnered little interest for him from major programs following his record-setting high school football career at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, California. Despite excelling in his grades and scoring a 1310 on the SAT’s, Rodgers wanted to play football and chose to enroll Butte Community College in hopes of bolstering his interest from larger Division 1 football programs.

Sure enough, Rodgers excelled for the Butte Community College football team and earned himself an opportunity after just one season to transfer to the University of California.

There, Rodgers battled for the starting job, finally earning the opportunity for the fifth game of the 2003 season and never looking back. Rodgers left the school with his name printed all over the Cal record books despite just a season and a half as their starting quarterback.

Rodgers has made a football career out of overcoming obstacles. From Butte Community College to the Green Bay Packers, Rodgers has survived it all.

On the field, he is a leader and unquestionably one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today. Off the field, Rodgers is a class act and a great role model for children across the US. Nothing was handed to Rodgers on a silver platter, even despite being a California boy, and he has worked hard to get where he is today, facing some of the toughest scrutiny to get there.

Is it rational to believe Aaron Rodgers will be able to post the kind of numbers his predecessor, Brett Favre, was able to post for as long as he has? Maybe not, but Aaron Rodgers has shown that he has a long, successful career ahead of him and one that will do plenty of justice to his legacy when he is ready to call it quits.

He may never grow to be as popular in the eyes of the Lambeau fans as Brett Favre once was or cast the love of everyone for his awe-inspiring joy of the game like Favre has, but Rodgers is a future all-time great whom we will one day never forget.

When a player replaces a legend, we expect the same or better from him or he failed as a successor to the man who previously held his place. That is an unfair expectation and an almost guaranteed failure 99% of the time. If Green Bay fans expect Rodgers to lead a greater career than Brett Favre, they will likely be sadly disappointed.

Still, Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback with an All-American story of hardship and perseverance with a Super Bowl ring to boot.

Rodgers may never be “the greatest of all-time”, but if Super Bowl XLV is any indication, he is certainly a legend in the making with an amazing story still to be written.