Over at the California Golden Blogs, we've been having our Cal readers vote for best of the decade in our All-Decade series, and no surprise, our most successful Golden Bear quarterback of the 2000s, Aaron Rodgers, was voted the favorite athlete of the decade, beating out luminaries like Marshawn Lynch, Natalie Coughlin and Jahvid Best.
In what appears to be pure happenstance, ESPN does a feature to justify that love as well (and as a bonus, USA Today!). After the jump, get both the college and the pro perspective on why Rodgers is adored by peers and fans alike on each level.
(Brace yourselves Niners fans. We're about to deify the player your team passed on in 2005 to take Alex Smith...and he's a Packer too. Not that he would've done anything behind that paper-machete offensive line San Francisco sported earlier in the decade, but I'm sure there's still a sting.)
1. Love: Of course we love him. He set the impossibly high standard to which we (unreasonably) hold our QBs. He led the best Cal offense of the decade, which was part of the best Cal team of the last 50 years. He was a cool, composed, and a great competitor. And he had swagger. We hadn’t had a QB with that type of swagger since Pawlawski and we really haven’t had one since.
2. Favorite moments: There were so many. I’ll always remember his deadly accurate passing, displayed time and again; his 23 completions in a row at USC in 2004; his frozen rope TDs to G-Mac; his crowd surfing after the 2004 Big Game win, just to name a few.
3. Desert island: Yeah, if I were stuck on one, I’d want to wear an Aaron Rodgers number 8 jersey and watch highlights of the 2003 and 2004 season .
The ESPN Magazine feature only reinforces those beliefs in our former #8. Take a look at some of his quotes, which just ooze confidence.
"I see so many silver-spoon guys, and I don't think the mental toughness is always there," he says. "I've dealt with adversity. I've dealt with disappointment. I've dealt with not being picked and not being one of the guys. When I see adversity now, I look forward to it. When I see opportunity, I make the most of it."
"The last thing I want people to think is that I don't take football seriously," he says. "I'm superultracompetitive. But at the same time, my life is not on the line. My playing reputation is on the line, but nothing tangible. When I tell people I'm not nervous before games, does that mean I don't take it seriously? No, it means I'm not nervous because I'm confident, and I prepared my butt off all week."
It's one thing to be a good player, but it's another to be described as a good player with character. "My character will last longer than my football career."
"That's the greatest play I've ever been a part of [click on the feature to find out what it is!]. There's so much trust involved, and it's not built overnight. That's the most important thing to me, the relationships and the chemistry. That's what I play for."
USA Today has another perspective, which also touches on how Aaron has spent the offseason working with the best to try and be the best.
"It makes me real hungry, knowing Drew [Brees] as a guy who has shown me what it takes — the hard work, the offseason time he puts in, how much he cares about football," Rodgers tells USA TODAY. "Drew's been a great resource for me to use and learn from in the short time we've spent together. I'm looking forward to working with him again."
"I want to be a great player in this league for a long time," Rodgers says. "I know it's not going to come easy. It's not something I can just wake up and do. I need to put in the time and work, mentally and physically."
If you don't see why Cal fans adore and idolize him (and why Packer fans have quickly come around to him), then I don't know what you want out of your sports heroes. Maybe more soul-crushing interceptions.
(There is no ESPN the Magazine jinx is there? Giuseppi Rossi is a traitor, so he doesn't count. Ok, phew.)